First…know your numbers
When you become pregnant, it’s a good time to know your numbers. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) at the time that you become pregnant is a useful tool to determine how much weight you should gain. We should gain different amounts of weight based on our individual BMI, so ask your doctor how much weight you should be gaining. The recommended weight gain for women who are at a normal healthy weight range (BMI 19-24.9) is between 25 to 35 pounds. Women who are underweight or having twins or multiples are advised to gain more, while women who are overweight or obese should gain less. Use the chart below to determine the recommended weight gain for you.
Pregnancy weight gain
Total recommended weight gain depends on your pre-pregnancy weight
Weight Before Pregnancy Recommended Pregnancy Weight Gain
Normal weight (BMI 20-24.9) 25-35 lb
Underweight (BMI <20) 28-40 lb
Mildly overweight (BMI 25-30) 15-25 lb
Overweight (BMI >30) 11-20 lb
Obese (BMI >40) Modest weight loss sometimes is recommended
Like many other expectant moms, my thinking during my first pregnancy was to eat excessively, which led me to gain over the recommended pregnancy weight gain. In addition, I had to be reminded that the rate of pregnancy weight gain is gradual, with most occurring during the last trimester. Only a 2- to 4-lb gain is recommended during the entire 1st trimester, whereas approximately 3-4 lb/month is recommended during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Extra calories are not needed during the 1st trimester because the size of the baby is still very small. However, you should eat an extra 340 calories/day during the 2nd trimester and an extra 450 calories/day during the 3rd trimester to provide much-needed energy for your rapidly growing baby.
So many of my expecting clients are confused about how much they should be eating to make sure they are nourishing their baby properly while not gaining too much weight. When I became pregnant with my first born son, Jordy, I knew my growing baby relied on me for sustenance. And practicing good nutrition gave me confidence that my baby was healthy and receiving all the proper nutrients from the foods I was eating. The nutrients from the foods you eat become the building blocks that form the organ systems, brain, skeleton, muscles, and all the components that make up your baby. Therefore, what you eat is an important factor in determining your baby’s future health.
My son was born healthy, weighing 9 pounds, 3 ounces and today he stands 6’71/2 feet tall. He is 33 years old and remains very healthy and happy. Now, his wife Alexis is expecting this December. I am excited about becoming a grandmother, which inspires me to share my knowledge and experience with my daughter in law, with my daughters, clients and the public. Of course, nutrition is important prior to pregnancy, though every bite when you’re pregnant is impacting your baby, so make sure to take healthy bites and you’ll feel confident that your baby is in good hands every step of your pregnancy.
What makes a healthy diet during pregnancy?
Eating right during pregnancy can be a challenge, due to the exhaustion, “morning” sickness, and ravenous hunger. A well-balanced, healthy diet is key. It’s important to eat the foods that provide nutrients in the correct proportions from a wide variety of foods that are nutrient-dense. These foods are high in nutrients relative to the amount of calories they contain. For example, your diet should be made up of mostly whole, minimally, processed foods that you prepare yourself as opposed to a diet composed of commercially prepared foods, such as packaged foods containing excessive sodium, unhealthy fats and simple sugar, and junk foods like chips, sodas, pies and candy. It’s normal to have particular food cravings during pregnancy and if your desire for sugar and fat feels too powerful to resist, it’s okay to indulge occasionally. But try to keep your cravings in check, so your growing baby gets all the nutrients he needs.
Get your Omega-3 fats, but go easy on the fish
Intake of Omega-3 fats is essential for brain growth and development, which are present in fish and seafood, as well as some eggs, nuts (walnuts), seeds (flax), and oils (canola and soy). However, large fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish (golden or white snapper), should be avoided because they may contain high levels of mercury. Also, during pregnancy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting your consumption of fish to 12 ounces a week, which is the equivalent of about two servings.Aim for fish that contains low amounts of mercury, such as salmon, shrimp, pollack, cod, halibut, and catfish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting your consumption of fish to 12 ounces a week, which is the equivalent of about two servings.
Snacks are a great way to satisfy hunger pangs or cravings between meals, to help manage nausea, and, if chosen wisely, to add important nutrients to your diet. Make fruits and vegetables more convenient by having small containers of them already washed and chopped up in your refrigerator. Keep individual containers of low-fat milk or plain Greek yogurt, whole-grain cereals and crackers, nuts, and cheeses on hand. These snacks are convenient to carry to work or take along on long car rides.
Here are some other healthy snack suggestions:
- Fresh berries topped with plain Greek yogurt and chopped nuts
- Wheat crackers and apple wedges with cheese slices
- Baby carrots and other fresh vegetables dipped in hummus or low-fat ranch dip
- Rice cakes or graham crackers with peanut butter and banana
- Trail mix made of nuts, seeds, high fiber cereal (Fiber One), 70% dark chocolate chips and dried fruit
- Prosciutto wrapped apple wedges
- Decaffeinated teas with fresh lemon and ginger
In a mother’s womb
Eating extra healthy during your pregnancy will be worth the effort. Make it a priority and discuss your diet and eating plan with your OB/GYN doctor. Seek the help of a registered dietitian if you are still confused about how to eat right for you and your baby. Begin your journey of healthy eating at the start of your pregnancy to ensure optimal growth and development, and the future health of your baby. And don’t forget about YOU! Optimizing your own health and well-being is a win-win for both you and your baby.
References and recommended readings
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition during pregnancy. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq001.ashx?dmc=1&ts=20120110T1441165028. Published November 15, 2012. Accessed April 3, 2013.
Erick M. Nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. In: Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:340-374.
Kaiser LL, Allen L; American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: nutrition and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy outcome. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(10):1479-1490.
Pediatric Nutrition Care Manual®. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Web site [by subscription]. www.nutritioncaremanual.org. Accessed May 7, 2013.