Maintaining a healthy weight and body is important throughout the entire lifespan, but there is added significance during pregnancy.
As women experience numerous changes in just a few short months, equipping the body with the right calories and nutrients can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Pregnancy Weight Gain
Gaining the appropriate weight can help ensure a safe, healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby. Recommended weight gain during pregnancy predominately breaks down into the following categories based on body mass index (BMI):
• Women with average weight (BMI or 18.5 to 24.9) before pregnancy are recommended to gain 25 to 35 pounds
• Underweight women (less than 18.5) should gain between 28 to 40 pounds
• Overweight women (BMI 25 to 29) before pregnancy may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds
• Obese women (BMI of 30 or greater) should gain about 11 to 20 pounds
There are also approximate recommendations if carrying twins, including the ranges based on the women's weight before getting pregnant:
• Women of an average weight should gain 37 to 54 pounds
• Overweight women should gain 31 to 50 pounds
• Obese women should gain 25 to 42 pounds
How to Ensure Average Weight Gain During Pregnancy
1. Consult with a healthcare provider.
First and foremost, consult with a healthcare provider to help determine a recommended weight gain during pregnancy specific to your needs.
2. Track weight gain throughout pregnancy.
Tracking weight gain throughout pregnancy is important to know if you are remaining on a recommended path, along with posing the opportunity to address any concerns.
In addition to overall weight gain, there are more specific advices tailored to the three trimesters of pregnancy:
• First trimester: 1 to 4.5 pounds
• Second trimester: 1 to 2 pounds per week
• Third trimester: 1 to 2 pounds per week
Tips to ensure adequate weight gain include weighing yourself approximately once a week, or at least twice a month. Also weigh on the same scale and during the same time of day.
3. Consume sufficient calories.
Though also dependent on physical activity and other factors, average women with a pre-pregnancy BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 should consuming the following:
• First trimester: 1,800 calories
• Second trimester: 2,200 calories
• Third trimester: 2,400 calories
Tips to Remain Healthy While Pregnant
Beyond tracking pregnancy weight gain and calorie intake, there are essential methods to remain healthy while pregnant.
Consume A Balanced Diet
Eating healthy while pregnant is similar to eating healthy while not pregnant, including incorporating whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean and plant-based proteins, and healthy fat sources and reducing the intake of highly processed foods laden in salt, trans fat, refined sugar, and other additives.
During pregnancy, there are additional nutrient and vitamin considerations, including the following:
• Protein: Requirements often increase to 71 grams of protein daily and can be met by consuming lean and plant-based protein sources, including chicken, turkey, sirloin, beams, and quinoa.
• Fiber: Since pregnancy heightens the risk of constipation, women are encouraged to consume at least 25 grams of fiber and eight, 8-ounces cups of water daily. Fiber is naturally sourced from plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, and lentils.
• Calcium: Pregnant women are encouraged to obtain 1,200 mg of calcium per day, as the mineral is imperative for developing strong bones and teeth. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are known for their significant calcium contribution, although orange juice with added calcium, whole grain cereals, sardines with bones, almonds and unsweetened almond milks, soybeans, and collard greens also valuable sources.
• Vitamin D: Vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium to build strong bones, along with regulating hormones. Food sources of vitamin D include beef, egg yolks, cheese, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and cod liver oil, along with dairy sources that are fortified with the vitamin.
• Folate: Women of childbearing age should consume 400 milligrams (mg) of folate per day related to the association of neural tube defects and inadequate folate intake during early pregnancy, with the recommendation stretching throughout the entire gestational period. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, dark green veggies are considered natural sources, though folic acid also often enriches pasta and bread products.
• Iron: Women tend to require more iron related to menstruation cycles and childbearing years, with 30 mg needed to support the increase in blood volume during pregnancy. Iron is found in beef, lamb, oats, lentils, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans.
There are extra precautions to limit raw and undercooked foods, mercury in fish, and caffeinated and alcoholic beverages while pregnant.
Practice Meal Prep
Meal prep is not only a time-saver, but an opportunity to guide nutritional requirements to meet needs. A make-ahead, nutritious sample menu may resemble:
• Breakfast: Refrigerator Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are a great grab-n-go breakfast option, along with supplying adequate fiber, plant-based protein, B vitamins, and iron.
Use a tight-sealed container, such as a mason jar, and fill with ½ cup of oats and ½ to 1 cup of milk dependent on preferred thickness. Add in a scoop of protein powder, tablespoon of peanut butter, ¼ cup of nuts, a dash of cinnamon, and other desired toppings. Stir to combine and chill in the fridge until the morning hours.
• Snack: Greek Yogurt Parfait
Greek yogurt is packed with protein and calcium, while the layered fruit bursts with fiber and other nutrients.
Layer 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup of favorite fruit, including blueberries, strawberries, or peaches. Garnish with chopped nuts, seeds, and cinnamon as preferred.
• Lunch: Chili
Chili is a convenient, versatile option to satisfy meat-lovers and vegetarian preferences, both of which supply adequate protein, fiber, iron, and other rich nutrients.
In a slow cooker, assemble a lean beef or vegetarian chili in a slow cooker. Also offer extra bulk and nutrients by adding chopped bell pepper, carrot, and other veggies.
• Dinner: Chicken Burrito Bowls
On meal prep day, prepare a batch of shredded chicken and brown rice to make these chicken burrito bowls a breeze!
Assemble ½ cup brown rice and 3.5 ounces of chicken in a bowl. Top with favorite burrito favorites, including black beans, corn, bell pepper, tomato, cheddar cheese, and salsa.
• Snack: Peanut Butter Banana Bites
Harmonizing the classic flavors of peanut butter, banana, and chocolate, these dark chocolate peanut butter bites are easy-to-make and sure to satisfy that nightly sweet tooth.
Often wondered if exercise is safe while pregnant, the American Pregnancy Association suggests exercising for 30 minutes on most days can benefit the health of both mom and baby. This recommendation is particularly noted if physically active before pregnancy.
While there are a multitude of benefits of exercising while pregnant, including reduced backaches and improved energy, it is always best to consult with a primary care provider before beginning any sort of new regimen.