profile picture of Micky Marie Morrison, PT, ICPFE
Micky Marie Morrison, PT, ICPFE
Contributing Writer

Finding The Balance: Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain

Baby weight is a touchy subject to discuss. Always careful not to pressure women into trying to stay thin or create complexes over their fuller frames during pregnancy, I try to encourage expectant moms to focus on health and wellness rather than the numbers on the scale. However, many moms-to-be are worried about gaining too much weight, and rightfully so. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that it goes on a lot easier than it comes off. But not only is it tough to take off the weight after baby comes, it's unhealthy for mom and for baby if mom gains too much weight during pregnancy. Excessive pregnancy weight gain is associated with higher risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension, as well as preterm labor and birth defects.

Having said that, it's important to note that weight gain during pregnancy is not only normal, it is necessary to ensure the development of a healthy baby. A woman who was at her ideal weight before pregnancy should gain 20 to 35 pounds by the 40th week. If you were overweight before pregnancy, you should gain at least 10 pounds but not more than 25 pounds to keep your weight in the healthy range. And if you were 10 pounds or more underweight, you should gain 25 to 40 pounds in order to ensure your body has all the necessary fat reserves it needs for the pregnancy and for postpartum milk production.

So while you shouldn't try to  lose weight during pregnancy, you can make lifestyle choices that help control the amount and rate of weight gain throughout pregnancy.

Try these four healthy tips to help keep your pregnancy weight gain in check:

Eat Your Veggies - Try to incorporate vegetables into every meal, even breakfast if you can. If you eat five to seven servings of veggies per day, you will infuse your diet with essential vitamins and minerals and will fill up on healthy, lower-calorie foods. Note that potatoes don't "count" as veggies since they are pure starch, a carbohydrate. Some ways to get more veggies into your diet: add them to your morning omelet; eat a big salad for lunch; add veggies to dishes you might not think of, such as spaghetti with meat sauce; take carrot and celery sticks to work for snacks; eat two vegetables as sides to a lean protein for lunch or dinner; use cucumber slices for dipping instead of chips; keep an assortment of cut and washed raw veggies in your fridge for snacks or easy add-ins to any recipe.

Be Carb Conscious - Carbohydrates are part of a healthy diet, but not all carbs are created equal. Whole grain carbs such as brown rice and whole wheat pastas and breads have more fiber and more complex sugars than their white counterparts, making them better fuel for your body. Try to limit breads and grains to three to four servings per day. Beware that a "serving" is smaller than you may think; one cup of cooked pasta, half a cup of cooked rice, one slice of bread. Complex carbohydrates are more efficient energy sources, such as beans and other legumes.

Rethink Your Drink - Be sure you are not sabotaging an otherwise healthy diet with drinks that are full of unnecessary calories. Even natural juices can have an incredibly high calorie count. Read the labels and ask yourself if you'd rather eat or drink your calories. Avoid diet beverages during pregnancy since the effect of artificial sweeteners on the developing fetus is unknown. Avoid regular sodas because they are packed full of sugar. Water is the healthiest beverage and has zero calories, so make it your favorite. If you need to make it more interesting, drink sparkling water with a splash of natural juice.

Exercise Regularly - Unsurprisingly, women who exercise throughout pregnancy gain less weight than those who don't. Even if you just get out for a 20-minute walk around the block, try to do something five days per week to keep your metabolism fired up and to stay in the healthy habit of exercise. In order to avoid unnecessary risks, it's important that the strengthening and stretching exercises you choose are specific to prenatal moms. Try to find a prenatal fitness class in your area, or try an online class to work out in your living room.