It’s the question you might want to know or chose to forget! Being a dietitian but also having been pregnant myself, it can be challenging time for you to know not only what you should be eating for the health of your baby, but also for your own health. So let’s start with what the health guidelines say.
What is a healthy weight gain for pregnancy?
The problem with these guidelines is that your weight will increase differently throughout the pregnancy. What I mean by this is that your baby’s growth and your growth will not necessarily be consistent throughout the pregnancy and it is hard to work out what amount of weight you will gain by the end!
This differs depending on your starting weight.
- If you are in the healthy weight range, aim for a weight gain of 11.5-16kg
- If you are just over the healthy weight range (BMI*of 25-29.9), aim for a weight gain of 7-11.5kg
- If you are BMI < 30, aim for a weight gain of 5-9kg
- If you are underweight (BMI 18.5>), aim for a weight gain of 12.5-18kg
*with BMI being your weight ÷ height2
So my hot tips would be.
- If you are hungry, eat. If you’re not, don’t. Listen to your body’s natural hunger cues. If you are having what I call a ‘hungry day’ have an extra snack or two during the day. A good snack which consists of a healthy carbohydrate source and protein will help settle your hunger.
This could be:
- Reduced fat yoghurt (Chobani is an excellent brand) with berries
- Grain crackers with ricotta
- A slice of wholegrain bread with peanut butter
- A fruit smoothie made on reduced fat milk
- A small handful of nuts and piece of fruit
- Small seed/nut/trail bar
And let yourself have this snack guilt free, it is better than binging on chocolate later.
- Do not obsess over the scales and do not weigh yourself daily unless you’re prepared to see daily fluid changes. To keep track of your weight gain, weigh yourself weekly, on the same day at the same time. In the first trimester you should not see much weight gain (1-2kg). In the second and third trimester you will see around 1-2kg/month (0.5kg/week)
- Try to keep active. I cannot stress this enough. My fittest friends have bounced back the quickest. This does not mean starting half marathon once you find out your pregnant, it is not the time to ‘begin’ your fitness campaign. But you should try to continue a modified exercise routine for as long as you feel comfortable. If you love walking, keep up the walks. If you are a regular runner, it is possible to keep running at a lower intensity (and shorter distances). However, it is also important to make sure you speak to a physio prior to continuing your exercise program. There are some activities and exercises than can be damaging on your pelvic floor. If you are wanting to continue moderate to higher impact exercises such as running or weight training, you need to speak to your obstetrician and physiotherapist about this throughout your pregnancy.
- Eat regularly. This not only helps with morning sickness but keeping your blood glucose levels consistent and hunger at bay. Eating regular meals and snacks will help to prevent you getting over hungry and over eating. Ensure you have lean protein at every meal, lots of vegetables and good sources of carbohydrate (such as wholegrains, legumes, lentils, starchy vegetables). Snack on reduced fat dairy, fruit, nuts, vegetables and wholegrains.
- And cut yourself some slack! You are pregnant and supposed to gain weight. You will have additional fat stores on your thighs and breasts to feed your baby. You may be carrying extra fluid at the end but it will not last for ever (as much as it feels like it at the time!). If your weight gain is in the healthy weight range, it will be easier to return to your healthy weight range and starting weight. Keep positive and be realistic. It took 9 months to put on the weight, it will take time to also get back to your comfortable weight. Keep active, eat healthy and allow yourself to have the odd treat. You deserve it!
Written by Peita Hynes, dietitian/nutritionist at GOG. Peita has 12 years’ experience as an accredited practicing dietitian and is also an accredited sports dietitian specialising in weight management, pregnancy, metabolic conditions and sports nutrition.