How to Avoid the “Pregnancy 50+” Pounds
Now that you’re expecting, your goal is to avoid gaining the “pregnancy 50” (or more). Without exercise, you need only about 300 extra calories per day to gain enough weight to feed and support your developing baby — not twice as many calories as you needed before you became pregnant.
What happens to many pregnant women is that they follow the “eating for two” advice and see pregnancy as a time to eat whatever they want in whatever quantity feels good — and pregnancy can make you feel very hungry! They gain more than the weight of the baby, placenta, extra blood, and other essentials of pregnancy.
Follow these tips to get the extra calories and maintain a healthy weight:
- Go crazy with vegetables. To maintain a healthy weight, eat all the vegetables you want. Eat your vegetables raw or cook them by grilling or steaming (frying adds fat and calories; boiling washes away many of the vegetable’s nutrients). Don’t add sauces, and use just a sprinkle of salt, if other herbs aren’t flavorful enough.
Don’t, however, overload on fruits. Pound for pound, fruits are much higher in calories than vegetables. Most fruits are full of vitamins and low in fat, but if you eat all the fruits you want until you’re full, you’ll probably exceed your required supply of calories for the day. Aim for four or five half-cup servings of fruit each day.
- Eat complex carbs that are high in fiber. Look for high-fiber foods like lentils and beans, acorn squash, chia seeds, and steel-cut oats. Reduce your intake of foods that don’t offer much nutritional benefit for their calories, such as white rice, potatoes, and white bread.
- Drink plenty of water and skim milk. Avoid sugary sodas, milkshakes, and other high-calorie drinks. Fruit juice offers many vitamins and minerals, but it’s high in calories, so don’t avoid fruit juice completely, but don’t go overboard, either. Note that veggie smoothies and low-sodium vegetable juices (excess sodium can cause swelling during pregnancy) are far lower in calories than fruit juices and are full of vitamins.
Here are some other ways to avoid gaining more than your recommended weight range:
- Eat small meals to keep yourself from consuming too many calories at one time (see the earlier section “Eating frequent, small meals” for details). Stop eating when you’re satisfied, not full or stuffed.
- Limit “junk” calories (as in the sugary, high-fat, and fried kind) because they neither fill you up nor provide the nourishment you and your baby need.
- Stock your cabinets, purse, and desk drawers with nutritious foods so that you can satisfy your hunger the healthy way.
- Bridge your hunger in between meals with frequent snacks that provide lasting energy. Choose snacks with plenty of fiber and protein.
- Keep track of your calories by using apps like MyFitnessPal and Fooducate so that you can easily see when you’ve gone too high.
- Avoid turning to food for emotional support or stress relief. Call a friend to talk it out or go for a walk to blow off some steam instead.
- Join support groups for pregnant women who want to be healthy during their pregnancies. Meet to go for walks or do prenatal yoga, not to go out for ice cream.
- Stay active and aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.