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Blog Health How To Not Gain Weight During Pregnancy: Dos And Don’ts

How To Not Gain Weight During Pregnancy: Dos And Don’ts

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Almost all pregnant women tend to gain some weight. Some may be comfortable with the weight gain, while others may be self-conscious and insecure with the weight gain over pregnancy. Those concerned with weight gain fear that they may never lose the pounds down the line and as a result may end up distorting their physique or figure. If you are among such women, you need to equip yourself with knowledge on how not to gain weight during pregnancy.

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Different women have varying pregnancy journeys. Unfortunately for some, they find this journey as an excuse to eat as much as they want. Such women will often use the phrase “I’m now eating for two.’ What follows this is tremendous weight, which does not sit well with most women. That said, in this article we will explore different ways not to gain weight during pregnancy. Stick around to know which method suits you best.

Why Do Women Gain Weight During Pregnancy?

Most pregnant women tend to think that pregnancy weight gain means accumulating more fat. The assumption is that the added pounds equate to fat. This is not true. According to Medline Plus, the primary weight gain during pregnancy stems from the baby weight (6). 

In total, most average women tend to add an extra 35 pounds or roughly 16 kgs throughout the pregnancy (6). This is termed the normal weight gain during this period. Here is a look at the weight one adds or the pregnancy weight gain chart (6).

  • Baby- 8 pounds
  • Placenta- 2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.5 kgs)
  • Amniotic fluid- 2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.5 kgs)
  • Breast tissue- 2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.5 kgs)
  • Blood supply- 4 pounds (2 kgs)
  • Fat stores- 5 to 9 pounds (2.5 to 4 kgs)
  • Uterus growth- 2 to 5 pounds (1 to 2.5 kgs)

Read More: Red Meat Pregnancy: Cravings, Nutrition, And What The Experts Say

normal weight gain during pregnancy
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How Much Weight Should A Woman Put On During Pregnancy?

You might have realized that different women who are expecting often add different amounts of pregnancy weight. This is because weight gain is solely influenced by your Body Mass Index (BMI). The index typically shows your body fat in relation to your height and weight. 

You can easily calculate your BMI using a BMI plus calculator. If not, you can always go to your healthcare provider and have them take your BMI. Once you know your BMI, you can easily make predictions about your pregnancy weight gain.

According to WebMD, women with higher BMIs usually need to  gain less weight, while those with lower ones tend to put on a few pounds (7). Below is a chart showing a summary of expected pregnancy weight gain depending on your BMI for a single baby (7):

  • BMI less than 18.5- Gain 28 to 40 pounds
  • BMI ranging from 18.5 to 24.9- Add 25 to 35 pounds
  • BMI is between 25 and 29.9- Gain 15 to 25 pounds
  • BMI is 30 or greater- Gain 11 to 20 pounds

The weight gain chart will change if you are going to have twins. Below is a chart showing the expected weight gain for a twin pregnancy in relation to your BMI (7):

  • BMI is less than 18.5- Consult with your doctor
  • BMI is ranging from 18.5 to 24.9- You could add 37 to 54 pounds
  • BMI is between 25 and 29.9- Gain 31 to 50 pounds
  • BMI is 30 or greater- Add 25 to 42 pounds
pregnancy weight calculator
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Reasons WHY You Need To Lose Weight During Pregnancy

Although some women look at pregnancy as an excuse to overeat, it is essential to note that too much weight gain is harmful. According to WebMD, sudden and heavy weight gain may result in high blood pressure (2). Additionally, pregnant women often have an increased risk of developing hypertension and gestational diabetes (2).

In addition, they have a greater chance of getting a cesarean section because they have larger babies. Studies show that larger baby girls are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer in adulthood (2). For this reason, you are always advised to let your doctor know of any sudden weight changes.

Despite this, this does not mean that losing weight is the ideal thing to do in pregnancy. Excessive weight loss can also be dangerous. WebMD further acknowledges that women with a slight pregnancy weight gain risk having a premature baby (2).

Similarly, such women have a high chance of delivering a baby with low birth weight. However, studies also indicate that such women deliver babies with numerous newborn complications due to the low birth weight (2). 

Low pregnancy weight gain has also been linked to diabetes in the delivered babies later on in their lives; You need to contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience sudden irregular weight loss and report both nausea and vomiting (2).

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Is It Safe To Lose Weight During Pregnancy?

It is possible to drop some pounds even if you are expecting. Please note that this is not for everyone. Most healthcare providers only urge women who are overweight or obese to lose weight. They encourage such women to lose weight in a healthy manner and under the close supervision of their doctor.

Knowing this, do not go about trying to lose pounds during your pregnancy without first talking to your physician. They need to determine whether or not you are underweight or overweight before giving you the thumbs up to continue with a pregnancy weight loss program. 

One major mistake that most women who are expecting make is to go on a diet to try to shed weight. Remember that some die plans can be very restrictive, causing you and your unborn child to miss out on various nutrients and potentially develop life-threatening health problems. 

Instead of dieting, dietitians and doctors advise such women to look for safer interventions for weight loss during pregnancy. In most cases, nutritionists and healthcare professionals advise you to adopt either of the following approaches on how not to gain weight during pregnancy:

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Avoid Sweet Or Sugary Drinks

Some women may try to defend themselves by saying that they have sugary or sweet pregnancy cravings. We understand that these food urges can be hard to avoid. However, if possible, experts urge you to consider keeping away from these foods and only consuming them with moderation.

 The rationale behind this is because they tend to contain numerous and empty calories. For instance, a 12-ounce can of soda contains roughly ten to thirteen teaspoons of sugar, depending on the type of soda your drink (9).

Similarly, other sugary drinks like energy drinks also have a high content of empty calories. According to Medical News Today, a 12-ounce can of an energy drink has ten to fourteen teaspoons of sugar. Similarly, a 12-ounce can of a sports drink has five to ten teaspoons of sugar (9).

All these extra and empty calories result in a calorie surplus, which contributes to weight gain. With this in mind, instead of these drinks, you are advised to focus on healthy and low-calorie beverages. One of these drinks, and especially the one you need to consume throughout pregnancy, is water. 

Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you are thinking about drinking other low-calorie drinks like protein shakes. They will advise you on the best servings to avoid surpassing both your daily calorie and protein requirements.

Read More: Tips For Flat Tummy After Pregnancy: 5 Ways To Get Rid Of Your Postpartum Belly

pregnancy weight gain chart
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Reduce Your Salt/Sodium Intake

Our bodies need sodium to perform various functions. These include (8):

  • Maintaining the correct fluid balance in the body
  • Transmitting nerve impulses
  • Influencing the contraction and relaxation of muscles

However, the problem is that most people consume high amounts of salt, which can be dangerous to one’s health. For example, Mayo Clinic acknowledges that people whose kidneys cannot properly eliminate excess sodium through urine may lead to a sodium build-up. In addition, the high sodium content attracts and holds water, making your blood volume increase. 

By retaining water, you end up having extra water weight. Similarly, your heart is forced to work a little harder, and the blood pressure in your arteries significantly increases. These may result in health problems such as chronic kidney disease, cirrhosis, and congestive heart failure (8).

To avoid all these, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults limit their daily sodium intake to less than 2300 mg (5). This is possible, especially among pregnant women, if at least they (8):

  • Opt for low-sodium foods and products
  • Limit their consumption of processed foods that tend to have high sodium levels
  • Remove salt from various recipes or meals whenever possible
  • Limit their consumption of salty junk foods like a bag of potato crisps
  • Limit their use of sodium-laden condiments, for example, soy sauce, dips, mustard, various sauces and salad dressings
  • Substitute salt with natural herbs and spices to flavor food
how to not gain weight during pregnancy
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Avoid Whole Milk Products

You are required to drink milk during your pregnancy. It is one of the best sources of essential nutrients, including calcium and protein (4). That said, most people do not realize that there are different types of milk and milk products. 

For this reason, you may tend to find milk having a different nutritional profile, which may affect your calorie intake. Let us break this down by looking at the nutritional profile of both whole milk and skim milk.

According to Medical News Today, one cup of whole milk (roughly 244 g) contains the following nutrients (4):

  • Calories- 149
  • Fat- 7.9 g
  • Total sugars- 12.3 g
  • Protein- 7.7 g
  • Calcium- 276 mg
  • Potassium- 322 mg
  • Vitamin D- 3.2 mcg
  • Phosphorus- 205 mg

Meanwhile, a cup of skim (nonfat) milk weighing roughly 244 grams contains the following nutrients (4):

  • Calories- 83
  • Fat- 0.2 g
  • Total sugars- 12.4 g
  • Protein- 8.2 g
  • Calcium- 298 g
  • Potassium- 381 mg
  • Phosphorus- 246 mg
  • Vitamin D- 2.9 mcg

If you look at the nutritional profile of both types of milk, you will notice that skim milk has fewer calories. Since the idea is not to gain weight during pregnancy, you are advised to settle for skim milk  if necessary. 

Consuming skim milk will reduce the amount of fat and calories that you consume. Similarly, as with milk, you are also advised to consume low-fat milk products  if necessary. This means that you have to choose low-fat or fat-free milk products like yogurt, Ghee and cheese.

how to not gain weight during pregnancy
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Choose Healthy Cooking Methods

How you cook your food also matters when it comes to weight gain and loss in pregnancy. Some methods may contribute to weight gain, while others may result in weight loss. For example, methods such as deep-frying only increase the amount of oil and calories in your meals. As a result, your meals end up being high-calorie food.

Instead of such a cooking method, you are advised to choose one limiting your chances of consuming more fat or calories. Some healthier options that WebMD suggests include boiling, baking, grilling, steaming and broiling (5). 

Limit Consumption Of High-Calorie Snacks

Of course, most women who are expecting will often snack a few times throughout the day. Noting this, the problem is that most of them snack on high-calorie snacks that result in extra calories and thereby contribute to weight gain.

Some examples of these high-calorie snacks include biscuits, cookies, cakes, donuts, potato chips, fries, and so forth. Instead of these snacks, Medical News Today suggests you consider consuming healthy and low-calorie snacks like (1):

  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Edamame
  • Nuts
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Fruits and nut butter, for instance, a banana and peanut butter
  • Celery sticks and nut butter

As always, do not make any changes to your diet plan without talking to your doctor and dietitian. Their input is significant, especially when it comes to meeting your daily calorie requirements and getting the required nutrients.

rapid weight gain
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Exercise

The other way you can lose weight during pregnancy is by exercising. However, this does not give you the ticket to go crazy with home workouts or in the gym. It would help if you remembered that your body is delicate, given that you are expecting.

As such, various exercise programs can be banned, depending on how your pregnancy is treating you. So, you need to first consult with your doctor before you start any exercise regime while pregnant. Then, after they assess and give you the green light, go ahead and talk to your trainer.

They will craft a suitable weight loss program that caters to your needs. Typically, most trainers recommend moderate aerobic exercises. They are safe for pregnant women and help in burning excess calories (3).

The most recommended moderate cardio exercises for women who are expecting are walking and swimming (3). However, other cardio exercises can be recommended, depending on your fitness level. Ask your doctor what exercise best suits you and how long you should perform it.

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normal weight gain during pregnancy
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Consume Fruits And Vegetables

You can also have a better control over your  weight gain by eating low-calorie fruits and vegetables. Whole fruits and vegetables tend to have low calories, making them the perfect snack options. These have high fiber content that increases satiety levels, making you feel fuller for longer. This minimizes any chances of overeating or over-snacking, especially on junk or processed foods. Again, talk to your nutritionist to determine which fruits and vegetables to add to your diet plan for weight loss.

Using Fats In Moderation

The other method to help you regulate your weight gain during pregnancy is by using fats in moderation. These include foods like cooking oils, mayonnaise, cream cheese, butter, margarine, gravy, lard, sour cream, and regular salad dressings.

As all these have high-fat content, you are urged to use them in moderation. If possible, try using lower-fat alternatives. Again, dietitians also suggest pregnant women focus on consuming healthy fats.

The problem is that most women believe these healthy fats are something to stay away from because of their fat content. Contrary to this, experts argue that they are safer and have lower-fat content than the named fat sources above.

You can obtain healthy fats from foods such as avocados, eggs, chia seeds, olive oil, flaxseeds, and nuts (10). The other best source of healthy fats which are highly recommended in the diet plan of women who are expecting, is fatty fish.  

Remember to choose fish with low mercury content to avoid the severe complications of mercury consumption. Medical News Today suggests you consider fatty fish like cooked tuna, sardines, salmon, trout, and herring (10). Remember that raw fish like sushi should be avoided during pregnancy.

Intermittent Fasting According To The Age

The Bottom Line

Weight is an important aspect to consider in pregnancy. Too much weight gain may result in health complications such as gestational diabetes and an increased risk of a cesarean section. On the flip side, being underweight may result in health problems such as delivering a baby with low birth weight, leading to several newborn complications.

In light of this, healthcare providers advise pregnant women to maintain an ideal weight. You can manage to keep your ideal pre-pregnancy weight by adopting various interventions. These include exercising, consuming less salt, avoiding sugary drinks and processed foods, consuming low-calorie foods, healthy fats, and snacks.

We urge you to go through these interventions with your healthcare provider before settling on one. They are better suited in suggesting more effective interventions for you based on your health status. 

If you want to do even more for your body, why don’t you supplement a healthy diet with some exercise? Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 9 healthful snacks to eat for weight loss (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  2. Eating for 2—but Not Too Much (2002, webmd.com)
  3. Gain Weight Safely During Your Pregnancy (2020, webmd.com)
  4. Health benefits and risks of consuming milk (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  5. Healthy Cooking Tricks (2011, webmd.com)
  6. Managing your weight gain during pregnancy (2020, medlineplus.gov)
  7. Pregnancy Weight Gain Guidelines Explained (2014, webmd.com)
  8. Sodium: How to tame your salt habit (2019, mayoclinic.org)
  9. What are the best drinks for losing weight? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  10. What are the most healthful high-fat foods? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
R. Mogeni
R. Mogeni

Rodah is a competent and skilful writer with a deep interest in nutrition and healthy living. Her speciality is writing articles that fall under the fitness and weight loss category. Her unparalleled style of writing and ability to explain difficult concepts in simple terms has made her garner much acclaim.
Her top priority is creating informative pieces that advocate for or propel individuals towards healthier lifestyles. She believes that health is wealth, which is why she chose fitness and nutrition as her area of expertise. She believes adopting such a lifestyle is easy, as long as you are consistent, hopeful, and disciplined.

S. Ziou
S. Ziou

Hi everyone! I am a Canadian Registered Dietitian (RD) who graduated from the University of Ottawa, Canada. I worked at the Montreal Pediatric University Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute before joining the International Clinic of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. With a strong interest in community nutrition, I worked in Haiti and in Syrian refugee camps affected by the scourge of malnutrition. I am passionate about food and its science!

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