Food, Fitness, and Pregnancy

So, you’re pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant.

I’m sure you are asking yourself some questions…other than the obvious…AM I READY?!  What did I do?!

How much weight should you gain?  What can you or should you eat? Can you exercise?

As a dietitian and a recently pregnant, but no longer mom, I can answer those questions.

1.  How much weight should I gain?

According to the American College of Obestetricians and Gynecologists, (ACOG), women should gain weight.  However, the amount of weight you “should” gain depends on your starting/pre-pregnancy weight and BMI.  (see below).

Prepregnancy Weight
Body Mass Index* Recommended
Range of
Total Weight (lb)
Recommended Rates
of Weight Gain in the
Second and Third
Trimesters (lb)
(Mean Range [lb/wk])
Underweight Less than 18.5 28–40 1 (1–1.3)
Normal Weight 18.5–24.9 25–35 1 (0.8–1)
Overweight 25–29.9 15–25 0.6 (0.5–0.7)
Obese (includes all classes) 30 and greater 11–20 0.5 (0.4–0.6)


Note how weight gain recommendations are only listed for the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.  This is because you do not need to gain any weight in the first trimester.  There is no need.  Most of the baby’s linear and weight gains occurs in the second and third trimester.  The first trimester is mostly about laying down the foundation.

Note, these are recommendations.  Not certainties.  It is OK to gain a little less than the recommendations if the baby is growing well; but, that is a discussion for you and your obstetrician.  In almost no instance; however, is it better to gain “more” than the recommended amount, unless you are pregnant with multiples.

The phrase “eating for two” also, is a myth.  In the second and third trimesters, you only need to add 300 calories/day to your diet.  The equivalent of a snack.  You do not need to eat double your normal intake.

2. What should I eat?

The first trimester, for some women, is known as the survival trimester. This was especially the case for me. In this trimester, you eat what you can, when you can.  It can be very hard.  It is usually the trimester for nausea and vomiting; unless you are me (in which case you’re nauseated the WHOLE pregnancy).

In general however, it is best to eat a plant-based whole-foods diet.  Eat as naturally and as close to nature a possible.  Organic when possible, home-cooked, low in salt, and fresh, fresh, fresh.  Limiting salt is very important for blood pressure control and to prevent too much water retention.

Sushi is considered to be OK, even raw sushi, as long as it is prepared in a safe and sanitary restaurant.

The only real no-no’s are raw/unpasteurized cheeses, raw/unpasteurized dairy products, and certain deli meats (if not properly re-heated).  Basic food-safety is a must.  It’s important to clean cutting boards properly, clean fruits and vegetables properly, to not cross-contaminate, and to make sure all foods are cooked to the proper temperature or cooled quickly.  For more food-safety tips see:

If you do have severe nausea, like I did, vitamin B6 can be very useful as a supplement in addition to ginger (though ginger did not work for me).  Another medication to discuss with your doctor is: Doxylamine Succinate.  (It can be found in unisom).

Doxylamine succinate + B6 were very important in helping me keep food in.

But, of course, every patient is different, and every circumstance is different.  So, before starting any medications, discuss with your doctor.

3. Can I exercise?

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!  (with permission from your doctor).  Exercise is SO healthful for you and your baby.  It helps keep weight-gain within the recommended limits.  It helps with the birthing process, it helps to keep you strong.  It helps with lung capacity because the further along you get in your pregnancy, the more difficult it can be to breathe.

Exercise can help with cravings, helps with endorphins, and overall, makes you feel stronger and better about yourself while you’re pregnant.

The ACOG recommends that if you are already exercising, you continue to exercise at a pace that is comfortable.  If it does not feel good, stop!

If you are not currently exercising, you can begin while pregnant, doing simple and easy exercises, including prenatal yoga, swimming, and gentle walking.  Again, it is always best to get the OB’s OK, and also to make sure that if you are taking any classes, swimming, yoga, or otherwise, that your instructor is certified to address pregnancy issues.

With that in mind…I wish you a healthy, happy, easy, and nausea-free pregnancy.


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