An observational analysis of meal patterns in overweight and obese pregnancy: exploring meal pattern behaviours and the association with maternal and fetal health measures

Type Article

Journal Article


K. M. Ainscough; M. A. Kennelly; K. L. Lindsay; E. C. O’Brien; E. J. O’Sullivan; J. Mehegan; E. R. Gibney; F. M. McAuliffe

Year of publication



Irish Journal of Medical Science








Background: Nutrient intakes are known to be poorer among pregnant women with raised body mass index (BMI) than those with a healthy BMI. While meal patterns have the potential to influence obstetric, metabolic and anthropometric measures for mother and infant, limited data exists regarding meal patterns among pregnant women with raised BMI. Aim: To identify categories of meal patterns among pregnant women with overweight and obesity and determine whether patterns change with advancing gestation. To determine if maternal meal patterns are associated with dietary intakes and pregnancy outcomes. Methods: Prospective, observational analysis of pregnant women (n = 143) (BMI 25–39.9 kg/m2). Meal pattern data were analysed from 3-day food diaries at 16 and 28 weeks’ gestation. Outcomes include maternal blood glucose, insulin resistance, gestational diabetes, gestational weight gain and infant anthropometry. Results: Three meal pattern categories were identified: ‘main meal dominant’ (3 main eating occasions + 0–3 snacks), ‘large meal dominant’ (≤ 2 main eating occasions + 3 snacks and ≤ 2 main + ≥ 2 snacks). A main meal–dominant pattern prevailed at 16 weeks’ (85.3%) and a snack-dominant pattern at 28 weeks’ (68.5%). Dietary glycaemic index was lower among the main meal versus large meal–dominant pattern at 28 weeks (P = 0.018). Infant birth weight (kg) and macrosomia were highest among participants with a large meal–dominant pattern at 28 weeks (P = 0.030 and P = 0.008, respectively). Conclusion: Women with raised BMI changed eating patterns as pregnancy progressed, moving from main meal–dominant to snack-dominant patterns. Large meal–dominant meal patterns in later pregnancy were associated with higher glycaemic index and greater prevalence of macrosomia.