Story by CRYSTAL BREAUX // Photos by ELISABETH ASHLEY
Exercise five days a week. Increase your calorie intake by only 350 calories a day. Fill up on fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water.
It is important for women to know the guidelines for exercise and eating a healthy diet while pregnant. I encourage pregnant women to follow these guidelines as closely as possible and to not use the nine months of pregnancy as a green light to over indulge in eating and to become sedentary.
Bad eating and lack of exercise during pregnancy make it difficult when mothers later need more energy to care for the new baby. And these bad habits make it is more difficult to get back into a healthy routine.
Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. It strengthens muscles and improves flexibility, both which come into use when delivering the baby and recovering from the birth. Exercise during pregnancy also helps increase energy; control excessive weight gain; lessen stress, depression and anxiety; and improve sleep.
During a normal pregnancy, women can do light cardio and strength training. Pregnant women should spend 150 minutes a week doing cardio and strength training, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
However, before beginning any exercise women should consult with a doctor.
Women who had been intensely exercising before becoming pregnant are encouraged during pregnancy to exercise at their normal pace (in absence of any complications). Pregnant women who exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time need also to take in more calories.
Pregnant women who are not used to exercising should progress slowly and during the peak intensity still be able to hold a conversation.
Beginning in the second trimester, women should avoid exercises that require being in the supine position (lying on back) and could lead to tripping or falling.
I recommend pregnant women walk 30 to 45 minute three to four times a week and to do light strength training and stretching two days a week.
Eating healthy foods is not that much different during pregnancy than other times. The government’s choosemyplate.gov offers daily allowances and recommended portion sizes of the five major food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy. Following these guidelines ensures that both mom and baby are getting a balanced diet.
Women should increase a few vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Health experts recommend that women take 600 micrograms of folic acid to help prevent birth defects. Folic acid can be taken with a daily vitamin.
The daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy is 27 milligrams. This helps a woman’s body make more blood supply oxygen for the baby. Iron is found in most prenatal vitamin supplements.
Pregnant women also can eat iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, poultry, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals and prune juice.
All women, including during pregnancy, should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth. Milk, cheese and yogurt are the best sources of calcium. Broccoli and other dark, leafy greens are good sources of calcium as well.
The question I receive most often from women is, “How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?”
Women who begin at a healthy weight and do not face medical complications typically game 25 to 30 pounds during this time.
When I became pregnant with both of my children I was prepared to follow these guidelines and stay as healthy as possible. What I was not prepared for was suffering nausea and sickness for seven months during each pregnancy. Being sick left me with few exercises I could do or even food I could eat and keep down.
I made the best choices based on how I was feeling. On some days, I could exercise for 30 to 45 minutes. On other days all I could manage to do was a 15-minute walk. However, my goal was to always do something to stay healthy as possible.
Being pregnant is a time for women to eat a balanced diet, stay active and do the best they can for themselves and baby.
Enjoy pregnancy. It will not last very long.
Crystal Breaux is a licensed wellness and Christian Life Purpose coach. She helps women eat healthy, find time to exercise and discover God’s purpose for them. To learn more, go to www.yourfitnessdesigner.com.