5 Tips for Managing Your Weight During Pregnancy

Published on 08/05/21

Pregnancy isn’t only about managing a healthy weight but also ensuring that you and the baby receive the proper nutrients you both need during this developmental time. Getting a variety of foods, nutrients, and necessary vitamins will help ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy. Every experience may be different, so we’re here to help answer some of the common questions you might have throughout the process. Between types of food groups, proper portion control, and frequency of meals, let’s discuss our top 5 basic tips for managing weight during pregnancy.

1 – Consume High-Quality Protein

Even when you’re not pregnant, high-quality protein is essential in proper nutrition. That is only emphasized when pregnant! It is essential for a pregnant woman to consume 2 to 3 protein-rich foods throughout the day. Proteins like fish, poultry and lean meat help support your baby’s tissue growth. If you’re a vegetarian, your protein sources may come from foods such as beans, tofu, eggs, and soy products. 

Example – 1 serving size portion:

Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 2-3oz (or the size of a deck of cards)

Eggs: 1 egg

Peanut butter: 1 tablespoon

Nuts: ⅓ cup

Tips for cooking proteins:

  • Make sure that all proteins like fish, meat, and poultry stay refrigerated and are cooked within 48 hours of purchase; and if not, freeze it. If you freeze any protein, defrost it on a plate in the refrigerator overnight. Once your protein is defrosted, make sure to cook and consume it within 48 hours. 
  • To avoid risk of food poisoning, all poultry, meat, and fish should be cooked well-done. 
  • Check proper cooking temperatures. Minimum cooking temperatures go as follows:
    • Fresh pork, veal, lamb and beef: 145°F.
    • Poultry: ground, stuffed, whole, or pieces like the breast or thigh: 165°F.
    • Pork, ground beef including hamburgers, lamb and veal: 160°F.
    • Shellfish, shrimp, crabs, and lobster: cook until the flesh is opaque.
    • Scallops: cook till opaque and firm.
    • Mussels, clams, oysters: cook until the shells open. Any shells that don’t open while cooking, throw them away. 
    • Fin Fish: cook till opaque and separates easily.
    • Deli meats and hot dogs: should be heated until steaming hot, this prevents poisoning from bacteria like listeria.

Certain proteins should be avoided. Certain fish like king, golden snapper, golden bass (tilefish in general), swordfish, mackerel, and shark all contain high concentrations of mercury. This can impair development of the brain and overall growth. 

The weekly portions for cooked or canned seafood should be limited to 12 ounces.There are also different types of seafood that may be appropriate versus not. One of the reasons for this is that there are different amounts of mercury in different fish. Take tuna for example. Light tuna (such as skipjack) is okay to consume, whereas yellowfin tuna and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. There is also a lot of research to show that fish oil improves cognitive development, so it is recommended that pregnant women take a fish oil supplement daily. 

Cooking tip: When cooking meats, cook them with tomato-based sauces or salsa. Tomato products are rich in vitamin C which helps you better absorb the iron from the meat.

2 – Consume Fiber-Rich Foods (mainly green leafy vegetables and fruit)

One of the most popular phrases in the nutrition world is “eat the rainbow”. Fruits and vegetables, which contain all the colors of the rainbow, are packed with vitamins and nutrients that are essential for the body. Soon-to-be mothers should be consuming 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables daily. This could mean one cup of raw or cooked leafy vegetables and one medium-size whole fruit, fruit juice, or canned fruit daily. Try to focus on packing in fruits that are rich in vitamin C like tomatoes and citrus fruits. 

Fruits and vegetables to avoid are:

  • Unpasteurized juices and ciders
  • Raw sprouts
  • Unwashed fruit and vegetables

Cooking tip: If possible, when cooking vegetables, use a cast iron pan to help add iron from the pan to the food.

3 – Avoid Refined and Highly Processed Foods

Refined and highly processed foods like sweets, white bread, rice, and pasta should always be limited when you’re not pregnant and avoided while pregnant. 

However, not all carbs are bad! Carbohydrates are actually an essential part of a balanced diet and are the body’s main source of energy. Whole-grain carbs provide high amounts of fiber which helps with constipation, a common issue during pregnancy.

Cooking tip: When snacking on dry, ready to eat cereal or fortified cooked cereal for breakfast, add a glass of orange juice or a 100%-fruit juice enriched in vitamin C. Considering fortified grain cereals are higher in iron than other snacks, the vitamin C from the juice can help with absorbing more iron.

Additional Food Sources To Help Manage Health and Weight During Pregnancy

Dairy: Dairy helps provide the body with the calcium it needs to help develop the baby’s teeth and bones. Aim to have 3 to 4 servings of dairy daily. This could be 1 cup of milk or two cubes of natural cheese. Make sure to avoid unpasteurized cheese such as Camembert, Mexican soft cheese, Brie, Roquefort, and feta. Also, try to avoid unpasteurized milk. These dairy products put you at risk for food poisoning by a bacteria called listeriosis. For women who can’t consume dairy products, talk to your doctor about calcium supplements. 

Fats:  Healthy fats that are found in olive oil, avocados, and fish are necessary for a balanced diet. Fat should make up about 30% of your daily calories. These good fats are known to help your body utilize important vitamins. Fats that should be consumed only on occasion are the fats found in foods such as butter, full-fat dairy products, and meats. 

4 – Drink More Water! 

During pregnancy, your daily water intake should be 80 to 100 fluid ounces every day. Water helps form the amniotic fluid around the baby, helps circulate nutrients throughout the body, helps digestion, and helps waste move through the body.

5 –  Maintain A Consistent Exercise Program at least 30 to 40 mins per day 

If you never really exercised prior to pregnancy, start your exercises as a beginner, and ease into it. This could mean low-impact exercises like walking and swimming. If you exercised frequently prior to pregnancy, it may be safe to continue your regular exercise activity. 

Make sure to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program to help manage your weight during pregnancy.

Additional Food Safety Tips 

When it comes to the safety of cooking and handling your meals, there are a few good tips to live by to help prevent avoidable issues.

  • Wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling raw meats, seafood, and poultry, using the washroom, talking on your phone, petting an animal, etc. 
  • Keep foods at their correct temperatures, i.e. hot foods stay hot and cold foods stay cold until they’re ready to be served.
  • Store food correctly. Refrigerate or freeze foods within 2 hours and in hot weather within 1 hour. 
  • Make sure all cooking areas and utensils are clean. 
  • “When in doubt, throw it out!”

Frequency Of Meals And Summing Up Managing Weight During Pregnancy

  1. Make sure to eat within half an hour to an hour of when you wake up every day. As we know, wake-up times can vary from day to day, therefore, remembering to have meal #1 before the first hour of waking can be applied to any time throughout the morning. From there, it helps to maintain meals every 2 to 4 hours throughout the rest of the day. 
  2. Within the parameters of each meal, make sure to always combine carbohydrates like grains and starches with your protein sources in your first meal. It also helps to have this combination in your meals on an empty stomach or when choosing an evening snack. 
  3. With each meal, make sure to manage your portions. It’s easy to not realize how much we are eating especially during pregnancy when you are allotted an extra 300 calories more than your maintenance calories. The easiest way to not go overboard is to measure your meal portions. Use your whole hand up to the tip of the middle finger for easy measuring practices. 
  4. Calories aren’t the only important aspect of pregnancy. Make sure to drink plenty of water! This means 80 to 100 fluid ounces of water or more daily. This can also include sodium-free seltzers but doesn’t include sugary drinks or juices! That also means avoiding sugar-free drinks. They may be sugar-free, but unfortunately, most sugar-free drinks use artificial sweeteners as a substitute. Those are not healthy, especially during pregnancy. 
  5. The best way to manage weight during pregnancy, in combination with proper nutrition, is exercise. So long as your doctor clears you, walking as much as 3 to 4 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes will be very beneficial. 
  6. Lastly, don’t forget to do something you enjoy! Make sure to carve out some alone time. Whether it’s for meditation, reading, stretching, etc. Taking the time out for yourself. Doing things that make you happy can really make pregnancy a healthy and positive experience.

Have Questions On Managing Your Weight During Pregnancy? Contact Rosh MFM in NYC!

From questions about exercise, nutrition, and weight gain, the team at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine are prepared to answer your questions and provide top-notch medical care. Visit our website to schedule an appointment or ask any questions about managing your weight during pregnancy. We’re happy and ready to help!