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A common question I got throughout and after my pregnancy was about how I did not gain excessive weight while pregnant.
I would love to say, “Honestly, I guess it is just in my genes. I kind of ate what I wanted and relaxed the whole time!” But, I don’t think that is the truth for anyone. It definitely was NOT for me!
The truth is, I worked hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout my entire pregnancy. Yes, I did give in here and there. I had my days where I ate poorly, did not walk more that 5,000 steps, and stayed on the couch most of the day. But, 90% of the time I was conscious of doing the exact opposite.
For me, I did not see pregnancy as a time to indulge because I knew my own health would directly affect my growing baby. In return, I had a very healthy baby and little pregnancy weight to lose. You do not HAVE to gain 50+lbs while pregnant!
Today, I am sharing the exact principles I followed in order to not gain excessive weight while pregnant.
19 Ways to Not Gain Excessive Weight While Pregnant
1. Choose a health-focused pregnancy read
Something I highly recommend that pregnant ladies do—right in the first trimester— is to find a pregnancy book that focuses around the health of both the mom and baby. I tried reading the classic pregnancy books so many people recommended to me. But, most are not health-conscious. The fact that the most popular pregnancy book says to indulge and eat for two made me immediately put it down.
After skimming the classics and feeling less-than prepared, I started browsing Amazon. I knew I wanted a book that helped me understand the myths, do’s & don’ts, eating habits, and exercise all related to keeping me at a healthy weight, while also benefiting my baby. Jillian Michael’s pregnancy book Yeah Baby! was, hands down, the best book I read. I highly recommend you purchase it! Get your copy here.
2. Plan out your meals for the week
If you read my blog often or follow me on social media, you know that I am a big planner. Especially when it comes to eating! While pregnant, I would sit down Sunday morning and browse Pinterest for healthy dinners for the week. I typically ate the same breakfast and lunch during the work week. So, dinner was all I needed to have planned out in advance.
Planning ahead allowed for little thinking, which helped me have healthy choices on my plate at the end of each day. In turn, I was able to keep myself from eating too many extra-calories, which kept me from gaining extra weight while pregnant. I always wrote down my dinners in my everyday planner, as well as on the fridge using one of these.
3. Meal prep in the beginning of each week
Depending on when your work week starts, I highly recommend prepping any foods you will take in for the week ahead. My breakfast never needed planning, being I ate whole-grain waffles with peanut butter and honey every morning. But, I always cooked my lunch meat ahead of time.
One of my go-to lunches while pregnant was chickpea crusted chicken with either spaghetti squash or salad. So, I would make a tray of chicken and put together lunches ahead of time with 5 glass containers like these . I would also prepare little snack bags of healthy snacks I could easily grab (i.e carrots, sliced apples, nuts, berries).
Personally, I made each dinner the night-of because each night because I didn’t repeat proteins or meals. But, if you are someone who typically eats only one or two types of protein for dinner each week (or the same dinner), I would definitely prep those on your meal prep day, too! Especially if you don’t have time to cook dinner each night. Less thinking = more success with not gaining too much weight while pregnant!
4. Don’t go food shopping hungry & show up with a plan
I get so mad at myself when I roll up to Trader Joe’s hungry—I want ALL THE THINGS! I found that when I went hungry, I began to grab things that #1: I don’t need & #2 are not healthy for me or the baby. So, my tip is to either go food shopping after a meal or have a snack right before you leave your house. Better yet, keep a snack in your purse or in your car for those last-minute shopping trips!
Also, before shopping I would write a list of my meals down and plan out every ingredient I would need to get at the store. To make the trip even easier/faster (with less chances I would buy random food items), I made a list that broke the store up into sections. For example, fruits/veggies, meats, frozen foods, dairy, etc. I would create these lists on the iPhone’s Notes app and check them off as I strolled around the store.
5. Eat for one adult human (& a little, teeny growing baby)
One of the MAJOR keys when it comes to not gaining excessive weight while pregnant is to understand that you should NOT eat for two (or more!). This piece of advice is old and outdated. Don’t listen to others that tell you to enjoy food while you’re pregnant and to eat whatever you want. That is terrible advice to give or to take. It will not only make you gain way more pounds than necessary, but it will also affect your growing baby.
If you eat too much, they eat too much. Eating too many servings of sugar?… sodium?… trans fats?… well, so is your baby. If you got pregnant at a healthy weight, doctors today recommend you eat enough for your body weight +300 calories only in the second and third trimesters.
In the first trimester, the baby is so tiny that you don’t need to worry about extra calories, yet only about the value of the food you’re intaking. Definitely speak to your doctor in order to calculate the proper amount of calories to make sure your baby is getting enough food (but, not too much!).
6. Drink a lot of water
Just like it would when you are not pregnant, drinking a lot of water while pregnant will help you not gain excessive weight while pregnant. Many times you think you’re hungry, your body is actually telling you that it is thirsty. So, before each meal, try drinking a glass of water, while also drinking a few in between each meal.
Having lots of water in you will give you energy to keep yourself moving throughout the day, it will keep your metabolism running at a higher rate, and will also keep you from drinking calorie-filled drinks you absolutely don’t need.
Not only is it benefiting you, but the water is also being fed to the baby, helping with healthy growth and brain development. Also, don’t worry about drinking too much water and “retaining” it. The truth is, the LESS water you drink, the more your body holds onto the water you already have—making you look more bloated. So, drink up!
7. Eat mostly good fats and carbs
If you have been around here for a while, you know I am completely against “dieting.” I am much more about building a healthy lifestyle. But, even if you believe in dieting, doing it during pregnancy is an absolute NO! Instead, reframe your mind to still enjoy healthy, delicious meals, but with high-quality ingredients. So, let’s start with fats and carbs.
To keep the extra fat you and baby don’t need off of your body, eat mostly unsaturated fats —polyunsturated and monounsaturated. Examples of these include: peanuts, avocados, and fish.
Do your best to keep your diet with minimal amounts of saturated and trans fats in order to not gain too much weight while pregnant. These are most likely found in things like fast foods, bacon, and processed foods (i.e. cookies). These fats are less-than beneficial for you or your baby—but, are especially not beneficial to the scale.
8. Buy good quality produce & meat
Another way to help develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle while eating during pregnancy is to do your best to choose high-quality meat and produce. This means buying organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meats. This allows for less hormones getting into your body—and your baby’s.
Most of our parents didn’t have to worry about this while pregnant with us. This is because their produce and meats were not injected with hormones and sprayed with the amount of pesticides that exist in today’s food production. Yes, yes, yes… I know. Eating these items requires you to pay more upfront. But, the benefit of spending more now is greatly outweighed by the hefty medical bills you could pay later on life.
The less hormones and pesticides in your body will most likely give your child a boost in brain growth and physical development. There is mixed research on how great organic is over non-organic, but I gladly chose to pay a little more those 9 months and to not take a chance on my child’s well-being.
9. Prepare 90% of your meals yourself
An easy way to see extra weight during pregnant pack on is by not taking charge when it comes to preparing food for yourself (or having someone you know do it!). Try to do your best to make most of your meals yourself, while only allowing yourself to get pre-prepared food a few times a week (1-3 at most).
Yes, you are going to be tired (and possibly nauseous) during parts of your pregnancy. It might seem easier to pick up food at a local restaurant, deli, or simply get a frozen dinner. But, remember that the work will come later on when you need to take that weight off.
Personally, I would rather use my energy to prepare my food (or you could have your partner, parent, or friend help out, too) than to be stressing about losing a bunch of extra pounds after giving birth.
10. Limit processed foods in your diet
No, I will not tell you to completely cut processed foods out of your daily diet. I don’t know… to me that is absolutely impossible. But, you definitely want to limit the amounts of processed foods that you eat each day. The more processed foods you have, the more ingredients you have. With that comes unnecessary calories, fats, and carbs.
Also, be smart about which processed foods you choose to maintain a healthy weight while pregnant. I chose to have mostly organic granola bars, microwavable mac and cheese (my craving!), and cereal. Do your best to severely limit foods like cookies, brownies, cake, and candy. Most of these have little to absolutely no nutritional value.
11. Don’t let yourself get very hungry
This one pairs well with the part I wrote about not going food shopping hungry. When you allow yourself to feel hunger pains, you will most likely have a difficult time making smart decisions when it comes to what you feed your body.
To keep this from happening, try to eat every 2-3 hours. During the work week when I was pregnant, I had breakfast, lunch, a late lunch and dinner with snacks in between.
How did I get away with four meals? Easy. I just made sure my meals were smaller. By doing this, I hardly ever allowed myself to get really hungry. But, hey… sometimes it happens and you have to give yourself grace when you overindulge! We are only human.
12. Give into your cravings!!
Yes. I typed that out correctly. A great way to maintain a healthy weight while pregnant is to allow yourself to have all the things you crave. But, the key it to have them in moderation. I constantly craved french toast, pancakes, mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets in my second and third trimesters.
I allowed myself to have all of those about once a week. Not going to lie, mac and cheese was probably 2-3 times! But, just find ways to make those recipes a little healthier. For example, I would use ezekiel bread instead of white bread when making french toast or whole grain pasta instead of regular pasta when making mac and cheese.
Here are a few crave-worthy recipes that are made with healthy alternatives:
- CAULIFLOWER CRUSTED CHICKEN PIZZA
- HEALTHY CRUNCHWRAP SUPREME
- SKINNY GUACAMOLE
- EASY & HEALTHY BEEF ENCHILADAS
13. Make walking a priority
As long as you know what you are doing and get on OK from your doctor, lifting weights and running are both absolutely fine while you’re pregnant during a normal, healthy pregnancy. I personally chose not to lift weights while pregnant (and I am not a runner). So, walking became a huge priority for me—aside from eating healthy.
Honestly, I wish I continued lifting, but… next time! I ended up giving birth at 39 weeks in a complete healthy weight range (with a healthy 7lb babe!) and walking during my pregnancy was a huge factor that contributed to this. Not only does walking help maintain a healthy weight while pregnant, but it also reduces stress, helps induce natural labor, and reduces any swelling you might get.
14. Use a fitness tracker
I would definitely not have walked the amount of steps I did without the help of my fitness tracker. Talk to your doctor about how many steps they recommend that you walk. It all depends on the type of pregnancy you are having. I tried to walk 10k+ steps a day since I did not have any complications.
Personally, I love this fitness tracker. It is a huge reason while I was able to manage my weight while pregnant.
On the app, you can be “friends” with others (your partner, family, friends, etc.). They can see your steps and actually encourage you through the app with messages and little sayings that pop up in your notifications. My husband was my biggest cheerleader and would offer to walk with me every day after work if he saw I needed steps.
15. Bring sneakers to work
This was is especially important if you have a job that requires you to sit or be sedentary for a decent portion of your day. If you keep a pair of sneakers at work while you are pregnant, you can walk during your lunch or break times.
I made it a habit to walk 30-45 minutes every day at work during my break—especially on days where I had little time to walk after work or the weather was not great outside. Even walking for that little amount of time each day adds up to be a lot!
16. Track your progress
Just like when you are not pregnant, knowing your weight is a very important part of pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about how much weight you are supposed to gain total. Also, you should know how much you should be gaining at certain points of your pregnancy. Again, only your doctor can truly tell you that.
If you were at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you are most likely going to be told to gain around 25-35lb. Honestly, it creeps up fast!
To manage my weight while pregnant, I kept my scale in my living room and got on it about once a week around 5:30am. This is the scale we have (I am in love with it! We have used it for 3 years and are very happy with the quality). You might want to keep track in a notes app on your phone for reference.
17. Get enough sleep
In order for your metabolism to be at its prime, you need to be making sure that you get enough sleep throughout each trimester of your pregnancy. This was really hard the last month when I had insomnia!
Try to get at least 7-8 hours a night. Do your best to get your body on a sleep schedule so you naturally fall asleep at a set time. If you do have trouble sleeping for a long amount of time—due to insomnia or your schedule—definitely make time for some naps during the day. You need your rest when growing a human!
18. Get an accountability partner
A huge huge huge help to maintaining a healthy weight while pregnant was having another pregnant friend to go through the experience with. We both would walk together whenever we were free, talked about healthy recipes, and would walk together at work.
If you don’t have someone going through the same experience, you can always ask your partner, a family member, or a friend to check in with you. Thanks to social media, you can also find accountability partners online through digital communities.
19. Develop a routine
In general, this is a great rule of thumb when it comes to ALL aspects of living a healthy lifestyle. Issue is, when you are pregnant, you are much more tired at various points of your pregnancy compared to when you were not pregnant. Having a routine that gets you moving, eating healthy, and keeping track of your progress is absolute key.
You can plan a certain time you walk each day, a time you call an accountability partner (or write on a message board!), plan your meals for the week on a certain day, cook with your partner a few nights a week, search Pinterest for healthy recipes, have a shake for breakfast each day... there are SO many ways to make health a priority and a habit throughout these amazing (& tiring!) 9 months!
At the end of the day, you need to make the decision to do what is best for you, your baby, and your lifestyle. These tips I provide are not for everyone. But, hopefully a few of these tips can help you in your journey of building a beautiful little human!
Of course, I am not a doctor. Please consult your physician about the lifestyle you should lead according to your body type, medical history, and your unique pregnancy experiences!
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- WHAT TO DO WHEN OU FIND OUT YOU’RE PREGNANT
- HOW I QUICKLY INCREASED MY BREASTMILK SUPPLY IN 48 HOURS
- 5 KITCHEN TOOLS TO CULTIVATE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Some healthy recipes:
- CAULIFLOWER CRUSTED CHICKEN PIZZA
- HEALTHY CRUNCHWRAP SUPREME
- SKINNY GUACAMOLE
- EASY & HEALTHY BEEF ENCHILADAS