Because every pregnant woman and birthing person gains weight differently, there are no set guidelines for how much weight you should gain. The main thing is that your weight is safe and healthy for you and your baby. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy weight in pregnancy.
1. Plan for healthy eating and exercise
Download and print our weight management goal plan. It will help you set some goals that you can work towards and it is a good idea to pin it somewhere you will see it every day.
Pick some small steps you can take today, such as going for a walk, planning a healthy shopping list, or signing up for pregnancy workout classes. You will be more likely to stick to a plan that is clear and simple.
For example, you could say: 'I will have a healthy breakfast every day instead of skipping breakfast.' or, 'I will take a healthy snack to work instead of buying chocolate.'
2. Start the day right with breakfast
Having breakfast will help you avoid snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar. This can help with healthy eating throughout the day.
Your body fasts while you are asleep so you will feel tired and hungry if you do not eat in the morning. Plus, you are more likely to reach for the less healthy snacks later.
If you are struggling with morning sickness, you could try eating something like dry toast or a plain biscuit before you get out of bed.
If you are not used to having breakfast, have a look at these 5 easy breakfast ideas.
3. Eat to keep your blood sugar levels stable in pregnancy
Eating regular meals and healthy snacks will help you feel full and well by keeping your blood sugar levels stable. That means you might not be as tempted to reach for sweet snacks in a hurry.
Use the glycaemic index (GI). This is a rating system that shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar levels.
Low and medium GI foods release their energy slowly to keep blood sugar stable. High GI foods are broken down quickly by your body, causing a rapid increase in your blood sugar levels.
Choosing low and medium GI foods may help you feel fuller for longer. Foods that release their energy slowly include:
- multigrain, granary, rye, seeded bread, sourdough bread
- new potatoes in their skins, sweet potato, yam, cold boiled potatoes
- all pasta cooked until al dente, instant noodles
- basmati rice, long grain or brown rice
- bulgur wheat, barley, couscous, quinoa
- porridge, muesli, some low-sugar oat and bran-based cereals.
Higher GI foods include:
- sugar and sugary foods
- sugary soft drinks
- white bread
- white rice.
In general, high fibre lower GI foods such as beans, peas, lentils, porridge, muesli, fruit and vegetables are good choices and can help you keep to an overall healthy eating plan.
The British Dietetic Association has more information about the Glycaemic Index.
4. Ask family and friends for support
You may find it helpful to tell your partner, family and friends that you need to make sure your weight gain is healthy and let them know how they can help you with this. Explain that you only need an extra 200 calories a day in your final trimester.
Your partner or a relative could find out more about eating well in pregnancy and cook for you both. You could even plan meals and cook with them. This will help if your weight is outside the healthy range. Or, you could invite some friends round for healthy dinners.
Ask your family not to bring sweet or fatty foods home if you are going to be tempted. You might feel more hungry now you are pregnant, but the trick is to swap to healthy snacks and save the crisps and biscuits for rare treats. To support you, your family could also try making snack swaps, such as choosing fruit or raw nuts.
5. Be mindful of your eating
It is tempting to reach for the biscuit tin when you need a boost or when you’re bored. You may also be used to having a snack at a certain time of day, so it feels as though you are missing out if you do not have it, even if you are not hungry.
A big step towards heathy eating, is being aware of the reasons behind your eating patterns. Ask yourself whether you are hungry or whether it is a habit or boredom that is driving you to eat. If it is one of the following, eat something healthy, which will leave you feeling full or change your routine so you don’t miss the food.
6. Find a distraction
If you are worried about putting on too much weight, but crave food when you know you are not hungry, try doing something that will take your mind off it.
- phone a friend
- get stuck in to a book or a podcast
- go for a walk
- get a glass of water or a mug of fruit tea
- take a warm bath
- put some music on and have a dance.
Small distractions can really help.
7. Find an exercise buddy
Why not ask a friend to get active with you? It will help you to get started and may make it more fun! And you will be able to give each other motivation and support. Getting healthy with a friend is also a great excuse to meet up.
There are lots of types of exercise you can safely do in pregnancy, such as:
- Walk the children to school, or take them to the park. Walk the dog.
- Swim at your local pool. Some leisure centres offer pregnancy swimming classes, or family fun sessions, so you can go with your partner and other children if you have them. Or you can go when it is quiet and swim lengths.
- Shop or explore for the day, with your friends, so you can get in some brisk walking.
- Go for a walk as a family.
- Playing ball games with the kids, in the garden or at your local park or beach.
Read more about exercise and pregnancy.
8. Be smart with food shopping
One easy way to avoid having too many tempting treats in the house is to go shopping after you have had a meal instead of before. If you go when you’re hungry you are more likely to load up on biscuits or crisps, which can then be a bit too easy to reach for when you need a snack.
Try to plan meals for a few days and go shopping with a list of what you need. If you shop online you may also be less likely to be tempted by junk food in the supermarket.
You may be able to get help to buy healthy foods and vitamins if you claim certain benefits. Find out more about Healthy Start if you live in England and Wales, and Best Start Foods if you live in Scotland.
9. Get support from your midwife or doctor
If you are worried that your weight is over or under what is healthy, you can talk to your midwife. They are the best people to talk with about yours and your baby’s health. They will keep an eye on you and give you both the best support.
Your midwife can give you advice about the amount of exercise you should do and what to eat in pregnancy. If you are told you are overweight or underweight, they may be able to arrange extra care during your pregnancy, and refer you to a specialist dietitian.
10. Be kind to yourself
Everyone has days where they just do not want to do much or when they eat things they said they would not. It is bound to happen sometimes. Be kind to yourself. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you’ve reached for the biscuits after a tough day. You haven’t failed in your attempts at healthy eating.
Think of what you would say to your best friend if they were in your shoes. Believe in yourself and realise that tomorrow is a new day. You can make it a healthy one for you and your baby.
11. Reward yourself
It feels great to succeed at a goal you have set yourself. For many people, that feeling alone is enough to stay on track, but you could also reward yourself when you stick to your healthy goals.
Choose treats that are not food, such as a DIY home spa with a long warm bath a book, or a haircut. A reward is a great reason to keep going. It will give your self-esteem a boost, too.