The stress of maintaining the right pregnancy diet is one of the only things that can manage to take away some of the joy of carrying that little miracle. For many women, pregnancy weight gain seems inevitable, uncontrollable, even encouraged (we’ve all heard the “go crazy, you’re eating for two!” line). Truth is, while weight loss during pregnancy isn’t encouraged, a healthy pregnancy diet can absolutely help you to control pregnancy weight gain and have a happy, healthy baby. Hows that for a win-win!? Personally I’ve found that weight loss during pregnancy is frowned upon, but by maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet and making sure I stay active I have lost some body fat and successfully controlled my weight during my second pregnancy…
*Let me lead with a disclaimer (as I often love to do).. this is my story and I am NOT a medical professional. I have come to learn some tricks that I wish I would’ve known with my first pregnancy and I want to share with hopes that they can help some other mamas out there, but definitely check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet/lifestyle :)*
Alright, I’ll start by filling you in on my pregnancy weight gain rollercoaster from my FIRST baby. I am not going to spare many details, so if you’re not interested in my rant please feel free to scroll on down to the good stuff. I am a little over 5’6” with a medium frame and I feel/look my best around 130/135lbs. After getting married, I gained the ritual “we’re in love so let’s drink wine, watch movies and go out to dinner 4 nights a week” 15lbs. Shortly after that “marriage 15” crept up, I got pregnant with my first baby at about 147lbs. It would’ve been nice to have lost my marriage weight prior to getting pregnant, but I didn’t sweat about it at the time. I had high hopes to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet, eat right and only gain the “recommended” 25ish pounds, and take it off as soon as baby arrived.
WELL, let’s just say that was my first lesson in motherhood: things don’t always go as planned. I ended up giving birth at just under 190lbs. I had a perfect, healthy pregnancy and an even more perfect healthy baby so I didn’t sweat it TOO much, but I left the hospital pretty motivated. Then motherhood kicked in. The stress of figuring out this mama thing was a lot more overwhelming than I expected. My focus was on keeping my baby happy and fed, and between mastering nursing, pumping sessions and laundry marathons I barely had time to shower let alone stick to a reasonable weightloss regimen. I figured I’d be reasonably healthy and let the weight fall off at it’s own pace while I mastered motherhood and I’d get focused once we were all sleeping and acclimated.
Fast forward about 7 months. I had lost most of the baby weight with almost no effort, but at 155 I was still 8 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight and another 20-25 from my comfortable, happy weight. I finally decided it was time to kick my weight loss efforts into high gear once and for all…. so NATURALLY soon after, we found out our second little miracle was on the way!
Of course I was absolutely thrilled and so excited about baby #2! We always wanted our kids to be close together and as it turned out, our first two babies would be about 15 months apart. We felt so incredibly blessed and grateful. However, after I came back down to earth from all of the excitement I had a sobering thought: I was on track to multiply by baby weight from my first pregnancy if I didn’t come up with a game plan.
As I write this post, I am 19 weeks pregnant and I have only gained about one or two pounds. During my last prenatal appointment, I had a conversation with my doctor to make sure my slow weight gain was not cause for concern. Because I started the pregnancy “overweight” (BMI 25–29.9) I can expect to gain between 15 and 25lbs this pregnancy, gaining most of it later on once baby starts bulking up. My doctor said that the weight mom gains in the first half of pregnancy is typically just mom and not from the growing baby so because I was overweight to begin with, it’s okay to not see the scale rising yet.
Though I have kept a reasonable watch on my overall pregnancy diet and caloric intake (a number approved by my doctor), I don’t believe that my pregnancy weight control can be entirely attributed to calorie counting. I have implemented several “weight loss hacks”, or rather “weight control hacks” that are really just a collection of healthy lifestyle habits. I believe the combination of the following tips have led to healthy weight control in my pregnancy, as well as vibrant health for me and my baby! Here it goes:
This one is pretty straight forward, but one of the most important steps so make sure to do your due diligence! Being responsible about food intake is the cornerstone of any successful pregnancy diet. I am by no means advocating deprivation or restriction, but I believe it is important to know what your body actually NEEDS so that you can have a guideline of what a healthy pregnancy diet looks like. With my first pregnancy I was mindlessly eating somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000-3,500 calories a day, give or take (ice cream sundaes on the regular). This led to my exessive weight gain and unhealthy habits that were tough to break after baby was born. With my second pregnancy, it’s been really helpful to have an idea of how much I actually need to eat so that I don’t go overboard. That said, it’s important to listen to your body. There are days that I know I need more food and if I’m truly hungry I won’t restrict myself.
There are apps and websites that help to calculate caloric needs for NON PREGNANT women, but I have yet to find one that calculates specific caloric needs for a healthy pregnancy diet (if you know of one, please post in the comments!). https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/calories-diet/ has a helpful article about additional caloric needs during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to determine a healthy caloric goal that suits you, your lifestyle and your baby/babies!
This is really an exercise in mindfulness. I use the MyFitnessPal app both so I’m aware of what I’m eating (mindless pregnancy munching is dangerous) and to have a ballpark idea of my caloric/nutritional intake. When I first started using MyFitnessPal before I was pregnant, I was really shocked at all of the mindless snacking I did and I quickly solved the mystery of “how these extra pounds crept on”. Now that I am pregnant, I am not as strict about sticking to a specific caloric goal (if I’m truly hungry, I eat), but it’s really good to be aware of my intake.
Keeping a food diary has helped with more than just my weight loss/control efforts, it also helps me to be mindful of nutrition for both me and baby (more on that below). I have had days where it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and realize I’ve eaten almost exclusively carbs all day and it’s time for a protein shake. It helps me to stay balanced instead of just shoving the first thing I’m craving in my mouth.
THIS IS HUGE FOR ANY SUCCESSFUL PREGNANCY DIET. It’s so important to focus on clean, nutrient-dense food during pregnancy, both for the growth and development of your baby and to maintain a healthy weight for you. During my first pregnancy, I could binge over 1,000 calories of junk in one sitting, only to find myself hungry shortly after. Why, you ask? As a general rule, you’re going to be hungrier during pregnancy because your body requires more nutrients to bake that little human. If you’re loading up on garbage, you’re not going to satisfy the need for the nutrients your body was SO DESPERATELY CRYING FOR…. welcome to the the hangry rollercoaster of pregnancy. I opt for balanced, nutrient-dense foods like fresh produce, protein and good carbs to keep me satiated and my baby growing healthily!
This is the fun one. Find nutrient-rich meals and snacks you enjoy that you can spring for when those impossible pregnancy hunger pangs start up. I have all of mine saved as “meals” in the MyFitnessPal app so they’re easy to add and I know exactly what I’m eating. I’ll give you a few examples:
Cottage cheese, cherry tomatoes, salt & pepper
Organic corn flakes, almond milk and strawberries
Shake with 1/2 banana, 2 tbs chia seed, 1 scoop vegan protein powder and handful of spinach
Green apple and 2tbs almond butter
Homemade paleo chocolate – recipe here! (good source of fat and magnesium and processed sugar free)
Oatmeal with 1 tbs almond butter and cinnamon
Homemade organic popcorn cooked in coconut oil
Warmed unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon
Ezekiel toast with avocado and garlic salt
Low carb wrap with (pregnancy-safe) turkey, whipped organic cream cheese and cucumber
Unfortunately the rigorous exercise regimen I set out to accomplish before I was pregnant was haulted by first trimester nausea and fatigue. That said, with a 10 month old daughter who is dangerously close to walking, I no longer have the luxury of sitting still like I did in my first pregnancy. Like any successful weight control or weight loss regimen, you pregnancy diet outweighs the importance of exercise… but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a priority. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I worked from home and I spent most of my days on the couch with my laptop propped up on my knees and some form of crunchy salty carb on the coffee table beside me. That is no longer the case. In addition to chasing my dolly around all day and the typical errands associated with motherhood, I make an effort to walk with bae whenever we get the chance… Here’s a trick! Get a high energy breed dog that “needs-exercise-or-else”. It’s an excellent motivator! My Weimaraner turns into a hurricaine if he misses a walk/run. (joking, of course).
Obviouly “cutting processed foods” is at the top of just about every health hack list on the internet, and I thoroughly believe in that method. Most processed foods contained processed sugar anyway, however, I wanted to specify processed SUGAR because sugar specififically has a uniquely addictive property that makes us want to just keep coming back for more…. especially when you’re pregnant. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle. I have made a habit of finding healthy alternatives for the stuff I crave (Pinterest is GREAT for this), and it’s actually been pretty fun! For example, the other night I NEEDED chocolate cake so I found a Paleo recipe made with honey, cacao and coconut flour that scratched the itch and guess what… it was actually pretty freaking delicious.
So what do you do when that unstoppable craving strikes? Well, if there’s that ONE THING you just gotta have and there’s no suitable alternative, I’d go for it. However, I’ll add a disclaimer: keep it out of the house. If you want ice cream, have hubby take you out on a date. If you need a donut, go get A donut and enjoy it… DON’T bring the whole dozen home to call your name from the countertop. That’s just a recipe for disaster.
I know that everyone says when you’re pregnant you have a free pass to eat whatever you want, and I guess if you don’t mind doubling in size over the course of nine months that’s a fun philosophy to live by. However, if you’re determined to stay healthy you really need to keep an eye on those kryptonites. I’m talking the foods that you pick up and can’t physically bring yourself to put down. They don’t even necessarily need to be junk food like Trader Joe’s cookie butter or a bag of jalapeno cheddar potato chips. My Kryptonite is *drumroll please*: nuts. Yup, even the healthy raw unsalted kind. I can’t stop. I just love nuts… I LOVE EM. I ate a half of a bag of raw brazil nuts a couple months ago and I decided that enough was enough. I no longer allow myself to keep them in the house. I can handle nut butters, so I’ll get the nutrition by putting a couple tablespoons of almond butter in a smoothie or raw cashew butter on sprouted toast, but as a general rule I don’t mess with nuts because I know I can’t control myself. Find out what your Kryptonites are and do the best you can to keep them out of the house.
FACT: pregnant women need more protein. According to this article http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-nutrition/ by the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women should be getting at least 75-100 grams of protein every day. While the SAD (standard American diet) is already too low in protein and too high in carbs and sugar, it’s even more critical to mind your protein intake during pregnancy to ensure proper fetal growth and development. Adequate protein intake doesn’t just help to make sure baby is growing strong, it also helps to keep mom’s blood sugar stable and appetite satiated. Minding your protein intake should be part of any successful pregnancy diet protocol. Tip: I try to start my day with a green protein shake made with a CLEAN protein powder (I wouldn’t touch most protein powders on the market – definitely not during pregnancy). I am a HUGE fan of Garden of Life Organic Vegan protein powder, especially for the extra nutrients during pregnancy – in fact, I’ve had it in my Amazon Prime subscription for over a year 🙂
Yeah, I know you’ve heard it before. I think this one is especially important during pregnancy because a lot of pregnant women find themselves looking for an alternative to that class of Pino Noir or fancy cocktail. The problem is the alternative is typically loaded with sugar and completely void of any nutritional value. In my first pregnancy, I grew accustomed to drinking sugar-loaded “mocktails” and sodas when everyone else was drinking wine. And because I was pregnant through the holiday season, I treated myself to eggnog and frilly whipped cream-covered pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha flavored coffee drinks. Yeah I was pretty reckless.
Let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson. This time around I’m sticking to sparkling mineral water with lemon and lime, maybe a splash of cranberry juice. Herbal teas are my new favorite, sometimes with a bit of raw honey. When I drink coffee, I have it black or with a splash of coconut milk creamer. And of course, tons of water. Find an alternative you enjoy and just say no to the rest. You’ll be glad you did.
I decided to put a fun spin on the “drink loads of water” tip. Yeah I know you’ve heard this before too… but like #6 and #9, I think it’s an EXTRA important part of a successful pregnancy diet. The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 80oz of water a day for pregnant women. This helps keep you and baby hydrated, it aids in digestion AND it helps eliminate the “false hunger” associated with being dehydrated.
To be honest, I find it tough to reach my daily hydration quota so I came up with a couple tricks to make it happen. Most importantly, get a cute water bottle that you love drinking out of. I have a couple of those Starbucks tumblers that actually isn’t that cute, but something about straws makes me drink more. Whatever works for you. I know that sounds ridiculous but it makes it easier and more enjoyable to meet your water quota. Second, jazz it up sometimes. I’ll put lemon and strawberry slices with a few drops of liquid stevia in my water bottle and not only does it feel fancy, it tastes great.
Side note: I firmly believe that drinking clean, hormone, chemical and heavy metal-free water is integral to overall health. I have been using an AlexaPure filter since my first pregnancy and I truly believe it’s been a worthwhile investment. If you are not using a high quality water filter already, I strongly urge you to consider getting one. With all of the junk in our water supply today, I believe it is especially important for pregnant women to use a high powered filter for drinking water. There are a bunch on the market today but the brand I use, AlexaPure, removes lead, bacteria, chlorine, fluoride, and a bunch of other garbage you don’t want in your drinking water. I have both the stainless steel gravity filter, as well as the AlexaPure pitcher. Both are reasonably priced and you can find them on Amazon by following the links.
This might be a bit controversial, but I figured I’d throw it in because I believe this tip has helped me as well. This, like many of these tips, is not just a good rule of thumb for maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet but for ANY weight loss or weight control regimen (IMO). If you think about it, cow’s milk was DESIGNED to grow a littleeee baby cow into a 2,000 lb animal… yup, that’s it’s God-given purpose. Cow’s milk does contain a lot of beneficial nutrients that are excellent for you and baby, however with the hormones and antibiotics in today’s milk supply (yes, even organic) I don’t feel great about loading up on dairy especially during pregnancy. I try to limit my dairy intake to organic cottage cheese, grass fed butter and occasionally organic cream cheese, but I certainly bend the rules if need be (holidays, date nights, that insatiable pregnancy craving). As an alternative I LOVE all things coconut milk, especially in coffee, almond milk (which is usually vitamin fortified), and goat milk kefir and yogurt (goat milk is much easier for humans to digest- check out my post on my amazing goat milk baby formula).
Well, that’s all she wrote! I really hope these pregnancy diet tips can help some mamas out there struggling with excessive weight gain, or just some mamas looking for tricks for staying healthy during pregnancy! I will definitely provide updates over the course of my pregnancy and make a finale post to see that I finished up strong! Again, I am no physician so definitely get approval from your doctor before implementing any major changes to your diet/routine. These are just MY tips and they have worked beautifully for me and my growing baby. If you have any questions/comments please leave them in the comments below. Thank you so much for reading and stay tuned for more from Maternity League! <3 Lexi
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