One of my favorite things about living in Portland is the amazing food here. We are lucky enough to have world-class chefs and locally-grown and raised food right here in our backyard. Although I love dining out and enjoy food, I know I must always watch what I eat.

Eating healthy is important at all times and for all people, but especially during pregnancy. Everyone has heard the old adage that it doesn’t matter what you eat during pregnancy, because you’re eating for two. This is indeed not the case and proper nutrition and weight gain during pregnancy is something everyone should be aware of. The grim reality is that the prevalence of obesity is quickly increasing among women in the US. Women need to start their healthy diet before they become pregnant. One in five women in the US are obese at the beginning of their pregnancy. This, combined with unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy, increases a woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and needing a cesarean delivery.

So, how much should you eat during pregnancy and how much weight is safe to gain? It depends on your pre-pregnancy BMI (Body Mass Index), which is a measurement of your body fat based on height and weight. ( Visit this National Institutes of Health site to calculate your BMI.) The Institute of Medicine published new guidelines in 2009 for recommendations regarding pregnancy and weight gain:

BMI Category   
Total Pregnancy
Weight Gain
Average Rate of Weight
Gain in the 2nd and 3rd
Underweight < 18.5 28 – 40 lbs 1-1.3 lbs/week
Normal weight 18.5 – 24.9 25 – 35 lbs 0.8 – 1 lbs/week
Overweight 25.0 – 29.9 15 – 25 lbs 0.5 – 0.7 lbs/week
Obese (all classes) ≥ 30.0 11 – 20 lbs 0.4 – 0.6 lbs/week

As far as how much to eat, if you are a normal weight before pregnancy, you only need an average of 300 extra calories to day to help your baby’s growth and keep you healthy during pregnancy. When you think about it, that’s not very much. 300 calories is equal to a glass of skim milk and half a sandwich, not a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. If you are overweight or obese, smaller amounts of weight gain or even a small weight loss may be recommended.

All of this doesn’t mean that you need to forego the great food we have here in Portland, just eat it in moderation. Take advantage of the summer and go to a farmer’s market for fresh and local produce. Try frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Go berry picking on Sauvie Island. Pack your lunch for work with carrot sticks instead of potato chips. Make healthy eating a fun and enjoyable part of your pregnancy.

Contact a Women’s Healthcare Associates office to get a healthy start to your pregnancy >

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