How to Avoid Excess Weight Gain

It's healthy to gain weight when you're pregnant -- but don't go overboard! Keep your weight in the healthy zone with these tips.
Heather Weston

It's good -- as in healthy! -- to gain weight when you're pregnant, and depending on your starting point you should plan to pack on about 30 pounds over the next nine months. Still, gaining too much can bring on trouble. "Women who gain too much weight during pregnancy are more prone to gestational diabetes, have a higher risk of delivery complications, and tend to have trouble losing weight after the birth," says Kathleen M. Rasmussen, Sc.D., R.D., professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and chair of the committee on the report Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines at the Institute of Medicine. Preventing these complications is as simple as avoiding excess weight gain. Here are five ways to ensure your scale doesn't tip too far in the wrong direction.

Know your goal weight. "Contrary to what many women think, you don't have to gain a ton of weight to have a healthy baby," says Anita Sadaty, M.D., an ob-gyn based in Great Neck, New York. "For most women, 30 pounds is enough." Still, it's important to factor in your size before getting pregnant to determine what's right for you. Use your height and weight at conception to calculate your body mass index (BMI), and then figure out where you fall. Unless your OB says otherwise, here's what to strive for. If your BMI is:

  • Between 18.5 and 24.9, you are considered normal weight and should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
  • Less than 18.5, you are considered underweight and should gain 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy.
  • Between 25 and 29, you are considered overweight and should gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.
  • 30 or above, you are considered obese and should gain 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy.

Keep track of calories. In the grand scheme of baby making, your body needs roughly 80,000 calories over the course about 40 weeks to build a newborn. That averages out to around 285 extra calories per day. Translation: "Yes, you're eating for two, but you're not eating for two linebackers," says fitness trainer Andrea Orbeck, who has helped several celebrities gain the right amount of pregnancy weight. "One additional small meal per day, such as half of a turkey sandwich and a glass of milk, is all you need."

Focus on eating whole foods. "If you eat simple carbohydrates you're going to gain a lot of weight -- and fast," Dr. Sadaty says. That doesn't mean you can't indulge in cinnamon rolls and Doritos occasionally, but filling your plate mainly with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein will help you keep calories in check. Plus, whole foods provide more usable nutrients than processed ones -- something both you and your baby will really benefit from now, Rasmussen says.

Sip water throughout the day. All those crazy food cravings you're having could be a sign that you're thirsty. Instead of reaching for soda or juice -- both loaded with calories and sugar that get stored as fat -- opt for plain H2O. Water is the only liquid that truly hydrates your body. It reduces bloating, flushes out toxins, and can keep excess weight gain in check. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces daily -- for example, if you weigh 140 pounds, that's 70 ounces of water.

Stay active. Don't immediately drop your workout routine when you see the plus sign on that pregnancy test. Regular exercise is good for your overall health, and it will help you burn calories and store fat in the right places, such as in your butt; this fat will be easier to burn off after baby than fat around your middle, where loss-resistant adipose tissue is formed. Activities that don't make your heart race, such as yoga, swimming, walking, and weight-bearing exercises, are all great. Just be sure to check in with your doctor first, Orbeck says.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

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