It may be difficult for you to meet all of your nutrition requirements during pregnancy if you are following a reduced kilojoule menu plan. Therefore, it is safer to lose weight before or after pregnancy, and simply try to minimise weight gain during pregnancy.
Many women fall into the trap of “eating for two” and then find if difficult to lose weight in excess of the recommended levels after pregnancy. Health authorities suggest for women within the healthy weight range a weight gain of 11.5 – 16 kilos during pregnancy is expected and for women who fall above the healthy weight range a slightly lower weight gain around 5-11.5kg is recommended. For women who are below the healthy weight range, a slightly higher weight gain of at least 13kgs is expected.
Some doctors may encourage some obese patients to strictly limit weight gain during pregnancy, but weight loss during pregnancy needs to be discussed with your doctor/midwife and should only be attempted if recommended by your health professional.
The aim for healthy eating during pregnancy is to make sure most of your food is nutrient-dense and to limit high-energy snack food and take-away. Most women do not need extra energy during the first trimester. The additional requirement for second trimester is approximately 1,400 kJ and third trimester about 1,900kJ. If you usually eat about 7,000kJ per day for weight maintenance then you will need about 20% more per day during the second trimester and 25% more during your third trimester. This means that you need to eat approximately an extra snack per day in the second trimester and two extra snacks in your third trimester.
Many women find that small, frequent meals suit them better during pregnancy and so if you usually eat three meals and one snack per day you may chose to eat three smaller meals and two-three snacks. A snack of a salad and cheese wholegrain bread sandwich, with a medium piece of fruit would be about 1,400 kJ, add a small tub of yoghurt would make it up to 1,900kJ.
One way to minimise weight gain is to keep exercising throughout your pregnancy, particularly your first two trimesters. Seek advice to ensure that there are no medical reasons for you to limit your activity, but walking and swimming and many other activities are safe for most pregnant women.
Discuss this with your health professional before you start any new activity, but you are encouraged to keep active; keeping up your activity levels helps reduce the risk of extra weight gain. For most women there are very few activities that are discouraged. Appropriate exercise also helps with maintaining strong abdominal muscles, supporting the back and caring for pelvic floor muscles.
For further weight management advice during pregnancy speak to your doctor or Accredited Practising Dietitian. Dietitians work in private practice, local community health centres and local hospitals. Details can be found on the Dietitians Association of Australia website (www.daa.asn.au) or the New Zealand Dietitians website (www.dietitians.org.nz).