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Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy?

Calorie Confusion: How Much Is Needed During Pregnancy?

Calories are the core to basic nutrition and health, and pregnancy is no exception. Calories give us the energy we need to be fully functioning human beings (though most days, I also need coffee). But what about during pregnancy? How do calories play a role in the growth and development of your baby? If you have heard some conflicting calorie information centered on pregnancy then this article is for you. Not pregnant? No worries, this article contains some general and (helpful!) information about our body’s main source of energy: the calorie.

Why are calories so important and where do they come from?

Everything we do, from walking to sleeping to supporting the development of a new baby requires energy. We derive energy from the foods and beverages we eat, which contain nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Energy from these nutrients is measured in calories. Foods and beverages contain different amounts of calories because they contain different amounts and profiles of these nutrients.

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How many calories are in certain foods and how much do I need?

Carbohydrates and proteins provide four calories in each gram, while fat provides nine calories per gram. Alcohol, though not considered a necessary nutrient and not recommended during pregnancy, also provides about seven calories per gram. Each person has unique calorie needs that depend on a number of factors, including height, weight, age, gender and activity level. When we consume too many calories, the excess calories are stored as body fat. This can contribute to weight gain and ultimately, a variety of health issues.

Do I need to eat more calories during pregnancy?

It is probably not a surprise that your calorie needs increase during pregnancy. But “eating for two” only requires an additional 340 calories during the second trimester and 500 calories in the third trimester. The first trimester does not require any extra calories. An important caveat is that if you are carrying more than one baby, your calorie needs are higher. Discuss what and how much to eat with your health care provider. Eating more calories will lead to weight gain, which will allow for your baby to grow and develop.

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How much weight gain can I expect during my pregnancy?

Weight gain goals are based on pre-pregnancy weight, height, age, and usual eating patterns. Every woman and every pregnancy is unique. Your healthcare provider can help you gain weight at a healthy rate throughout pregnancy.

A weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is normal for women with a body mass index, or BMI, of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 (“normal weight”). Women who are below healthy weight when they conceive (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2) should aim to gain about 28 to 40 pounds.  Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 (“overweight”) should gain no more than 15 to 25 pounds. Women with a BMI over 30 kg/m2 (“obese”) should gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds. If you are in this category, a health care provider or registered dietitian can help you meet these recommendations in a healthy way. Aim to meet your calorie and nutrient needs, while maintaining regular physical activity. Weight loss during pregnancy is not advised. Also, if you are carrying more than one baby, weight gain recommendations increase, so work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure proper weight gain.

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Are there patterns to weight gain during pregnancy?

Patterns of weight gain during pregnancy are as important as total weight gain. Weight maintenance or slight weight losses are normal during the first trimester (or first 13 weeks) of pregnancy. But most women should expect to gain about four to five pounds during the first trimester. Listen to your body’s signals and stop eating when you feel full to help you avoid the misconception that you are “eating for two.”

Women with healthy pre-pregnancy weights should gain about one pound a week during the second and third trimesters. Women who are underweight before conception should gain a little more than one pound per week. Those who were initially overweight should gain at a slower rate (a little more than a half a pound per week).

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What foods should I chose to increase my calorie intake and weight during pregnancy?

Choose foods and beverages that are “nutrient-dense.” This means that they are good sources of the building blocks your body needs. Nutrient-dense foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eat variety of foods from all five food groups. These include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat and beans. This will ensure that you and your growing baby are getting the nutrients you both need. It is also important to note that these principles also apply if you are not pregnant but are looking to increase your calorie intake.

Good nutrition is at the center for overall health, with calories playing a core role in overall health outcomes. While your calorie needs increase during pregnancy, the general principles of good nutrition, such as variety, balance, and moderation still apply during these 9 months and will help support overall health of both you and your baby.

For more information, check out this resource

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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