Being overweight can cause complications for you and your baby during pregnancy, labour, birth and after the birth. But there’s plenty you can do to get healthier – for your sake and your baby’s.
Practical tips for a healthy pregnancy
Focus on important foods rather than always concentrating on what you ‘shouldn’t’ be eating, focus on healthy foods.
• plenty of vegetables, fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals for a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre
• low-fat dairy food (or alternatives such as soy, rice or oat milk products) for calcium, protein and iodine
• lean red meat for iron and protein, and oily fish such as sardines for omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
If you’re filling up on good food, you won’t have as much room for less healthy foods.
Eat lots of small meals and snacks
This can help you with healthy weight control and with other pregnancy issues such as morning sickness and heartburn. Eating regularly also boosts your metabolism, and stops you from getting too hungry and overeating foods with too much sugar and fat.
Skipping meals won’t help you with healthy weight control.
Drink plenty of water
Water is the best drink for good health. You need more water when you’re pregnant – at least 6-8 glasses a day.
Flavoured milks, soft drinks and juices can cause extra weight gain. For example, 600 ml of flavoured milk has around 1500 kilojoules – that’s the same as five pieces of bread. This can easily tip the scales towards weight gain.
If you want a ‘treat’ drink sometimes, have a ‘diet’ or ‘zero’ drink.
Avoid the cravings trap
Keeping chocolate, chips, ice-cream, lollies, flavoured milks, biscuits or cakes out of your cupboard has health benefits for the whole family, not just you. It’s also a good way to start setting up healthy habits for your children.
Planning what you’re going to eat and preparing meals and snacks in advance is a great way to make healthy food choices.
Writing a dinner menu for the week makes shopping and cooking easier. And when you stock your cupboard and fridge with grainy crackers, fruit, wholegrain bread and salad ingredients, you’ve always got a healthy snack or lunch ready to pop in your bag.
Reward yourself with non-food treats
Pregnancy isn’t always easy, so it’s normal to want a few rewards. The trick is looking for treats that don’t involve food!
Instead, you could treat yourself to a movie, a catch-up with a friend, or a massage from your partner.
It’s recommended that pregnant women do 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise most days of the week, unless you’ve been told something different by your doctor or midwife.
If you weren’t exercising before your pregnancy, that’s OK. It isn’t too late to start if your midwife or doctor says it’s all right. Walking or swimming are both good choices. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes all at once – you could break it up and do three, 10-minute walks each day.
Set yourself goals
It’s best to be specific. For example, you could say, ‘I’ll eat vegies with lunch and dinner every day this week’. If you set a goal that you can measure, you’ll know whether you’re achieving it.
You can also get family and friends on board by preparing healthy meals and exercising together. Setting goals with someone who can support you can make it easier for you to reach your goals.
Hanna Burbidge, Dr Helen Skouteris, Professor Glyn Teale. Healthy Pregnancy for Overweight Women. Raising Children Network. 2013; [cited 2016 June, 24]; [1 screen]. Available at URL: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/pregnancy_and_overweight.html