Diet and Weight Gain

One of the foremost concerns a patient has about pregnancy, other than having a healthy baby, is her weight gain. Face it...You will gain weight during pregnancy! We try to focus more on eating a healthy diet instead of counting every pound.

MyPlate (formerly MyPyramid)

On June 2, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack released the federal government’s new food icon, MyPlate, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices. MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times and to seek more information to help them do that by going to ChooseMyPlate.gov. The MyPlate icon emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein foods, and dairy groups. Click here for pregnancy link to MyPlate.

Pregnancy Weight Gain

The average weight gain during pregnancy is 30-40 pounds. Many women gain more than 50, and some up to 100 pounds (yes, this does happen). If a woman starts pregnancy at a normal weight, then 25 pounds is a great weight gain, although a difficult target to achieve, as most women will gain more than this.

Six weeks after a normal delivery, weight loss is about 15 to 20 pounds from the final pregnancy weight, so even if pregnancy weight gain is just 25 pounds, there is still 5 to 10 pounds to lose to reach your pre-pregnant weight. Do not despair! You can lose your baby weight, but sometimes it takes a while.

Nutrition

There is really no magic diet that one should eat while pregnant. A common-sense balanced diet is the key. Proteins, carbohydrates, dairy products, whole grains, fruits and vegetables – you should eat some of each every day. Vitamins and supplements can be beneficial (see ahead).

Three servings per day of dairy can provide enough calcium. Non-meat eaters can get sufficient protein from nuts, eggs, fish and dairy. Weight gain can be reduced by cutting down on high-fat foods such as chips, fried foods, salad dressings, cheeses and sweets. Minimize fruit juices (very high sugar content) and minimize refined carbohydrate
foods such as desserts, pasta and baked goods made with white flour and/or white sugar.

Vegans can have a healthy pregnancy diet but they should carefully research how to get the right amount and combinations of proteins to make sure all essential amino acids are in the diet. Supplements are very important for vegans as this diet is extremely low in iron and Vitamin B12 and also low in Calcium and Vitamin D.

 Nutrition in Pregnancy Reading List (pdf)

Eating Pattern

Pregnant women often need to eat eat 6 or more times per day. Food should be eaten about every 2½ to 3 hours. Try not to let yourself get too hungry. The blood sugar can drop causing unpleasant symptoms such as irritability, cravings for junk food, even lightheadedness. A good snack combines carbohydrates and protein, such as peanut butter and bread, cheese and crackers, milk and a bran muffin, nuts, protein bars, cottage cheese with fruit. Eat vegetables during meals -- carrots by themselves would not be a good snack item.

1st trimester

Many patients experience varying degrees of pregnancy sickness. In turn, this can affect their weight. Frequent vomiting may cause weight loss in the first trimester. Frequent nausea, without much vomiting, may lead to low food intake and limited weight gain. Alternatively, many find that only high-calorie, carbohydrate and fatty foods (so-called “comfort foods) help them to quell the nausea resulting in weight gain during the first trimester, despite the presence of nausea (not fair!). If the appetite is not normal, focus on protein-rich foods, soft fruits and easy-to-digest vegetables. It might be better to minimize salads and high-fiber foods.

Goal: Gain 0 to 5 lbs. during the first trimester.

2nd trimester

For many women, the appetite comes roaring back. This is the trimester of rapid weight gain. It is possible to eat 6-7 meals a day and still get hungry between meals. And food seems to taste so good! One way to balance the weight gain is to increase calorie-burning activities. Walk every day, swim, do cardio activities at the gym -- anything aerobic.

Goal: Gain about 3-4 lbs. per month during the second trimester.

3rd trimester

Patients tend to get full more easily, especially the last 1-2 months. However, water retention may occur, causing the weight to go up despite not eating as much. Water weight gain will come off after delivery, but this can take weeks.

Goal: Gain about 3-4 lbs. per month during the third trimester.