Gain Just Enough Pregnancy Weight

Now's the time to enjoy the many eating pleasures of pregnancy (but not pack on too many pounds). These tips will do the trick.
Pregnancy Workouts: How to Stay Motivated
Pregnancy Workouts: How to Stay Motivated

One of the beautiful things about pregnancy -- aside from, you know, creating a new life -- is that you get to ease up on watching your weight. But you don't want to go too far and end up putting on more than the recommended 25 to 35 pounds (15 to 25 for overweight women; 28 to 40 for those who were slim to begin with). "Gaining too much during pregnancy can increase discomfort and raise a woman's risk for dangerous complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes," says Willow Jarosh, R.D., co-owner of C&J Nutrition, in New York City.

pregnant woman on scale

Ericka McConnell

In general, starting in the second trimester a pregnant woman needs around 300 extra calories a day. Your magic number will depend on the size you were pre-pregnancy, so discuss it with your obstetrician. If he suggests you tap the brakes on weight gain, don't try a crash diet -- your growing baby needs far too many nutrients for you to make drastic food cuts. Instead, tweak your meals so that pound-creep slows to a healthy pace. No need to deny yourself; these simple ways to cut at least 100 calories are 100 percent tasty.

Breakfast

pregnant woman on scale

Buff Strickland

1. Give your mug a makeover. Consider trading the milk or cream in your coffee for nonfat milk. Don't want to forego the fatty stuff? Rethink your add-ins instead. Two pumps of vanilla syrup (the amount in a Starbucks tall) add 40 calories. Try flavoring your drink with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. Cut Extra Calories Without Realizing It Sip your morning OJ from a tall, slender glass rather than a short, wide one, and you'll down less, research shows.

3. Slim your cereal bowl. Switch from 2 percent milk to skim and trade half of your cereal for a whole-grain kind that has about 70 calories per cup, such as Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs. Even better: Have three-quarters of a cup with high-fiber strawberries.

4. Pour yourself a long, tall one. People down about 20 percent more juice when drinking from a short, wide glass rather than a tall, slender one, according to Cornell University research. Try that, and save more calories by mixing one part water or flavored seltzer with one part juice. Refreshing!

5. Downsize your baked goods. Bakery muffins can weigh in at 400 calories (or more) each. Eat half, or try a VitaMuffi n (at a sweet-tooth-satisfying 100 calories).

6. Jazz up plain yogurt. Most presweetened varieties pack lots of sugar. Instead, buy nonfat plain yogurt and add your own fruit and a pinch of cinnamon.

Lunch

7. Change your spread. A dollop of full-fat mayonnaise on your turkey sandwich adds nearly 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. Go for mustard, which has loads of flavor and only a trace of calories.

8. Liquefy. Soups, salads, yogurt, and cottage cheese have all earned a well-deserved rep from experts as smart bites. Foods that have a higher water content are more satisfying than those that don't.

9. Soup Smarter. If you choose a broth-based soup (such as chicken noodle or minestrone) over a creamy one like broccoli-cheddar or clam chowder, you'll cut at least 100 calories and skip the heart-unhealthy saturated fat. What a souper selection!

10. Have Fries with Friends. Can't resist fast-food fries? Go right ahead! Ask for a small order and split it with a buddy. She'll just think you're nice -- not looking to save 200 calories.

11. Don't Destroy the Evidence. People who see reminders of how much they've eaten take in about 27 percent less than those without such cues, according to research by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. "Your stomach can't count," he says. "Leaving some indication of how much you're eating at mealtime brings back your awareness." So keep the candy wrappers, chicken bones, and beverage bottles in plain sight as you indulge.

Dinner

12. Dump the Drizzle. Instead of stir-frying in oil (240 calories for two tablespoons), mist the pan (20 calories per two-second spritz). A Misto olive-oil sprayer (you add the oil) costs about $10.

13. Do a Veggie Swap. Trade higher-calorie ingredients, including pasta, rice, and meat, for vegetables twice a day and you'll trim calories. For instance, replace half the beef in your lasagna or fajitas with mushrooms. You'll never miss the meat -- promise.

14. Phase out Fat. "Stir Greek-style yogurt into soup instead of adding sour cream for that rich taste," says Stephanie Clarke, R.D., co-owner of C&J Nutrition. You can also use this type of yogurt in place of mayonnaise when your make chicken or egg salad or as a baked potato topper.

15. Forget Family-Style. People who serve themselves from a humongous bowl tend to eat significantly larger helpings than those whose meal was plated in the kitchen, Dr. Wansink says. The one food you want to serve tableside? Vegetables, of course.

16. Season Your Sides. If you top steamed broccoli with a tablespoon of butter, you add 100 calories. Flavor veggies with herbs, a sprinkle of sea salt, or some lemon juice.

Snacks

17. BYO Popcorn. Smuggle in a bag of the air-popped kind at the movies and you'll save mucho calories and saturated fat. A typical small popcorn at a cinema, sans buttery topping, packs 370 calories; six cups of air-popped, around 180.

18. Beware TV Brain. People who snack while they're glued to the tube take in more calories than people who don't. "Eating in front of the TV can give you food amnesia," says Jarosh. "But when you're mindful of what you're eating, you're more accountable for how much you're putting into your mouth."

19. Say Hello to Sorbet. A small raspberry sorbet at Cold Stone Creamery has 160 calories; a small raspberry ice cream, 330.

20. Think Inconvenient. People consume less when snacks are placed about 6 feet away from them than when they're at arm's length, Dr. Wansink's research reveals. Having to think twice about grabbing a bite can make you realize you're not actually hungry, you're just bored.

21. Party On! Just Do It Smart. "Rather than grazing at a buffet, put finger food on a small plate," suggests Clarke. And be picky about hors d'oeuvres: Instead of, say, three pigs in a blanket, have three pieces of jumbo shrimp with a quarter-cup of cocktail sauce and save yourself 120 calories.

Exercise Alert! Working out helps keep pregnancy weight gain in check, but take it easy! Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding or leakage of fluids
  • Difficult, labored, or uncomfortable breathing
  • Heart palpitations or pain in your chest
  • Headache, nausea, or vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Sudden change in temperature, clammy hands, or overheating
  • Swelling or pain in your ankles and calves
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain in your abdomen

Next: Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga

Stretch It Out, Mama!

Prenatal yoga improves flexibility and relaxes you. That's great news if you're a snacker spurred on by stress. Preg-friendly poses:

Butterfly
Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together in front of your body, allowing knees to fall open. Press feet together, hold knees, and slowly curl torso over to increase the stretch for a minute or so. Gently shake out legs.

Downward Dog
Position hands shoulder-width apart on a mat, feet to the back of the mat. Stretch out from shoulders and press down through heels, hold, and breathe deeply. Alternately bend right and left knees for up to a minute.

Cat-Cow
Start on all fours, wrists underneath shoulders and knees underneath hips. Inhale as you arch your lower back and tailbone upward, lifting your chin up to the ceiling. As you exhale, round your spine, tucking your chin to your chest and your tailbone under. Repeat for 1 minute.

"Why I Didn't Pile on the Pounds"

"I kept weight lifting three to five days per week, like I'd always done, adjusting the workout with each trimester."
-- Mara Wyttenbach, Madison, Wisconsin

"I ate smaller meals more often to keep my blood sugar level. I also had an egg a day -- protein gave me energy. I was back to my original weight in three months."
-- Kelly Parthen, Colorado Springs

"I always kept this thought in the back of my mind: Think of the child who is growing inside of you. Does the baby need those fried mozzarella sticks?"
-- Melissa Puppos, Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan

"I weighed myself at home to stay on target. I didn't want to suffer shock at the doctor's! I was aware without being obsessed."
-- Emily Hill, Sandy, Utah

"Doing the elliptical machine gave me additional energy throughout the day, helped me sleep better at night, and limited my weight gain."
-- Robin LaSure, Roswell, Georgia

Easy Moves For Moms-To-Be

Pretty soon, you'll have a new 7-pound weight to lift (your baby). In the meantime, try these toners from fitness pro Tracey Mallett, author of Super Fit Mama. They'll strengthen your bod for carrying Baby (and labor!) and are recommended for all pregnant women who get their doc's okay. You'll need a set of 3- to 8-pound dumbbells, a pillow, and a mat. Aim for two sets of 12 reps per exercise (except for the birthing squat), three to four days per week. As pregnancy progresses, decrease the weights, take breaks, or do fewer reps. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderate cardio, such as speed walking, a few times a week as well.

Standing Biceps Curl

Standing Biceps Curl

Amy Saidens

What It Does: Strengthens arms and shoulders for holding Baby and improves your posture

How To Do It: Stand with legs hip-width apart and knees bent into a half-squat, holding dumbbells in front of thighs. Curl weights up to chest and slowly lower back to start.

As Your Belly Grows: Take a wider stance and straighten your legs a bit; this will help stabilize you.

Birthing Squat

Birthing Squat

Amy Saidens

What It Does: Tones legs, butt, and pelvic floor to prep for pushing

How To Do It: Stand with legs wider than hip-width apart, and bend knees into a deep squat until you hover several inches above the mat or floor. Place hands in prayer position in front of chest, and use elbows to gently open knees wide. Hold for 30 seconds.

As Your Belly Grows: Lower your tailbone to a pillow or do it against a wall.

Side-Lying Clam

Side-Lying Clam

Amy Saidens

What It Does: Tones abs, buttocks, thighs, and pelvic floor

How To Do It: Lie on right side with knees bent, head on right arm. Open leg so knee points up; hold for 3 seconds; lower. Do one set. Repeat on left side.

As Your Belly Grows: Do the move with your back against a wall.

Leg Extension

Leg Extension

Amy Saidens

What It Does: Improves lower-body strength; tones abs and pelvic floor

How To Do It: Start on all fours. Slowly straighten right leg and lift up to hip height. Hold for 3 seconds. Lower and repeat with left leg; continue alternating.

As Your Belly Grows: Do the move on a soft surface to protect knees.

Pelvic Pillow Bridge

Pelvic Pillow Bridge

Amy Saidens

What It Does: Strengthens pelvic floor, hips, and inner thighs

How To Do It: Lie with knees bent, feet flat, arms at sides, pillow between knees. Lift hips about 6 inches; squeeze pillow for 3 seconds; lower.

As Your Belly Grows: Sit up or lean back against a bed.

Originally published in American Baby magazine in 2011. Updated in 2013.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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