10 ways to make your pregnancy pounds pay off

10 ways to make your pregnancy pounds pay off

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Pregnancy gives you a very important reason to gain weight: To nourish a baby and keep yourself healthy, you'll need additional calories, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

(You can find out how much food you need every day in our article on meal planning during pregnancy.)

But what's the healthiest way to do that, while maximizing nutrition and avoiding the bad stuff?

1. Don’t cut out fats

The key is to choose nutritious ones. After all, the fat in a doughnut and the fat in an avocado are not created equal. As much as you can, pick healthy fats; the avocado's monounsaturated fats are a lot better than the saturated or trans fats found in a doughnut or pastry—and it has vitamins C and K, as well.

Eating healthy fats will have a positive impact that lasts beyond pregnancy, says Bridget Swinney, a registered dietitian in Texas and author of Eating Expectantly: Practical Advice for Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy.

"Your body will store some of the fat you eat to use in your breast milk. For the healthiest breast milk, limit saturated and trans fats now and while you're breastfeeding," Swinney says.

Find out more about healthy fats pregnant women need and where to get them.

2. Choose foods that pack a nutritional punch

Eat foods that give you more for every bite, like yogurt, which contains calcium, potassium, and protein, and is also a powerful source of probiotics—the good bacteria that helps keep digestion healthy.

Other great picks are berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries. These are rich in vitamin C and fiber, but they're also packed with antioxidants, which help fight inflammation.

Mushrooms are another nutritional star, says Swinney.

"Mushrooms are a good source of minerals like selenium and copper, and they're also the only natural vegetarian source of vitamin D," Swinney says. "Some contain the daily value in one serving."

Find out more about the best foods for pregnant women.

3. Eat the whole spectrum

To make sure you're getting a broad range of nutrients, try to load up on colorful fruits and vegetables as often as possible.

Try dark green kale, ruby red strawberries, and orange squash. Swinney encourages pregnant women to aim for three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit each day.

In fact, fruits and veggies should fill half your plate at every meal, according to new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

(Want more info? The USDA offers a customized eating plan for moms-to-be that corresponds to your stage of pregnancy.)

And while it's often true that the deeper the color, the more nutritious the veggie, that's not always the case. Vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage are full of nutrients.

So are white potatoes, which often get a bad rap. A medium potato has only 110 calories and provides more than a third of the daily vitamin C needed during pregnancy, plus 2 grams of fiber. (Sweet potatoes are extremely rich in beta carotene but boast less vitamin C.) All the more reason to bake one up, add toppings, and call it lunch or dinner.

The dietary danger lurks in the serving size and the preparation: it’s news to no one that French fries – whether they're made from sweet or white potatoes – are high in fat and salt—not too mention temptingly easy to overindulge in.

Nutty brown also counts; try whole wheat breads or pasta to maximize your nutrients. If you’re already used to brown rice and whole-grain oatmeal, consider trying some new grains like bulgur and millet.

4. Pair foods to maximize their goodness

Some foods are even better together. No, we're not talking about peanut butter and jelly (though that can be a tasty, healthy snack), but rather about foods that enhance each other's nutritional benefits.

For example, foods rich in vitamin C – like citrus fruit, melon, berries, broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes – help your body absorb the iron from beans, grains, and eggs. So spoon salsa on your scrambled eggs or black bean tacos, or serve them with a side of melon or steamed broccoli.

Or try pairing a prebiotic food with a probiotic food to boost the effects of both. Prebiotics (such as bananas, artichokes, asparagus, onions, and whole grains) encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, while probiotics like yogurt, kefir, aged cheese, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh contain gut-healthy bacteria already—so one supports the other. Some winning combinations: yogurt with banana, artichoke hearts drizzled with a Greek yogurt sauce, or diced asparagus in miso soup.

5. Cook from scratch when you can

By making meals at home, you can control the ingredients, and you'll wind up with better quality, often for less money. For example, many store-bought salad dressings use less expensive – and less healthy – oils than those you'd use at home.

One idea: Make your own olive oil-based salad dressing to pour over a spinach or kale salad, then add avocado. Olive oil and avocado help your body absorb more lutein, which is important for eye and brain health, and beta carotene, important for the immune system.

Many people are intimidated by cooking fish, but it can be a snap. Cover a slab of salmon with some pesto sauce or olive oil, salt, and pepper, and cook in the microwave for about 3 to 5 minutes or the oven for 12 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Salmon has omega-3 fats that help build your baby's brain and eyes.

You can also make sweets like quick breads or cookies at home using healthier fats (canola oil or mashed avocado) and less sugar. (You can usually cut the sugar in a recipe by a third without noticing.) Try replacing some of the oil with high-fiber foods like black beans or prunes. And sneak in some extra nutrients by adding dried fruits and nuts.

6. Rethink your drinks

It's important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, but how you do it can make a big difference. Steer clear of soda, sweet tea, and sugary fruit drinks and juices – they're full of empty calories. Water, milk, or vegetable juice are better choices.

Drinking one-hundred100 percent juice (without added sweeteners) can be a great way to get one serving of fruit. Juice has a lot of natural sugars and calories, though, so limit your intake to one cup a day.

Pick juices with powerful nutrients. Cranberry juice may help prevent urinary tract infections; apple juice contains phytochemicals linked to improved respiratory health; and orange juice is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid, which are important for your baby’s development.

If plain water doesn't appeal, try a spritzer: Pour sparkling water into a glass and add a splash of fruit juice or pureed fruit (watermelon and mint tastes great).

7. Embrace eggs

They're cheap, easy to prepare, and great for your baby. A large egg is roughly 80 calories, over half of which comes from the yolk. Speaking of which, if you've been an egg-white omelet aficionada until now, pregnancy is a time to rethink that. Both the egg yolk and the white contain healthy lean protein. And yolks are packed with vitamins such as choline, which is important for your baby's developing brain – and may help your memory, too.

"When I was pregnant, I added a hard-boiled egg a day as a snack," says Jessica Corwin, a registered dietitian and community nutrition educator for Spectrum Health in Michigan. "Eggs might contain a little cholesterol, but they're full of nutrients and an easy, affordable way to get choline into your diet."

8. Break out the beans

Packed with protein and dirt cheap, beans can be a meal unto themselves. To make a big pot, soak dried beans overnight in water; drain the next day; add water to cover; and toss in garlic, onion, and spices; then cook until tender. Add them to a salad, combine them with rice, or team with a portion of meat for a well-balanced meal.

"Beans have protein, fiber, carbs, and no fat unless it's added," says Eleana Kaidanian, a New York registered dietitian who counsels pregnant women. "They have great iron content and they're really filling."

Legumes include beans, peas, and lentils, and there are so many varieties, “you can't get tired of them," says Kaidanian.

9. Choose treats that add value

Break out the dark chocolate. Though it does contain sugar and fat, it shouldn't be on your "unhealthy" list, says nutritionist Bridget Swinney. "Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains antioxidants that may actually help blood pressure," she says.

Still, Swinney advises sticking to small amounts. She recommends 1 to 2 tablespoons of cocoa or half an ounce of dark chocolate a day. (That's about what you'd get in a cup of hot cocoa, three dark Hershey Kisses, or one and a half Dove Promises.)

Another healthy splurge: dark chocolate-covered almonds. Just 11 contain 25 percent of your vitamin E for the day.

Or go for frozen yogurt or low-fat ice cream, which contains protein and calcium. Punch up the nutrition by topping it with sliced banana and slivered almonds.

10. Snack smart

Snacking and pregnancy are a good fit: Having smaller, more-frequent meals or snacks can help ward off morning sickness, indigestion, and heartburn. And healthy snacking provides a steady stream of nutrients to your developing baby.

But don't let regular snacking morph into all-day eating. Brush up on how much extra you need to be eating, which may be a lot less than you think.

"To stick to a well-balanced weight, pregnant women don't have to eat much more," says Ashley Roman, director of the NYU Maternal Fetal Care Center.

You can often get the extra calories you need in one healthy snack – yogurt with fruit, cheese and crackers, apples and peanut butter. "Not a hot fudge sundae," Roman says.

Bonnie Rochman is a health writer who is at work on a book about how genetics is reshaping childhood.

Watch the video: 10 Minute Cardio Dance Abs Workout: Burn to the Beat- Keaira LaShae (October 2022).

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