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Dieting and Pregnancy

Stop the Supplement Murders

Dieting and pregnancy are typically not a good combination. That doesn't mean if you're expecting you shouldn't be careful about what you eat, you definitely should. But LOSING weight isn't generally something you should attempt. Healthy weight gain varies with how much you weigh at the beginning.

  • Slender women, those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20 or below should gain the most weight, typically between 28 and 40 pounds.
  • Women who have a BMI between 21 and 25 should consider 25 to 35 pounds of weight gain healthy.
  • Women with a BMI of 26 to 30 should set a weight gain goal of 15 to 25 pounds.
  • Only women who are classified as obese, with a BMI of 30 or above should try for a lower weight gain of between 12 and 20 pounds.

Gaining more weight than the optimal range isn't going to alter the health or size of the baby. It'll just be more weight to drop after you deliver. Talk with your doctor about what's right for your situation. Here are some general guidelines on how to handle each trimester.

First Trimester

Morning sickness is one of the early signs of pregnancy. Some women will actually lose weight in the first few weeks, but it's not something that should be planned. Unless the weight loss is severe, it's generally all right because the nutritional needs of the fetus aren't as great. To get the food you need, eat a snack when you get up and add more calories during lunch and dinner. Cereal and crackers are typically easier to eat.

Second Trimester

Constipation can become a problem. If you're feeling backed up, drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day. You might also consider eating more fresh fruit and vegetables to make things more regular.

Should diarrhea start, eat more fiber to absorb the excess water. Oatmeal and a banana in the morning, whole wheat bread and applesauce in the afternoon, rice at night.

Third Trimester

This is where much of the weight gain kicks in. During the last two months of pregnancy, it's not uncommon to add a pound a week.

Heartburn can also become an issue. To deal with the problem, eat a larger breakfast. Eat a little less during dinner when heartburn is more likely to happen. Limit caffeine from coffee, tea or sodas while avoiding citric beverages and spicy foods.

General Guidelines


Throughout your pregnancy make sure you're getting enough calcium in your diet. A developing baby needs a lot of calcium and if you're not getting enough, your body will take it from your bones. That increases your risk of fractures or osteoporosis later in life.

Good sources of calcium include milk, Greek yogurt, green vegetables, seafood and hard cheeses. Avoid soft cheese during pregnancy because they're typically made with unpasteurized milk, which puts you at greater risk of food-borne illness like listeria.


Skip meals high in fat. Limit the amount of fat you take in through your pregnancy to no more than 30% of your total calories. If you're on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, that's about 66 grams of fat a day.

Folic Acid

Once a day eat something high in folic acid. Birth defects of the brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida) are highest during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Getting at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily can prevent those neural tube defects.

Unfortunately, many women don't find out they're pregnant until a few weeks into their pregnancy. If you're of child-bearing age or are trying to get pregnant, eat things high in folic acid daily, just in case. That includes dark green leafy vegetables, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas and veal for meat lovers.

Proper nutrition during pregnancy is critical, making it a great time to start tracking your food. Not only will it help limit excess weight gain, but it'll give your doctor something to look at if problems come up.

UPDATE: 3/8/2017 - Pregnant Women and Diabetes

Women who get pregnant when they have diabetes, may be putting their children at greater risk of metabolic diseases and obesity when they reach adulthood.

In a small Danish study of 206 adults, researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark looked at adults from three broad categories. One group was from mothers that had diabetes before pregnancy, another group was from mothers that developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy and a control group from mothers that did not have diabetes.

The researchers found that children of mothers with diabetes had altered fat cells. In fact, the fat cells were larger and those children also produced more leptin, a hormone that influences hunger.

While a direct connection between the mothers' diabetes and the adults' risk factors was not proven, researchers believe there is a strong correlation between the two and have advocated for more study.

If a link is proven, it will be just another example of the importance a mother's health has in the long-term prospects of the baby.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 3/8/2017

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  • Obese Pregnant Women Might do Better on a Diet

    There is some research that seems to indicate it might be dangerous for obese women to gain ANY weight during pregnancy. Even adding as little as 12 to 20 pounds might put the mother at risk for gestational diabetes and hyper tension.

    Research published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology indicates that dieting by obese women during pregnancy does not impair the health of the fetus in any way. In fact, researchers found, "infants born to overweight or obese women have an increased percentage of body fat and fat mass, despite minimal differences in infant birthweight." That can increase the infants overall lifetime "risk of adverse health consequences."

    When obese mothers LOST weight it reduced complications and some of the negative effects of pregnancy.

    If you're obese and pregnant, we're not suggesting you go on a diet, but if you're eating a nutritionally balanced diet, you might want to talk to your doctor about regulating your eating so you don't put on any additional weight.