Today’s guest post is contributed by my friend, Torey Armul, MS, RDN, CSSD. Torey is founder and owner of Torey Armul Nutrition and the Best Little Nest Blog. She is the mom of one sweet little boy and due in February with her second boy! Enjoy her guest post on how she maintains both her health and her body weight during pregnancy. Thank you, Torey!

Many women spend their lives trying to avoid gaining weight. And then that second pink line shows up on the pregnancy test, and everything changes. Now, gaining weight is an inevitable and important part of your next few months.

How do you suddenly welcome weight gain without going overboard? The unique challenges that accompany pregnancy, like food cravings, smell and taste changes, nausea and morning all-day sickness, make it even more complicated.

It can be hard to gain weight in a healthy and controlled way during pregnancy. Especially if you haven’t done it before. Especially if you have done it before but gained too much or never lost the baby weight after baby.

Whether it’s your first pregnancy or you’re vowing to do better this time around, these tips can help you gain weight in a healthy way and control pregnancy cravings.

1. Ban the baby excuse.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I used pregnancy as an excuse to eat anything and everything in those first few weeks. By the end of the first trimester (you know…that trimester when weight gain isn’t expected to occur), I had gained eight pounds and a warning from my doctor. That’s when I realized I needed to ban the baby excuse.

We all make excuses from time to time. I still justify the occasional food choice because I’m pregnant, but it’s not every day. Pregnancy shouldn’t be a “free pass” to follow every food whim for 40 weeks.

You don’t need to be perfect. You can still enjoy dessert and have a healthy pregnancy. But don’t let your baby rationalize ongoing bad food choices. I promise, the ‘baby excuse’ turns into the ‘breastfeeding excuse,’ then the ‘toddler excuse’ and so on. I see it often with my clients. I feel the temptation to use it with myself!

Resist the urge to use your kids as a permanent excuse to choose unhealthy foods and avoid exercise. Adjust your mindset now, in the beginning, so your children aren’t your reason to be unhealthy. They’re your greatest reason to be healthy.

Your children are one of your greatest reasons to be healthy.

2. You are when you eat.

You’re probably already thinking about what you eat. Don’t forget to think about when you eat, too!

Waiting too long between meals or snacks has big consequences. When we get too hungry, we tend to choose the wrong foods – often those comfort foods high in fat and sugar – and overeat. Our behaviors, food choices and portion control become less rational in response to extreme hunger. This can be especially true during pregnancy, when your body needs extra fuel throughout the day.

You may want to eat something every 3-4 hours. Or once your hunger level hits a 6 or 7 (on a scale from 1 to 10), eat something to avoid getting ravenous. Pack your refrigerator with fruit, sliced veggies, Greek yogurt, string cheese and hard-boiled eggs. Stock your desk, purse or car with room-temperature safe options like almonds, pistachios, peanut butter or whole grain cereal. The key nutrients here are fiber, protein and healthy fats, which are digested slowly and keep you feeling full.

3. Decode your hunger cues

Are you really hungry? We often misinterpret our body’s other signals for physical hunger. I call these misread signals the ‘Three Ts:’ Thirsty, Tired and Troubled.

Thirst is often misinterpreted for hunger, since the two signaling pathways are similar. Feeling tired can also make you reach for food to stay alert or pack a quick pick-me-up. And wouldn’t you know…thirst and fatigue are two of the hallmarks of pregnancy!

Fluid needs increase during pregnancy, so you may feel thirstier than ever. And your body is growing a human being, so it’s natural to feel tired. It’s also natural to feel a little troubled during pregnancy. You may feel anxious about impending motherhood or stressed about maternity leave or child care preparations. While these emotions are sometimes soothed with comfort eating, the emotional eating cycle tends to cause more misery in the long run.

Listen to your body’s cues. Be mindful of how you’re feeling and what your body needs. If you’re hungry, try drinking a large glass of water to alleviate potential dehydration. If you’re still hungry a few minutes later, eat something. If your sleep has been disrupted, grab a catnap or go to bed a little earlier.

And if you’re feeling troubled about something, find an alternative outlet for those emotions. Talk to a loved one, take a yoga class, practice 10 minutes of meditation, get some exercise or write in a journal. Simply acknowledging and labeling the emotion can often take away its power and reduce the temptation to soothe with food.

4. Don’t overspend your calorie allowance

The second and third trimesters offer an additional daily calorie allowance to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Depending on a woman’s pre-pregnancy BMI and weight gain, this ranges from 200-500 extra calories per day.

It may feel like a license to eat, but this calorie allowance can be deceiving. And very easy to overspend! These extra calorie needs can be met with just one banana with peanut butter, a small muffin, one avocado or an extra helping at dinner.

Most people know that “eating for two” is eating way too much. Keep your calorie spending under control by:

·      Watching portion sizes

·      Choosing meals and snacks with protein and fiber

·      Filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables

·      Minimizing temptation by keeping desserts and other treats out of the home

·      Eating every few hours to avoid getting too hungry

·      Being more mindful and reducing distractions while you eat

·      Staying hydrated throughout the day

You may also benefit from working with a dietitian, or joining the new McDaniel Community for Parents of Young Children, “Nourished Beginnings” to learn how to make nutritious choices while still enjoying your favorite foods. An expert can provide meal plans, specific calorie goals or daily tips tailored to your family’s lifestyle that will apply throughout the newborn and toddler stages.

The Final Push

Perfect eating isn’t a prerequisite for pregnancy, thankfully. Do your best. Focus on eating more of the “good stuff” and keeping treats as a special occurrence.

Honor the nutritional needs of your body and your baby, as well as your emotional needs as a mama-to-be. I promise, your efforts will be rewarded! Making healthy choices supports positive pregnancy outcomes and nourishes both mom and baby for 40 weeks of pregnancy and many years beyond.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.