Pregnancy is an incredible time in a woman’s life; a rollercoaster of emotions, cravings, and transformations into motherhood. While ‘eating for two’ is a common excuse for packin’ back that extra slice of pie or bag of chips, do you really need to watch your portions? How much, is too much weight gain?
While every pregnancy is different and every woman has their own unique health profile, diet, and cravings; managing healthy weight gain is so important for the proper development of your baby. There will be times where you feel there is not enough food to satisfy your cravings and other days where your stomach feels like it is full after eating an egg-size portion. It’s common to have eating spurts like your baby will have growth spurts and ‘cluster feed.’ So how do you maintain a balance between nourishing your growing baby, giving in to cravings and going off the deep end at the buffet?
Choose high-quality foods rich in nutrients that are enzymatically active. Translation – Eat. Real. Food. Prioritize the majority of your diet around foods that have a short shelf life, and most likely need to be kept in the fridge. Fresh veggies, fruits, especially berries, nuts and seeds (yea, raw nuts and seeds need to be refrigerated) and fresh cuts meats/fish are great examples of whole food sources that give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition. Generally speaking, the quicker foods die off, the more enzymatically ‘alive’ they are. So consuming the freshest foods possible will give your body and baby the biggest dose of vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and enzymes. Enzymes help to break down your food properly and aid in digestion and absorption. If your not breaking down your food efficiently it can lead to digestive issues like inflammation, bloating, gas, leaky gut syndrome and constipation to name a few. Trust me, feeling bloated, cranky, constipated and hormonal will convince you that pregnancy ‘glow’ is the biggest crock of shit ever.
Graze Baby, Graze
You’re a hard-working, baby makin,’ trail-blazin’ woman. You know what powerful creators like you need? SNACKS. There should be no time for the hanger to set in because that’s where the trouble starts and ends with the Rotten Ronnie’s drive-thru. Soon enough the carnage from 3 Mcfuckit meals are scattered all around your car, and you’re trying to make it home in time before the nap and gut rot kicks in. Meal prep at the best of times can be hard to fit in the schedule, but this is a time where you need to make it fit in your schedule, and often. Stocking your glove compartment or desk with good quality snacks like trail mix, fruit or bars that are low in sugar and high in protein and fats (Kind or Lara are good ones) will help keep you satisfied. Grazing throughout the day and eating smaller meals is also a good way to reduce nausea, keep your energy levels high, blood sugar under control and reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.
Yea I threw it back to the ’90s, cause why not? Embrace those good fats ladies! Fat is required for your baby’s brain and nervous system. It also provides protection since their little bones haven’t quite hardened entirely, their muscles are still developing, and they will need help maintaining their body temperature after their birthday. Whole food fats from unroasted, unsalted nuts and seeds and plant-based fats like avocado, coconuts are awesome to include in as many dishes as possible. Grapeseed oil has a high flash point and awesome for cooking, while olive oils have a low flash point and are good for low temp cooking or finishings such as salad dressings. Nut and seed butters were my kryptonite with apples or added into some of my fav oatmeal to punch it up. Not only are fats good for growing your baby, but they also help you increase those good calories, reduce cravings and balance blood sugar. Consuming high-quality fats also helps to improve that ‘baby brain’ and even elevates mood. How PHAT is that… okay, it’s out of my system now.
What Your Cravings Are Telling You
If you’re struggling with resisting that daily trip to the store for chocolate bars, candies or donuts – your body is trying to tell you something! Cravings are normal and a really cool sign that your body is telling you about something, most likely what it’s lacking. Sugar cravings can be a sign that there’s a deficiency in B vitamins, friendly gut bacteria, and fiber. Probiotics help to repopulate the good gut flora needed to make B vitamins, ward off bacteria and virus attacks and stabilize mood fluctuations. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in the intestines and aids in proper bowel functioning. These three things are reduced significantly when diets are largely made up of processed, convenient and nutritiously ‘dead’ foods. Consuming as much fresh, whole and natural foods help to improve your ‘friendly’ bacteria and making sure you’re eating protein, fat, and fiber at every meal will help reduce sugar cravings. If you’re weary about consuming raw foods naturally high in probiotics, there is a great vegan probiotic supplement that has been safely used for pregnant women and babies as young as a day old (Dr. Nigel Plummer, Ph.D., Global authority on Probiotics).
Beware of the Scale
The scale during pregnancy can be the biggest frienemy you’ve ever had. One week you’re up 5lbs, then you’re down 2 lbs and up 7 lbs. The important thing is that you are eating well, often and choosing quality over quantity. Maintaining a good relationship with your midwife or doctor and keeping up to date with your health records and appointments will give you way more insight into the health of your growing baby than the scale will. 25-35 lbs is the ‘normal’ weight gain, but what is ‘normal’ anyways? Women whose diets were lacking and were underweight at the time of conception may benefit from putting on more than the ‘normal’ 25-35 lbs. On the flip side, some women don’t end up putting on the majority of their weight until the third trimester when their baby’s developmental stage has taken a back seat to the weight gain stage, and they may only gain 15-20 lbs. Between the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid and enlarged uterus weighing in around 15lbs and the extra blood, protein and fat reserves (including increased breast size) and fluids making up the rest.
How Much is Too Much?
The scale should not be the determining factor in the health of you and your baby. But putting on excessive weight rapidly can pose risks for the both of you including pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) gestational diabetes, mood swings, stretch marks, difficulty sleeping and joint and muscle pain. Bloating and water retention are normal ‘side effects’ especially at the beginning of your pregnancy as your hormone levels are all over the place. Excessive weight gain is more often than not tied to a poor diet lacking in nutrients. Eating the standard American diet (SAD) which is mostly processed, convenient foods loaded with empty calories triggers cravings and the need for large portion sizes. Your brain knows it’s eating, but isn’t registering any nutrition coming in, so that initiates the cycle of excess and quick fix convenience meals.
This is not to say that putting on as little weight as possible is healthy. It all depends on how healthy you were going into the pregnancy. Reducing your calories for so-called pregnant vanity is not doing yourself or your baby any favors. You’ll need the extra stored fat reserves to maintain your energy, mental clarity and stress levels for when your baby is born and especially so if you choose to breastfeed. Breastfeeding takes a lot of nutrients and calories out of a new mom and can leave her mentally drained too. Having healthy reserves and eating nutrient-dense foods is essential during both during pre and postnatal. Focus on eating whole, fresh and naturally sourced foods rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and enzymes. When you are feeding your body and baby nutritiously dense foods, portion sizes are innately reduced.
Be Kind on Yourself
If you decide to go rogue on that all you can eat buffet, enjoy every second of it! Don’t get bent out of shape and start spouting off how ‘bad’ you were. On the flip side, stop drinking that self-haterade and stress out about not having that key lime pie because it’s not the healthiest of options. Feeding bad energy and negative self-talk is way more stressful to your body and in turn, your baby than positively indulging every now and again. If there ever was a time to start developing a good relationship with food, it’s now – because that little love bundle is picking up on every vibration, feeling and emotion you project.
Better Late Than Never
If you’ve found yourself reading this article a little late in the pregnancy game and fed into the stereotypical diet of candies, cravings, ice cream, and drive-thrus, don’t fret. It’s never too late to start making better food choices and treating yourself kinder. Overcoming eating disorders is one of the toughest things to face, I know – I’ve been there. Combining that with the hormonal and emotional fluctuations of pregnancy can make for some critical self-talk. But it starts with having an appreciation of yourself, in even the smallest of ways. You’ve created life, a new beginning and whether you are ready or not, you are going to be the biggest influence in that little one’s life. So many women who’ve struggled with their eating are afraid of passing their habits on to their children. It’s up to you to make simple changes and to be willing to let your fears go to focus on having a happy and healthy baby.
Related Article: How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy