We often hear that when you’re pregnant, you have to eat for two (or even three!). But that statement (usually a joke!) is easily misconstrued if you aren’t really sure about how pregnancy should impact your eating habits.
We talked to Dahlas Fletcher, pregnancy and postnatal exercise specialist, what she thinks about overeating while pregnant and how to understand and set limits.
Do you really need to double the amount of food you eat while pregnant?
“Pregnancy is not a time to use the excuse that you are ‘eating for two.’ In reality, energy needs don’t really increase that much,” Fletcher says. It isn’t how much you eat that matters when you’re pregnant, but rather what you eat. You want to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods, as opposed to just doubling the portion sizes of your meals. This is paramount because as Fletcher explains, “A mother’s nutrient intake during pregnancy affects the development of a baby in utero.”
How do you know if you’re eating too much?
A common concern of pregnant women is whether they’re eating too much. But, you need to forget about the scale and whether you’re up and down from your pre-pregnancy weight. “Instead, tap into how you feel. Are you energized or exhausted?” asks Fletcher. Your answer will tell you if you’re meeting your nutrient needs as it is connected to your energy levels.
Also, don’t worry if your weight is fluctuating, that’s completely normal. “During pregnancy, weight will also fluctuate immensely due to big hormonal shifts and the growth rate of your baby (which varies with every woman).” Fletcher also notes that doctors do tend to weigh you at your pregnancy check-up appointments. However, if this causes you anxiety, then you can request that your doctor only weighs you if he or she is concerned about you being under- or overweight.
If you feel you’re getting overweight, exercise programs could help. Check out our safe maternity workouts here. >>
How to Make Sure That You’re Not Overeating
If overeating is still a concern for you, then here are some simple tips to help keep you on track.
Fill up on snacks.
“I find that most of my pregnant clients benefit from three meals and several nutrient-dense snacks per day—snacks that include protein and healthy fats as these macronutrients help to level out blood sugar,” says Fletcher. She explains that you may find yourself snacking more throughout your pregnancy; this is especially true if you experience morning sickness. You might find it easier to consume small snacks, as opposed to larger meals.
Consuming snacks throughout the day will help prevent ongoing hunger, especially if it’s full of protein and healthy fats. These macronutrients also help to make you feel satiated and fuller for longer. Fletcher suggests snacks such as “a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or one of my smoothie recipes.”
Don’t eat as an emotional response.
It’s fairly common for people to use food as a way to cope with certain emotions, such as stress or boredom. It’s also common for pregnant women to go through a whirlwind of emotions during this time. Sometimes, this can lead to eating even when you’re not hungry.
Don’t use food as a coping mechanism, but instead, learn to ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you just want to eat as a response to heightened emotions. If you’re not hungry, then determine what else you can do instead to make you feel better.
Going for a walk when you’re stressed or anxious will clear your mind. Listening to soothing music can make you feel calmer and more at peace, while meditation can recenter your focus. Choosing other activities rather than just reaching for food can prevent overeating even when you’re not hungry.
Let yourself indulge a little.
Pregnancy cravings can have you wanting weird food combinations or highly-processed foods at a more intense level than normal. You may think that you have to control yourself and keep these cravings at bay all the time, but it’s actually important to let yourself indulge once in a while. Not only will this keep you (and the baby) happy, but it’ll prevent binge eating your cravings later.
If you feel guilty with after indulging, our workouts will keep you from feeling guilty. View our pregnancy workouts here.
What foods should I avoid?
There is always talk about pregnant women needing to avoid certain foods for whatever reason. “That can sometimes be overstated due to food safety concerns,” says Fletcher. “Because of this, I feel many women skip meals and can miss out on essential nutrients for their growing babies.” She cites fish as a common one. “For example, fish can be avoided due to a concern with mercury levels. However, fish contains essential fatty acids and DHA which are important for a growing baby’s development.”
Before you start eliminating certain foods from your diet right off the bat, talk to an expert or doctor to make sure that you get the facts. Fletcher says, “I highly recommend the book Real Food For Pregnancy to all my clients, as this has current evidence-based nutrition advice backed by over 123 research studies.”
It’s important to note that every woman has their own unique and personal experiences. Also, as Fletcher points out, “pregnancy also has many variables.” It’s best to consult with your doctor about what best meets your needs.
If you’re ready to take the fitness plunge, we have the best prenatal workouts you can do here. Check them out!