Here’s a fact: if you’re having a baby, you’re going to gain weight. It’s just an inevitable truth. Even if you’re already overweight, doctors don’t recommend trying to diet during pregnancy or maintain your weight (by simultaneously losing fat and gaining baby) because these activities have been shown to be risky to the health of the baby. The idea is that you wouldn’t put your newborn baby on a diet, so why put yourself on a diet when the baby is busy eating what you’re eating? It’s just not a smart idea.
That being said, doctors also caution against going too far the other way. The old adage “she’s eating for two” is a deceptive little saying, since the average pregnant woman only needs an additional 300 calories per day at most! Unfortunately, pregnancy causes many women to just want to eat and eat, either because they’re experiencing cravings or because they’re fatigued. Some women even find that they don’t experience morning sickness when they’re eating, so they overdo it in an attempt to avoid the nausea. Of course, this leads to other problems, especially if done over a long period of time.
The reality is that eating too much during your pregnancy can be just as harmful to the baby as eating too little. Gaining too much weight can lead to complications such as gestational diabetes, which could make labor harder and have consequences for the health of the baby. Heavier women also often have deliveries that are more difficult, because of increased pressure on the baby and a lack of stamina on the part of the mother.
To keep your weight gain in check during your pregnancy, try these five tips:
1. Plan your meals. Overeating is most likely to happen when you’re starving and peering into the fridge looking for a solution. Planning your meals will give you a good idea of what to eat when you’re hungry and what you can expect to be eating later. It can be a little challenging for some pregnant women to plan their meals early on, when morning sickness may find them craving some unusual foods and hating the smell of foods they previously loved, but having a general list (such as “sandwich” and “piece of fruit”) will at least give you some boundaries and keep you from emptying the pantry.
2. Avoid fat and find the fiber. Eating foods that are high in fiber will keep you feeling full longer and will help your body get rid of the excess that you no longer need (which may otherwise be converted into fat). Many pregnant women also find that foods high in fiber make them feel better, while greasy, fatty foods increase their nausea.
3. Drink lots of water. You should be drinking more water during pregnancy anyway, because your body needs to be hydrated to adjust to all of the changes. A happy side effect of all this water will be that you’ll feel less hungry than you would if you were dehydrated. Water also keeps your digestive system happy, so waste products will be efficiently removed from your system, avoiding the storage of fat.
4. Slow down your eating. This tip will help you stay conscious of exactly what you’re putting into your body and it should also help your morning sickness if that’s a problem for you. Eating slowly and chewing each bite thoroughly makes it easier for your body to digest your meals and gives your stomach time to tell your brain that you’re full and don’t need any more food. This will avoid overeating in addition to gastric conditions such as heartburn.
5. Eat a little and eat often. Lots of small meals are better for pregnant women than eating a few large meals, because your body will get a steady stream of nutrition (and so will your baby!). In addition to helping with nausea, your blood sugar will remain more stable if you eat lots of small meals, which will keep you from feeling sick one minute and ravenous the next. Be careful to make good choices when choosing your small meals (an apple is a better choice than a donut) and try to include a variety of foods from all food groups throughout your day.