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Ultra Sound Pregnancy

An ally in battling pregnancy weight gain: fiber

Excerpted from the Ultra Sound Pregnancy blog on Boston.com.

It’s one of the first things a woman is asked to do when she enters the exam room at a prenatal wellness visit — step on the scale.

The number climbs slightly with every visit. It’s perhaps the one period in life where it should.

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Still, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but think about life after pregnancy and whether the 20 added pounds that have come on so far will ever come off.

My doctor has mentioned many times that my weight succession has been normal. That evidence has been supported by many people who say, “you look great!” It’s difficult to accept the affirmation on days when I just don’t feel that way.

A woman gains on average 25 to 30 pounds, depending on their pre-pregnancy weight, according to the American Pregnancy Association. That added weight is necessary for both the baby and the mother during pregnancy, and is important for breast-feeding.

But should women be more focused on the number on the scale, or how she feels about herself?

Indeed, a mother’s psychological well-being may be just as important as her physical health. Fortunately, eating healthy can help both, said Susan Roberts, senior scientist and director of the energy metabolism lab at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University.

“Pregnancy is a lot harder than a lot of women let on,” said Roberts, whose lab is currently recruiting participants for a study on pregnancy weight gain. “There’s nothing like lack of sleep and stress to push you into bad food habits.”

“By starting with the right foods, you won’t have to worry about the scale as much,” she said.

According to Roberts, what many of us may be lacking the most in our diets, and a key to maintaining healthy weight gain, is fiber.

However, the average American eats a half to a third less fiber needed in their diet, said Roberts.

High-fiber foods travel down the digestive tract faster, making it easier for a pregnant woman’s squeezed digestive system to push through.

Adults should consume about 28 grams of fiber per day, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Incorporating more fiber into an already healthy diet not only makes a woman feel full with a smaller portion, but may also help a woman feel better about her successive weight gain, said Roberts.

I do feel better when I eat healthier, but I’ve never been one to track the numbers, calories or otherwise. I do, however, track the types of food I eat to make sure I’m not over-consuming. The conversation got me thinking about the types of foods that are high in fiber. I’m not sure how diligent I’ve been in getting the recommended amount of fiber but I plan to count my daily intake this week.

Lara Salahi is a multimedia journalist whose specialty is reporting health and medical stories. Read her blog on
Boston.com/UltraSoundPregnancy.
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