Did you know that one in four women keep on 20 pounds or more one year after having a baby, according to the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans? While gaining weight is a natural, healthy part of being pregnant, women who retain weight after, and especially between pregnancies, can be more at risk for gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
So what can you do when those food cravings kick in, or you are too tired or nauseous to be physically active? For starters, planning for pregnancy and going into it at your healthiest will benefit both you and your baby. Following a daily dietary pattern that is plant-based and low in added sugar and salt is a great first start. Here are a few more tips for a healthy nine months and beyond.
Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Whenever possible, take time to think before you eat and drink. From how you plan for and eat your meals to the snacks and non-water drinks you select, you can quickly eat more calories than you planned without even realizing it. During the first trimester, your body doesn’t need any extra calories, and in the second and third trimesters, you only need about 300-400 extra calories a day. Being busy and eating on the run, while you work, or watch television are ways to lose track of how much and what you are eating. This advice can be a challenge to follow in the early weeks of pregnancy when your hormones change rapidly. However, during the second and third trimesters, you will be more likely to find those time to unwind, unplug, and think about 1) how hungry you are and 2) whether you are eating something nutrient-rich. A small study published in Appetite in 2017 found that in a survey of 139 pregnant women, mindful eating played in role in eating behavior.
Want to learn more about calorie intake or weight gain during pregnancy? Read “Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy”.
Choose fiber-rich foods
There is nothing worse than already being uncomfortable in pregnancy and then feeling constipated. While it is a common pregnancy symptom, most pregnant women (and women generally) do not consume enough fiber each day for optimum gastrointestinal health. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber each day from food sources, including fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. You may find that eating vegetables or beans makes you extra gassy; stick to smaller frequent portions, drink water, and stay physically active to help with that. A fiber-rich diet has many health benefits. One study found that women who increased their daily fiber intake by 10 grams reduced their risk of developing gestational diabetes by 26%.
Meeting the dietary needs for you and your baby can be challenging. e Learn more about essential nutrition during pregnancy in the following articles, “Prenatal Vitamins: The Nutrients You Need & When You Need Them” and “5 Key Benefits of DHA During Pregnancy”.
Don’t smoke or try to stop if you do
No matter how hard you try to keep up with recommended nutrient intake levels, when you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it will be an uphill climb if you smoke. When you smoke, it interferes with your body’s ability to absorb and pass nutrients to your growing baby. Smoking also increases the risk of premature birth, birth defects, and low birthweight. Stopping smoking is not easy, but there are resources to help. Continuing to not smoke after giving birth is essential, too, as babies that inhale secondhand smoke can have weaker lungs and develop respiratory issues.
Here’s more guidance on what you can do to be healthy while you are expecting, “Pregnancy Tips: The 10 Best Ways To Have A Healthy Pregnancy”
Move as often as you can
When you move more than you sit, you improve blood flow and circulation, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and feel better mentally and physically. Being active is vital for all and can help manage weight as you plan to get pregnant. Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or taking aerobic fitness classes (online or in-person) can all help promote heart health, while activities that support balance, flexibility, and muscle strengthening can help you move more pain-free.
During pregnancy, exercise recommendations vary somewhat by trimester. Whether trying to become pregnant or already pregnant, be sure to consult with your health care provider about any limitations to exercising so that you can stay safe and comfortable. The best thing about being active is that after your baby comes, he will learn the importance of physical activity from you, and you can take part in activities together.
Learn more about exercising while pregnant, “Active Mom, Active Baby: Exercising Throughout Each Trimester of Pregnancy”.
Good nutrition, smoking cessation, and staying physically active before, during, and after pregnancy can help you feel your best and set a healthy example for your baby. If you are interested in more information about nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding download our eBook, “Healthy Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Nutrition & Lifestyle Tips”.