Many women struggle with gaining too much weight during pregnancy, and worry about the affects that this may have on their baby and their long-term health and weight. But what happens when you’re not gaining enough weight during pregnancy? There may be several reasons for this — excessive nausea, loss of appetite, food aversions, or other digestive concerns can be part of it, or it could just be that you need to pay a little bit more attention to what and how much you’re eating.
In your first trimester? Don’t worry then! It’s fine if you don’t gain any weight in the first trimester. In fact, the growing baby is so tiny that is has minimal calorie needs. Lack of weight gain at this stage won’t affect the baby. As you get into the second trimester, weight gain should become steadier. Your calorie needs increase and so do the nutritional needs of your baby.
To help ensure that you are gaining enough weight throughout your pregnancy, and in a healthy way, check out my top 5 tips below:
1. Choose calorie-dense foods:
If you’re having a tough time keeping food down, or if you have a small appetite, make sure every bite counts! That means, you want to get the most calories, vitamins and minerals in the foods you choose. Nutritious calorie-dense foods include nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, full fat dairy foods like yogurt, milk and cheese, whole grain pasta, legumes, and salmon! So skip the salad (or add these calorie-rich foods to it!) – and yes, that is a dietitian-approved statement.
2. Get rid of the junk:
It’s easy to want to consume all the ice cream and sugary cereal in the world. If only gaining weight was that easy! But alas, junk food, although calorie-dense, is void of the important nutrients your body needs. You can certainly indulge in a bowl of ice cream throughout your pregnancy but aim to get your calories from the above examples.
3. Try smaller more frequent meals:
You may be turned off of larger portion sizes of foods, and eating might feel overwhelming if your plate is too full (which can actually decrease your appetite). Instead, try having five or six smaller more snack-sized, lighter meals that aren’t so overwhelming. For example, instead of having a big spaghetti dinner, have a piece of French toast with greek yogurt and berries. Or make a batch of homemade protein-rich muffins or energy bites that you can snack on throughout the day or on-the-go. These snack-sized meals can still pack a nutritional punch and provide the calories that you need, but might be less overwhelming and more appealing (meaning, you’ll eat more!).
4. Combat nausea:
Morning sickness can sometimes turn into all-day-sickness. Luckily, by the time you enter your second trimester, when weight gain starts to ramp up, nausea usually starts to wind down. If you’re one of the unlucky (approximately half of all pregnant women) who feels pregnancy-related nausea, here are some tricks that may help:
- Keep a snack on your night table. Have a bite before bed and in the morning. Soda crackers are a popular option!
- Avoid getting too hungry – that can lead to nausea. It might be your first instinct to avoid food when you feel nauseous, but that is the opposite of what you should do. Eating every two to three hours will help keep nausea at bay! Keep high calorie snack options (like nuts) with you throughout the day.
- Don’t take your nutrition supplements on an empty stomach–make sure you combine with a meal or snack.
- Try ginger. This age old-remedy is backed by science too. Try making tea with fresh ginger. You can use ginger in cooking and baking. Ginger snaps anyone?
- Stay hydrated, especially if nausea is accompanied by vomiting. Try drinking your fluids before or after meals, as opposed to with your meal.
If none of these tips help and you really can’t keep any food down, you may have hyperemesis gravidarum, and should discuss it with your doctor. They can prescribe medication to help.
5. Notice food aversions:
There may be certain smells or flavors that turn your stomach when you’re pregnant – and often they are foods you used to love. Common food aversions are to strong flavors, such as garlic, onion, spice and coffee. If you can’t stand the taste or smell of certain foods, simply avoid them. Know that it’s totally normal, it’s common, and it will pass!
If you need some personalized guidance on your nutrition during pregnancy, contact us to book an appointment with our dietitian team (most people have coverage for our services through their health benefits plan).