Healthy Pregnancy Diet Menu Plans

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Quick GuideWhat Not to Eat When Pregnant Pictures: Alcohol, Fish, Fruit Juice, Sushi

What Not to Eat When Pregnant Pictures: Alcohol, Fish, Fruit Juice, Sushi

How much weight is OK to gain during pregnancy?

Pregnant women only need about 300 extra calories per day. While every woman is going to be different, research shows that for a normal weight woman (BMI 18.5 – 25), the optimal pregnancy total weight gain is about 25-35 pounds7. Larger women will gain less and smaller women gain more. All women should decrease their focus on weight and focus on the quality of their diet, ensuring good nutrition.

  • BMI <18.5 kg/m2 (underweight) - typically gain 28 to 40 lbs.
  • BMI 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 (optimal weight) - typically gain 25 to 35 lbs.
  • BMI 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2 (overweight) - typically gain 15 to 25 lbs.
  • BMI ≥30.0 kg/m2 (obese) - typically gain 11 to 20 lbs.

During the first and second trimesters, weight gain manifests as an increase in maternal fat stores, plus a 60% increase in blood volume. Later in pregnancy, more of the weight gain is due to the fetal growth, amniotic fluid, breast development, and placenta. Overweight women sometimes even experience weight loss during the first trimester and slowly gain a small amount over the second and third trimesters. There is no minimum amount of weight an overweight woman needs to gain as long as she is eating micronutrient dense foods and fetal growth is on track.

Is it OK to diet during pregnancy?

Regardless of the weight of the woman when she becomes pregnant, it isn't a good idea to diet during pregnancy. Research from famines during World War II in Europe have taught us about the epigenetic implications of restriction during pregnancy. Epigenetics describes the impact of the prenatal environment on the genetic programming of the child that stays with them for life. In fact, the prenatal environment has an impact on the developing ovaries and eggs in the female fetus, having an impact on the next generation too! A mother's nutritional choices during pregnancy can affect her grandchildren!

During the famines in World War II, pregnant Dutch women lived on less than 900 calories a day for a winter and their metabolism became very efficient at storing energy. When the war ended and food supplies returned to normal, and the babies were born, the women and their babies had normal calorie intake. However, those babies were far more likely to go on to become obese or develop diabetes because their genes were influenced during the time of scarcity. In the same way, dieting during pregnancy can have unintentionally metabolic consequences on the genetic programming of the infant that will stay with them for life.

While dieting (restricting calories) during pregnancy is discouraged, eating a healthier diet by removing extra sugar and processed foods is an excellent idea. This is the type of "diet" I put all my patients on. The focus should be on high quality nutrition, optimizing micronutrient intake, and minimizing empty calories.

Low carb diet menu plans during pregnancy

Low carbohydrate diets can be healthy during pregnancy, as they are for any life phase, but the devil is in the details, as they say. More precise than simply a low carb diet, glycemic load diet is beneficial during pregnancy (and throughout life). Glycemic load is a term that measures how quickly a carbohydrate is digested and turned into blood sugar. Carbohydrates with lots of fiber, or combined with fat or protein have lower glycemic loads and raise blood sugar slowly, providing steady energy and preventing a spike in blood sugar and the subsequent low blood sugar drop. How do you follow a low glycemic load diet?

Choose carbohydrates in their unrefined (less processed) form:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Lentils

An easy way to do this is to stay away from "white" foods:

  • White sugar
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • White potato, etc.

White foods are also low in micronutrients. Stay away from processed carbs such as:

  • Flour
  • Cookies
  • Cake
  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Juice or fruit cocktail beverages
  • Sugar
  • Breads
  • Pastas
  • Soda
  • Pastries

Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet

Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet is a diet plan that was popular in the 1980s. While it is a little outdated, the basics are still relevant and credible. Dr. Brewer calls for frequent snacks and pays close attention to salt, calories, and protein. The recommendations include getting daily servings from major groups of healthy foods, like calcium or iron containing foods.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2016

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