It can be overwhelming to think about pregnancy weight gain if you’re only looking at the big picture. Instead, try focusing on the small things you can do every day to enforce good habits and keep yourself moving forward on a healthy path. Here are five strategies to make a part of your pregnancy (and post-pregnancy!) habits.
Check your weight regularly
Your healthcare provider has likely already advised you on the benefits of checking your weight regularly, but there are a lot of reasons you might not feel like periodically stepping on the scale to check your weight gain. It can be tedious, uncomfortable, or downright stressful for some women. Despite these reasons, though, regularly checking your weight is a really good way to make sure you’re gaining weight at a steady, healthy pace.
You really only need to weigh yourself once a week, at the same time each day with no shoes and lightweight or no clothing. You and your provider can compare your weight to the recommended amounts and make sure that you’re gaining what’s right for you. If you do start gaining weight faster than normal, you’ll be aware of this ahead of time and make some healthy lifestyle changes if your healthcare provider feels that’s necessary.
Get twenty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or swimming, each day
Exercise improves your posture, helps your mood and your physical wellbeing, prepares your body for the workout that is labor and delivery, and makes it easier to fall asleep. It can also help control your calorie intake. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity per week, which equals out to about 20 minutes a day. This burns about 140-180 calories, depending on your weight (not that you should ever use exercise for weight loss while you’re pregnant). If that seems too much, you could always break that into two periods of ten minutes of brisk walking a day! As long as you have your provider’s approval, exercise is super healthy and safe for pregnant women.
Make most of your snacks healthy
This isn’t to say you can never have chocolate or ice cream during pregnancy, but for the most part, try to make the majority of the snacks that you eat in a day healthy and nutritious. Snack foods tend to pack lots of calories into very small quantities (things like trail mix, potato chips, candy) so whenever possible, swap out these kinds of high-calorie snacks for lower-calorie, vitamin and mineral-rich snacks.
Try keeping bowls or containers that already have a serving size of fruits or veggies at hand for when you want a little something to eat. You can also start eating tastier but low-calorie snack combos like tuna and whole wheat crackers, a greek yogurt parfait, raw veggies in hummus, or celery with peanut butter and some raisins.
You can see the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate checklist here to make sure you’re meeting your daily nutrition targets.
Stay mindful when eating less-healthy foods
When it comes to junk food or less-than-healthy snacks, it’s always a good idea to stop and ask yourself if you really want something before you eat it. If you do really want it, then you’ll enjoy it and be glad you ate it. If you don’t really want the food, it might be worth finding a healthy alternative that can serve you and Baby better. Mindfulness around food can be a hard skill to learn at first, but once you get some practice under your belt, it will feel a lot more natural, and is something you can use far beyond pregnancy.
Work with your healthcare provider to stay on track of things and get their advice
Finally, be open to talking with your provider about your pregnancy weight gain and any concerns or questions that you have throughout your pregnancy. Your provider is well qualified to help you figure out the right weight gain goals for you. They can also help you stick to these goals as closely as possible for the entirety of your pregnancy. Your provider can also tell you more about why it’s so important to monitor weight gain in pregnancy, how good nutrition and exercise help contribute to adequate weight gain, and why it matters in your specific pregnancy.
If for any reason your provider doesn’t mention your weight gain targets, ask him or her to go over them with you. It’s completely understandable that weight can be a difficult subject for many, but now isn’t the time to worry about any awkwardness that might arise from that conversation! You’ve got a baby (and yourself) to think about, and gaining close to the recommended guidelines can help you keep both of you guys on track.
- “Weight Gain During Pregnancy.” ACOG. Committee Opinion no. 548 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Jan 2013. Web. Accessed 8/8/17. Available at https://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy.
- “Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights.” Harvard. Harvard University, Jul 2004. Web. Accessed 8/8/17. Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.
- Renée M Ferrari and Anna Maria Siega-Riz. “Provider Advice About Pregnancy Weight Gain and Adequacy of Weight Gain.” Matern Child Health J. 17(2): 256–264. Web. Jun 2014.
- “Weight Gain During Pregnancy.” CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS, Oct 2016. Web. Accessed 8/8/17. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm#tracking.
- “Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women.” CDC. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS, Jun 2015. Web. Accessed 8/8/17. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pregnancy/index.htm.
- “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.” ACOG. Committee Opinion no. 650 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dec 2015. Web. Accessed 8/8/17. Available at https://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Physical-Activity-and-Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period.