Mind Current Weight Guidelines
Q: Weight gain guidelines have changed considerably since our moms were pregnant. Why is that? What advice do you have for gaining a healthy amount in each trimester?
A: Although weight gain guidelines were different when our mothers were pregnant with us, until recently, they hadn't changed in nearly 20 years. I am not sure why the guidelines had been overly liberal or much too restrictive when our parents were having kids, but I can say that the recently-released guidelines from the Institute of Medicine are based on solid evidence. These recommendations take into account a woman's prepregnancy body weight and determine the right number of pounds to gain when she's expecting.
My advice is to remember that guidelines are just that, and that each woman is different. That's why you should work closely with your doctor or certified nurse midwife or registered dietitian to determine what the right number of pounds is for you. Most women will gain the right amount of weight when they balance their calorie consumption with how many calories they burn.
Sneak in Good Nutrition
Q: Your book gives great advice for outsmarting poor pregnancy appetites. What's your number-one trick for sneaking in good nutrition all 40 weeks?
A: It's hard to narrow it down to one, but I would say that remembering that what you eat greatly contributes to the short-term and long-term health of your baby is a great motivator for eating your veggies, getting enough protein, and sneaking in whole grains. It's not that every bite counts, but most of them do!
When you're having trouble eating what you should, try sneaking in nutrition that you may be missing by:
- Whipping up a fruit smoothie with milk or yogurt.
- Turning to eggs, beans, reduced-fat cheese, and nut butters for protein if meat is making you gag.
- Sticking with mild-tasting vegetables, such as mashed white or sweet potato instead of broccoli or asparagus.
Avoid These Food Habit No-Nos
Q: As a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, you likely witness some pregnancy food habits that are well-intended but not quite adequate. Care to share any pregnancy eating no-nos?
A: The one that bothers me most is restricting calories so that you can get your pre-pregnancy figure back. There is so much hype in the media these days focusing on celebrities whose bodies seemingly snap back to their original size very soon after delivery, and I think some women may get the impression that gaining less during pregnancy will help them to do the same. To insure the healthiest baby possible, you should stick to the weight gain guidelines your doctor has set for you, which should be based on your prepregnancy weight.
Here are some others:
- Avoiding fish. It's easy to get confused about which fish are safe to eat during the childbearing years and give up seafood completely. But if you love fish, dig in. Fish is one of the best sources of DHA, an omega-3 fat that builds your child's brain and eyesight. (See above for the most mercury-laden fish to avoid completely.)
- Overdoing it on supplements. For most women, an over-the-counter multivitamin will provide enough nutrients before, during, and after pregnancy. There may be no need for a prescription prenatal supplement, additional folic acid, or other dietary supplements.
- Giving up exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently release guidelines for exercise for pregnant women, suggesting two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week (equal to a 30-minute walk five times a week). Unless your doctor advises against it, keep moving until delivery day.