Exhausted, anxious, sober, and growing a human being. You’d think with everything you’re going through the least you deserve is the simple pleasure of eating without limits.
General guidance suggests you maintain your usual maintenance calorie intake for the first six months of pregnancy. And don't get too excited, you hardly get to go ‘all-out’ in the third trimester with only an extra 200 calories per day. Barely a chocolate bar.
It baffles me that you are literally growing a person, daily life is a workout, your belly more than doubles in size and you don’t need any extra food to fuel the process.
So, what is maintenance?
Your maintenance calories are based on your lean body mass (muscle) and daily movement levels so, unless you’ve been tracking your calorie intake and weight pre-pregnancy, it will be pretty impossible to calculate once pregnant as your weight is constantly changing.
If you don’t know what your maintenance is, I would focus on eating sensibly (hopefully that means roughly as you were before) and avoid the temptation to start stockpiling extra treats because you’re ‘eating for two’ (I’ll be honest, this is slightly more difficult during the second trimester when your appetite returns).
Let’s not be so strict you make yourself miserable. Allowing yourself a bit of what you’re craving here and there isn’t going to kill you provided that, the rest of your diet is made up of nutritious foods. Just bear in mind that the body doesn’t have much to work with if all you’re feeding it is Dominos and doughnuts, and you will feel like crap.
Hopefully, you’ll have given up (or at least significantly reduced) your alcohol intake so you may find you have a bit of a calorie buffer to play with come the weekend if you were a drinker pre-pregnancy. I have friends that have lost weight during pregnancy for this very reason.
Healthy weight gain is key and eating too much carries a number of risks including:
Excessive fat gain (the more you put on the harder your job is post-baby)
Increased risk of miscarriage (if the mother becomes obese)
Increased risk of gestational diabetes; and
Higher blood pressure.
These all add more complications for both you and the baby. Far from ideal.
Here are a few tips to help you manage this:
Find a balance between what your body needs and wants - If you are really craving something (and the rest of your day's not been a dieting shambles) give yourself a break and treat yourself. Aim for around 80% good nutritious food:20% less so for a good balance.
Eat for health. Before putting something in your mouth think - is this going to help my baby or could I swap it for something else just as satisfying but better for us both.
Start the day with a breakfast of protein and fat (eggs are perfect) which will fill you up and lead to fewer sugar cravings later in the day. Easier said than done when all your craving is carbs.
Plan your meals and snacks in advance so you are less likely to get hungry and reach for something off-plan. Keeping your blood sugar relatively stable throughout the day is key here so aim for balanced, regularly spaced meals throughout the day.
You are going to get bigger, just how much bigger is up to you, so if you are finding yourself in the biscuit tin more often than you should, you need to get some healthier buscuits.