Diet Plans For Overweight Pregnant Women - Everything You Need To Know

✔ Research-backed

Gaining a little weight during pregnancy is normal and, in fact, healthy. But excessive weight gain can be alarming. To avoid or manage such a situation, you could try following some diet plans for overweight pregnant women to help maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.

While preparing a food chart for pregnancy, you should include foods from all the major food groups while controlling your calorie intake. An abnormal weight gain during pregnancy invites complications such as preeclampsiaiA pregnancy disorder characterized by high blood pressure, water retention, and protein content in urine , gestational diabetes, and even depression. These issues can take a toll on both your and the baby’s health.

In this post, we have provided some healthy food choices to include in your pregnancy diet, including tips to make delicious yet balanced meals.

In This Article

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Overweight women should gain only 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

A considerate weight gain during pregnancy is important for your health and the development of the little one in your womb. A woman who enjoys a normal weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds while overweight women should gain only 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy (1).

So, if you were overweight already, try to keep a close tab on your weight gain during these nine months. Despite aiming at gaining less weight, your pregnancy diet plan must consist of all the essential nutrients and minerals sources, such as fiber, calcium, iron, and carbohydrates, for proper nourishment of your baby.

During pregnancy, you are bound to gain weight due to numerous factors that include the following:

  • Increasing baby weight
  • Increased blood supply
  • Stored fat for breastfeeding

protip_icon Point to consider
Overweight women expecting twins should aim at gaining 31 to 50 pounds (14 to 22kg) during pregnancy (1).

Pregnancy Diet Plan For Overweight Women

If you need to keep an eye on the weighing scale while expecting, you must cut down on your unhealthy calorie consumption. You can remain healthy and disease-free by including nutrient-rich and low-calorie foods in your meal planning. The diet plan for overweight pregnancy can consist of several small meals at regular intervals. Remember, you must maintain your recommended calorie intake and plan your meals accordingly. Here are some of the superfoods that your pregnancy-balanced diet plan should include if you are overweight:

  • Low-fat yogurt or milk.
  • Roasted or baked foods, instead of unhealthy fried ones.
  • Fresh green leafy vegetables for folic acid and fruit salads.
  • Homemade foods and healthy snacks are far better than high-calorie junk or processed foods.
  • Your breakfast should consist of healthy cereals like brown bread, brown rice or whole wheat bread.
  • Lean proteins are a must-have for you.
Include lean proteins in diet plans for overweight pregnant woman

Image: Shutterstock

Important Dietary Tips For Overweight Pregnant Woman

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shared that pre-pregnancy obesity increased from 26.1% in 2016 to 29.0% in 2019. Since being overweight/obese before pregnancy can raise your chances of gaining more than the recommended weight when pregnant, it is imperative to maintain weight.
Here are a few simple tips that can help you regulate your weight gain during pregnancy:

  • As it would be difficult to change your eating habits drastically, you can portion control and limit the portion size of the foods you consume.
  • Use olive oil or low-fat butter instead of normal cooking oil. Excess fat intake or consumption can adversely affect your health and the growth of the fetus.
  • Eat whole foods such as whole wheat bread and fruits instead of consuming refined flour and sugar.
  • Reduce your sodium intake by using low-fat unsalted butter and less salt while cooking.
  • Increase your water intake and consume fruit juices to keep your body hydrated.
  • Avoiding processed foods and spicy things is a must, as it may irritate the stomach lining.

Risks Of Being Overweight During Pregnancy

Obesity during pregnancy can lead to complications like hypertension, diabetes, preeclampsia, fetal macrosomiai A condition where a baby is born with a weight that is significantly higher than the average (usually 4000 or 4500 g) , increased cesarean delivery rates, higher incidence of wound infections, etc. Some of the other health issues overweight women are likely to face during pregnancy include the following: (2)

  • Miscarriage: Due to the elevated level of BMI, you are at greater risks of miscarriage than other pregnant women.
  • Gestational diabetes: If your BMI is above 30, you are more prone to develop gestational diabetes in comparison to other would-be moms.
Overweight increases the risk of gestational diabetes in pregnnacy

Image: Shutterstock

  • Delivery complications: Being obese, you are also prone to preterm labor. An unhealthy weight during pregnancy also increases the chance of needing birth intervention, including induced labor, cesarean and shoulder dystociaiA condition where the baby’s shoulders become stuck during the birthing process .

protip_icon Quick fact
Obese women may face increased risks for long labor, blood clots (thrombosis), heavy bleeding after childbirth, and anesthetic complications (6) (7).

Your obesity can cause the following birth defects in your baby:
  • Neural tube defects, such asspina bifidaiA congenital disorder where the spinal cord doesn't fully develop, leading to physical and neurological complications
  • Heart defects
  • Cleft palateiA congenital disability where the baby’s palate (roof of the mouth) is abnormally developed
  • Limb reduction defects (3)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I get in shape while pregnant?

Exercising is beneficial during pregnancy as it can strengthen your muscles and improve circulation. Safe and medically approved exercises may help your body adapt better to the changes, prepare you for the delivery, and help you get back in shape after the delivery (4).

2. Can I go on a diet to lose weight while pregnant?

Pregnancy is not the time to go on a diet. The fetus is dependent on the mother for nutrition, and weight-loss diets could hinder the baby’s growth and development. If you are overweight or obese, your medical advisor and dietician will prescribe you a suitable diet.

3. What foods should overweight pregnant women avoid during their pregnancy?

An overweight pregnant woman should control carbohydrate intakes such as bread and pasta and avoid carbonated drinks, sweets, and foods with refined sugars, high salt content, and fatty meats.

4. Are there any risks associated with following a diet plan during pregnancy?

There is no risk associated with following a diet plan during pregnancy. A healthy diet plan will help in a smooth and swift pregnancy and delivery. However, talk to your doctor or nutritionist if you have any concerns regarding your diet or changes you wish to make.

5. What types of exercises can overweight pregnant women do in addition to following a diet plan?

Some exercises which are safe during pregnancy include walking, cycling, swimming, pilates, yoga, and jogging (8).

6. How can overweight pregnant women overcome cravings and the desire to eat unhealthy foods?

Unhealthy food cravings can be swapped with healthy foods. To overcome sugar cravings, try eating whole fruits or freshly squeezed fruit juice, and include healthy snacks like roasted chickpeas, sweet potato, fresh salads, smoothies, and roasted meats and vegetables instead of junk fried foods.

7. Can overweight pregnant women still eat out or order takeout while following a diet plan?

Yes, an overweight pregnant woman can still eat out, provided the food is eaten in moderation, from a reliable restaurant, and not very often.

Pregnancy-induced food cravings and the wrong assumption that you need to eat for two may cause excess weight gain, especially if you are overweight at the time of conception. Gaining excess weight increases the risks of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and may also be detrimental for the fetus. However, diet plans for overweight pregnant women should focus on cutting down unhealthy calories from junk food without compromising the nutritional requirements. Including whole fruits, whole grains, salads, lean meat in your diet, and eating small portions multiple times a day may help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy.

Infographic: Dietary Tips For Overweight Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is a time of physical and hormonal changes, and being overweight can complicate matters. However, implementing the right dietary strategies is the key to managing excess pregnancy weight gain. Our infographic could be a handy guide for pregnant women who are overweight, so skim through it and switch to healthier food choices to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

manage diet and maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • A nourishing pregnancy diet for overweight women should include roasted or baked dishes, low-fat dairy, fresh vegetable and fruit salads, whole wheat bread, and lean meats.
  • To control weight gain during pregnancy, overweight women should restrict portion sizes, use low-fat cooking oils, minimize sodium intake, and increase fluid intake.
  • Overweight women are more likely to have long labor and delivery problems during pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy obesity increases the risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, and fetal complications.
  • Pregnant women should prioritize healthy eating and considerate weight gain.
Diet Plans For Overweight Pregnant Women_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Weight Gain During Pregnancy.
    https://www.cdc.gov/maternal-infant-health/pregnancy-weight/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm
  2. Overweight/Obesity and Pregnancy.
    https://health.hawaii.gov/mchb/files/2013/05/obesity.pdf
  3. Adolfo Correa and Jessica Marcinkevage; (2013); Adolfo Correa and Jessica Marcinkevage.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866281/
  4. Exercise In Pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/
  5. Weight gain during pregnancy
    https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/weight-gain-during-pregnancy
  6. Being overweight in pregnancy and after birth patient information leaflet
    https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/browse-our-patient-information/being-overweight-in-pregnancy-and-after-birth-patient-information-leaflet/
  7. Overweight and pregnant
    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/weight-management/overweight-and-pregnant
  8. Pregnancy and exercise
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-exercise#suggested-exercise-activities-during-pregnancy

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Dr. Mona Hardas is a practicing Ob/Gyn from Flint, Michigan, with over 20 years of experience in private practice. She is also actively involved in teaching medical students and residents as an associate clinical professor from MSU College of Human Medicine.

Read full bio of Dr. Mona Hardas