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No matter what your mother says, expecting a baby is not a hall pass to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. What you fuel your body with today has an effect on your child’s life tomorrow, and gaining a ton of weight is unhealthy for both of you: A study published in Obesity found that excessive weight gain early on in pregnancy directly affects your child’s birth weight and increases his or her likelihood of becoming obese as an adult. Though every pregnancy is different, the general recommendation for weight gain is 20 to 30 pounds for a healthy, active woman. Gain a bunch more than that and you’ll have to deal with stripping it back off once baby is born. Which, as anyone who has already had a kid can attest, is easier said than done.
Shooting for an all-belly pregnancy means you’ll look better, sleep better and feel better. You’ll be more comfortable throughout your journey with fewer aches and pains, and you’ll have an easier labor and delivery. You’ll have fewer medical risk factors, and you’ll set yourself up for a healthy body and mind after baby arrives. But the best part is, you’ll get to focus on growing a happy, healthy baby.
The good news is that yes, you do get to eat more, but not enough to nourish another full-grown adult. You only need between 300 and 400 additional calories per day to grow a happy, healthy baby — without becoming an overweight and unhappy mama. This means increasing the size of your meals and snacks a little bit, or adding another small meal or snack into your rotation.
Here’s the trimester-by-trimester breakdown — what is happening, how you’re feeling, and how to eat and exercise for an all-belly pregnancy.
Weeks 1-12: First Trimester
This trimester starts off with the highs — a positive pregnancy test, hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time and nesting instincts. Then it quickly plummets to the lows: a supernaturally heightened sense of smell and hours spent hugging the toilet bowl as morning sickness sets in.
Sometimes the nose and nausea are co-conspirators as once delectable foods become disgusting, but you have to soldier on: Choose bland foods that are high in protein and calories, such as a protein shake blended with coconut oil or full-fat yogurt, to prevent excessive weight loss. If all else fails, eat whatever sounds even remotely appetizing — you can always clean things back up when you’re feeling better. For those with very severe morning sickness, losing weight is a serious concern because it can impact the health of your baby. If you can’t even keep down water or small nibbles, ask your doctor about an anti-nausea medication.
Lucky enough to avoid morning sickness? Congrats! You can continue to eat as you did before pregnancy, but make sure you eliminate certain foods known to cause birth defects and issues with fetal growth, such as sushi, cold cuts, unpasteurized dairy, alcohol, excessive caffeine, unwashed produce and high-mercury fish like shark, swordfish, orange roughy, mackerel and albacore tuna.
Hydration is also super important during this trimester because your blood volume is actively doubling in order to nourish and protect baby. You might find you’re craving salty foods as your body tries to absorb more water. Be careful not to overdo it on sodium, and make sure you balance out any salt with water, drinking at least one large glass per hour or more.
Though you might be tired or sick, do your best to keep up your exercise routine. Walk outdoors for 30 minutes, or if you can muster the energy to go to the gym, then by all means do so. But note: The joints in your hips will be getting looser and looser in preparation for baby, so decrease your weights and increase your reps to prevent injury.
Makes: 6 servings
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 orange, peeled and seeded
- 1 green apple, cored and cubed
- 1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger fresh squeezed juice of 1 lime
- Blend ingredients until smooth.
- Pour into popsicle molds or small paper cups. Insert mold sticks or popsicle sticks. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 77, total fat 0 g, saturated fat 0 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 4 g, sodium 25 mg, carbs 16 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 12 g
Preclude the puke with these anti-nausea tips.
Ditch the junk. Though they might sound good in the moment, high-sugar, low-fiber comfort foods do little to alleviate nausea and will only serve to spike your blood sugar and make you feel even worse (if that is even possible) when you crash. Find a high-protein food you can tolerate and have plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially oranges and green apples, which are known to relieve nausea.
Drink tea. Ginger is widely used to relieve nausea and vomiting and is safe for pregnant women. Have a hot cup of ginger tea after meals to settle your stomach.
Wrap your wrists. Acupressure wristbands use pressure points to relieve nausea, and researchers from the University of Rochester in New York found they had a positive effect on therapy-induced nausea in cancer patients. For you, they could be a low-cost way to treat morning sickness.
Weeks 13-27: Second trimester
If you were so afflicted, morning sickness has subsided by now and you feel and look like a new woman, since your belly has probably started to pop.
But even though you’re no longer sick, you might feel tired — all the time. No worries: This is normal. It’s even more normal for a formerly easy workout to suddenly become challenging. Remember, you’re growing a little person in there, which means your heart is working harder to move a larger volume of blood, and as a result, you’ll have a greater perceived exertion during exercise. Do your best to stick to your regular training routine, but above all, listen to your body and obey its signals: Some days you might be able to kill it, but other days you might only manage a walk around the block. Be OK with this.
As baby grows, so will your appetite. You should shoot for three meals and one to two snacks per day with a focus on protein, protein and more protein: A study published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition found that mom’s protein intake had a significant effect on baby’s growth. Choose clean proteins like chicken breast, turkey, lean red meats, eggs and even protein powder, and while it is OK to eat fish, avoid those that are high in mercury.
If you are craving anything in particular, have it — but limit treats to once or twice per week. Instead of buying a gallon of ice cream, go out for a single cone, quell the chocolate monster by tossing a few chocolate chips into your Greek yogurt, or try this recipe when you feel the urge to splurge.
Flourless Chocolate Mug Cake
Makes: 1 serving
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
- 1 tbsp canned pumpkin
- 1 tbsp almond flour
- 1 tbsp honey or sugar
- 1 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp unsweetened milk of choice
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips of choice (optional)
- Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add egg, honey, chocolate chips and milk 1 tablespoon at a time until a thick batter forms. Coat a coffee mug or microwave-safe bowl with cooking spray and pour in batter.
- Microwave for 30 seconds. Check consistency. Continue to microwave in 20- to 30-second increments until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving.
Nutrition Facts: calories 362, total fat 11 g, saturated fat 3 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 36 g, sodium 337 mg, carbs 29 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 17 g
Weeks 28-40 (or until birth): Third trimester
You’re in the final stretch and your belly is in full pop-up mode. As baby grows, you’ll feel more and more tired — and more and more hungry. You probably weigh more than you ever have in your life, but don’t freak out. Remember that weight gain is normal, as long as it’s in a healthy range, and look at the bigger picture of healthy baby rather than the number on the scale.
That being said, don’t waste your additional caloric allowance on junk food. High-fat, high-calorie foods can exacerbate acid reflux — a common issue during this trimester as baby takes up more and more of your inner square footage. Eating junk also promotes excessive weight gain and can put you at risk for birthing a larger baby, preeclampsia, preterm labor, gestational diabetes (yes, even fit women are susceptible), insomnia and other complications.
Give baby all he or she needs while satisfying your own hungry self by bumping up the portion sizes of your meals and snacks. For instance, have 4 to 6 ounces of chicken instead of 3 to 4, or throw in another ¼ cup of oatmeal into your breakfast. High-fiber complex carbs during this final stretch of pregnancy will help you feel more energized, steady your blood sugar and help baby to gain healthy bodyweight.
As for training, continue with your regular routine and add exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor like squats, hip raises, bridges and even Kegels. Avoid moves that require you to lie on your back because the weight of your baby will put pressure on the venous return of blood and could cause you to pass out. Also, avoid plyometric exercises due to loosened joints, moves involving excessive hip flexion and anything that causes you pain.
Power Rice Cakes
Makes: 1 serving
- 2 lightly salted rice cakes
- 2 tbsp whipped cream cheese, divided (or nut butter of choice)
- ½ medium banana, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- 2 tsp honey, divided ground cinnamon (optional)
- Top each rice cake with 1 tablespoon cream cheese or nut butter.
- Arrange sliced banana on top of cheese/butter.
- Drizzle each rice cake with 1 teaspoon honey and dash of ground cinnamon.
Nutrition Facts: calories 223, total fat 6 g, saturated fat 4 g, trans fat 0 g, protein 4 g, sodium 121 mg, carbs 40 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 19 g
Other Healthy Toppings to Consider:
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Nutella with sliced banana
- Ricotta, sliced strawberries and drizzle of honey
- Hummus and thinly sliced cucumbers
- Guacamole and hot sauce
- Peanut butter with raisins
- Cream cheese, dried cranberries and chocolate chips