Worried that you’ve gained too much weight during pregnancy? What happens when you’ve exceeded your weight gain recommendations and you’re nowhere near week 40? Take a deep breath because as a registered dietitian, I’m here to help answer these important questions so you can have a healthy pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a wonderful thing! That is – if you’re one of the elusive pregnancy unicorns who glows and feels no aches or pains. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being pregnant. But by pregnancy number three I was tired. I already had two kids keeping me on my toes and my weight was something I didn’t pay attention to. I know that many of my friends and readers can relate—it’s easy to exceed weight gain recommendations if not careful. But, how much weight gain is too much?
Weight gain recommendations depend on your pre-pregnancy “body mass index” (BMI). But don’t get caught up with this number. What is defined as “healthy” according to the BMI charts might not accurately reflect your overall health. For instance, a slim person can have a horrible diet, and a person classified as “obese” could be a world-class athlete. The BMI scale only provides us with a general recommendation for a weight gain range during pregnancy.
The easiest way to calculate your pre-pregnancy BMI is to simply google “BMI calculator” and plug your numbers in!
The amount of weight gained depends on which category the pre-pregnancy BMI lands in:
• Underweight: BMI below 18.5
• Normal weight: 18.5 to 24.9
• Overweight: 25.0 to 29.9
• Obese: 30.0 and above
The weight gain ranges below are for a full-term pregnancy:
• Underweight: 28 to 40 pounds
• Normal: 25 to 35 pounds
• Overweight: 15 to 25 pounds
• Obese: 11 to 20 pounds
So what happens when you’ve exceeded your weight gain recommendations and you’re nowhere near week 40? First of all – don’t panic! Keep in mind that the recommendations are not “one size fits all”. You’re still on track for giving birth to a healthy baby. But in order to reduce some complications associated with too much weight gain (gestational diabetes, hypertension, an Caesarian section delivery) try making a few simple changes listed below:
1. Better carbs: Aim for whole grain (most of the time), such as quinoa, whole grain pasta, or rolled oats, instead of white, overly processed starchy foods. Whole grain foods have tonnes of fibre – which will help keep you feeling fuller longer so that you don’t keep eating. And Eating. And Eating!
2. Nutrient dense vs. calorie dense: Choose foods that will pack more of a nutrient punch. At meals, always try to include a fruit and/or veggie plus a protein-rich food, such as eggs, nuts, meat, lentils and dairy, and then a whole grain food. And at snacks, I always recommend pairing protein with a fruit or veggie (you’ll get the most nutritional bang for buck here). Again – protein adds fullness, and fruits and veggies have filling fibre (and lots of nutrients). In later stages of pregnancy, when your stomach starts to feel like it’s running out of room, small meals and frequent snacks might become the new norm. Avoiding calorie dense foods will help keep your weight gain in check.
3. Be mindful: Don’t eat for the sake of eating–tune in to your physical hunger instead. Eat when you start feeling hungry versus when you’re starving. When we get to the point of too hungry (also known as “h-angry”) it is easy to over-consume. Try to sit down at a table and avoid eating and multi-tasking. Instead try to focus on your food and how your stomach feels. This will help to ensure you’re eating to fuel your body versus eating for emotion.
4. Treat yourself: When it comes to treats and desserts (or calorie dense foods, like chips), only treat yourself to the best. Be selective! Indulge in only those treats that you absolutely love and can’t live without. Avoid eating something just because it’s visible–it’s not worth your time (or calories!).
If you’re still concerned about your prenatal weight gain, don’t hesitate to contact our nutrition counselling practice, where we can work one on one with you to ensure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible!
You might also want to read up on the Top 5 Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy and What to Look For in a Pre-Natal Multivitamin!
It’s funny as my wife gained no weight at all with our first daughter (she just looked like she’d swallowed a basketball), whereas with our second daughter her whole body shape changed.
While I’m not sure the diets were different each time they were born in very different countries, which certainly could have contributed!