You don’t have to completely swear off certain foods and drinks in order to avoid excess weight gain during pregnancy. But if you regularly eat certain foods that you know affect your weight or health negatively, it can’t hurt to lower your intake of these and raise your intake of other, more nutritious foods.
If you find yourself eating a lot of any of the following foods or drinks, consider cutting back or cutting them out entirely.
Food #1: Pre-made frozen meals
Staying on top of your sugar consumption is important, both during pregnancy and outside of it. This is partially because people who consume a lot of sugar are much more likely to be overweight or obese than people who consume smaller amounts of sugar. Lowering sugar consumption almost always leads to weight loss and easier weight management.
Take frozen meals, for example. They might be time savers, but the pre-cooked, frozen meals that you can buy in a grocery store are usually pretty unhealthy. They often have high amounts of sugar in each serving, especially because many are loaded with super sweet sauces. They also usually have lots of sodium, too.
- Tip: Instead of buying frozen meals at a store, set aside some time each week to make and freeze multiple servings of a meal that you like. If you still want some store-bought options in your freezer, make sure you read the ingredients and nutrition facts to purchase the healthiest option possible.
Food #2: Low-fat flavored yogurt
If your eye catches on to the ‘fat-free’ part of this label, you’re not alone – lots of people buy low-fat yogurt because it has little fat, or is completely fat-free. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that the majority of low-fat yogurts contain large amounts of sugar. Some deliver between 19-30 grams of sugar (the daily recommended amount of sugar for adult women is 20-25 grams).
- Tip: Try switching to yogurt that has a little more fat, as it usually contains much less sugar. Greek yogurt is an excellent substitution, and one that is packed with 17 grams of protein.
Food #3: Energy bars
Energy bars, protein bars, granola bars – whatever kind of bar you’re buying, it’s really important to look at the ingredients and nutrition facts before it goes in the cart. Many of these kinds of bars are high in saturated fat, calories, and sugar, and contain additives that make them harder to digest. Ideally, it’s best to switch these out for real, fresh foods and meals.
- Tip: If you simply can’t go without a few lying around, make sure you pick a bar that is high in fiber and protein, and avoid bars that list ingredients like ‘natural flavor’, syrups, and, if you have a dairy intolerance, anything that has the word casein in it. Also, try to find a bar with the lowest amount of ingredients in it – in general, the simpler, the better.
Drink #1: Smoothies you didn’t make at home
Smoothies are some of the tastiest, most thirst-quenching drinks out there. But many smoothies, particularly the ones you can buy in bottles at a grocery store or fast-food chain, are loaded with calories, added sugars, and carbohydrates.
- Tip: Instead of buying a premade smoothie, get your smoothie fix by making one at home; there are tons of delicious recipes online and you can tweak the ingredients to make the perfect one for you.
Drink #2: Energy/sports drinks
Energy and sports drinks tend to be packed with extra sugars, and in the case of energy drinks, caffeine, that are best avoided (or at least moderated) during pregnancy. Some healthcare providers will recommend electrolyte-containing sports drinks to help fight morning sickness, but otherwise, these are best left avoided during pregnancy.
- Tip: Flavored waters can be better options, but many bottled flavor waters aren’t so different than sports drinks, energy drinks, or soda anyway – even those that contain nutrients. Always make sure you read the label, and be wary of supposedly “healthy” drinks with added sugar.
Drink #3: Dairy-free milks that have a lot of added sugar
Today there are some excellent milk alternatives for people who can’t stomach milk or simply don’t like it. But these alternatives are not always the most nutritious options. For example, cashew and almond milk don’t contain much protein, and coconut milk is high in saturated fat. But the main issue with dairy-free milks is that many contain lots of added sugar, which as you know plays a critical role in untracked weight gain.
- Tip: When shopping for dairy-free milk, consider buying an unsweetened option and definitely skip over anything that offers more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Don’t forget that the recommended daily amount of sugar for adult women is 25 grams, which would amount to about two and a half cups of sweetened dairy-free milk.
Gaining weight healthily during pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy diet should allow you to gain weight at a pace that is right for you, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. You don’t have to be perfect with your diet, but cutting out foods that deliver tons of calories or other undesirable ingredients lets you save room for healthier foods that will do your body good.
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- Rebecca Harrington. “Why you shouldn’t be eating low-fat yogurt.” BusinessInsider. Business Insider Inc., Apr 2016. Available at http://www.businessinsider.com/low-fat-yogurt-high-in-sugar-2016-4.