Nutrition and Weight Gain

The nutritional choices one makes may have more impact on health than any other single factor. It is also one of the few factors in pregnancy over which a woman has near-complete control. Good nutrition is the perfect target for your new parental anxiety. You may not have any control over your baby’s chromosomes or gender, but you have complete control over what you swallow. Seize this control.

The principles of good nutrition are rather simple. However, the adage that “you’re eating for two” is overly simplistic. In no way does a pregnant women need to come close to “eating for two”. A pregnant woman has months to grow a relatively small human being, add minimally to her own nutritional stores, prepare for lactation and assure an increase in blood volume to account for some loss. As far as quantity goes, eat the equivalent of three meals and a snack in between each meal, and you’ll be fine. In fact, if you eat the “average American diet” plus snacks, you’ll probably be consuming too many calories in the form of fat and simple sugars. The average American diet grows average Americans, who by and large, are too overweight…..or becoming that way.

Weight gain is also an overly simplistic to approach nutrition in pregnancy. “Average weight gains” for pregnant women apply only to “average women”, and no one really knows who they are or what they look like. Forget weight gain. Focus on good nutrition.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you adequately nourish yourself and your baby during pregnancy.

  • Eat when you’re hungry, but eat good foods. If you don’t
    know what “good food” is, talk to a nutritionist……ask
    your midwife or doctor to refer you if they don’t have time to adequately
    discuss this with you.
  • Eat lean high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and lots of fruits
    and vegetables.
  • If you don’t know what a high-quality, lean protein is, eat eggs
    and don’t worry about the cholesterol (at least not while you’re
  • Avoid eating at fast food restaurants.
  • Carry quality snack foods with you.
  • Try to avoid processed food and foods that come pre-prepared in packages
    (they usually have added fat, sugar or salt.)
  • Make the purchasing, preparing and eating of good food a significant part
    of your day. Shop daily or every other day for fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Don’t buy large quantities of food that will spoil.
  • Arm your cupboard and refrigerator with healthy staples which require little
    preparation…….peanut butter, cheeses, fresh wholegrain breads, cereals,
    milk, etc….
  • Treats (junk food, desserts, candy, etc….) should be just that, treats.
    Treat yourself occasionally, but don’t allow these foods to have
    a significant role in your diet. Don’t buy packages of junk and
    don’t keep them at home……treat yourself to one treat at a time…..and
    take yourself out to do it.
  • If you are in any of the following categories, your diet should be carefully
    evaluated and recommended by your clinician and a trained dietician:
    • Diabetes prior to pregnancy
    • Diabetes during pregnancy
    • Weight above 200 pounds
    • Weight gain in previous pregnancy of greater than 50#
    • Weight below the average for your height (that means if you are underweight)

    • Women with histories of anorexia and/or bulemia
    • Women with digestive system disorders

Now, another word about weight gain. If you are eating sensibly, don’t worry about your weight. Most women who are eating sensibly and gain “more than average” may not have the degree of control over their weight that they (or some clinicians) feel they do. If you’re following the guidelines above and still gaining weight which you feel is excessive, talk to your doctor or midwife and have them refer you to a dietician. Dieting has no role in pregnancy. Not all that weight is fat. Some women who gain “excessive” amounts of weight in pregnancy are storing huge amounts of water. Go back and read the guidelines above and do the best you can.