Are you expecting a new addition or thinking about expanding your family? If you’ve got pregnancy on the brain, you may be wondering how to stay healthy for those 40 weeks. Whether you want to work up a sweat or make healthy meal choices, our tips should help you get started.
Think pregnancy means 9 months on the couch? Not so fast. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends regular exercise for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. However, you should always speak with your healthcare provider before embarking on a fitness routine.
If you’re cleared to sweat, exercise has many benefits for mom and baby including managing weight gain, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, and enhancing mood.
A great way to get started with exercise is walking. It’s easy to do almost anywhere and you don’t need special equipment (besides comfortable shoes!). If you were logging miles before you conceived, you may even want to continue running while pregnant.
If low-impact activities are more your style, check in with your local gym or fitness studio to see if they offer prenatal yoga classes. And if you’re looking for a way to completely take the stress off your joints, swimming is a great cardio option while pregnant. No gym? No problem. You can perform many body weight exercises like lunges and squats right from your own living room! Remember: you don’t have to be a gym warrior to reap the benefits of exercise; simply moving a few minutes each day will do the trick.
Staying active is just one part of a healthy pregnancy, so you’ll also want to pay a little more attention to what you’re eating. When you’re eating for two, there are some essential vitamins and minerals to include.
Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients during pregnancy, especially in the early weeks. Consuming enough of this essential vitamin has even been shown to prevent birth defects! So when planning out your meals and snacks, be sure to incorporate plenty of folic acid-rich foods such as fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans.
Pregnant women also need to include extra calcium and iron in their diet. When it comes to calcium, pregnancy is a great time to enjoy milk, smoothies, and yogurt. These dairy-based treats taste great, keep you hydrated, and help meet your calcium quota. Meat is often the best source of iron, but you can also get this nutrient from spinach, beans, and by cooking with a cast-iron pan.
Pregnancy is definitely a time to eat more, but doctors recommend that most pregnant women only gain 25-35 lbs during pregnancy. You’ll feel a lot better if you gain slowly and choose nutrient-packed foods. When cravings strike, try one of these healthy alternatives:
If you’re craving sweet: frozen grapes, a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey, a banana with a spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread, or clementine pieces dipped in melted chocolate.
If you’re craving salty: steamed edamame with a sprinkle of sea salt, homemade kale chips dipped in ketchup, whole grain pretzels, or homemade popcorn.
If you’re craving savory: a toasted english muffin with cream cheese, a cup of vegetable soup, roasted chickpeas tossed in your favorite seasoning, or guacamole and whole grain corn chips.
If nothing besides a slice of triple chocolate cake will do it, split a piece with a friend! It’s usually okay to indulge every once in awhile, however, moms who screen positive for gestational diabetes should check in with their doctor about special dietary restrictions. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. If you’re one of the 2-5% of pregnancies affected by gestational diabetes, making healthy choices and staying active can help keep it under control.
If you’re a mom-to-be, now’s a great time to get healthy. Start slowly and incorporate a few minutes of exercise and some nutritious foods into your day. Creating healthy habits will go a long way in helping you feel energized and strong throughout your pregnancy.
Megan is a writer, RRCA certified running coach, and new mom living and training in rural upstate New York. She competed in DIII track and cross-country at Wesleyan University and now focuses on the half-marathon and marathon distance.
Main Photo Credit; Third Photo Credit; Fourth Photo Credit: nd3000/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Syda Productions/shutterstock.com