You may recall that not long ago, I told you about an alarming study that showed that even though women may live longer than men, they're not necessarily living better.

That study blamed weight gained during pregnancy, but never lost, for at least part of the reason women suffer from obesity-related health problems later in life.

Now we have a new set of guidelines for women when it comes to weight gain during pregnancy – necessary these days because many women are already overweight by the time they conceive, thanks to years of poor dieting advice from the mainstream.

The Institute of Medicine says that women who are at their ideal weight, with a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9, can safely gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.

Women with a pre-pregnancy BMI between 25 and 29.9 should gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy, while women with a pre-pregnancy BMI of 30 or higher should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.

The Institute also suggests that women try to plan ahead and get to a healthy weight before they conceive, and that makes a lot of sense to me. Women who are healthy before their pregnancy are at less of a risk for diabetes, blood pressure problems, premature births and even C-section deliveries.

That means getting off what I call the low-fat, high-carb Torture Chamber Diet now, by eating better and getting a little more exercise. If you or your doctor want to know more about the science behind exiting the torture chamber diet, order my book, The Body Heals, 2nd Edition at www.thebodyheals.com.

And while you should keep these guidelines in mind when you do conceive, you shouldn't be dieting during your pregnancy – and you definitely shouldn't be trying to lose weight.  Save that for after your bundle of joy arrives.

Now, most women will be tempted to get back into that low-fat Torture Chamber after the baby is born. But that's exactly what you shouldn't do.

Both you (and, if you're nursing, your baby) need healthy fats in your diet. What you really need to avoid are those carbs – especially sugars and sodium-laden processed foods.

I know most families rely even more on packaged meals after the baby is born – life can be pretty hectic. But while meals that come in a can, box or freezer bag may be convenient, they're not what the doctor ordered.

Some of the worst of them are the so-called healthy choices being offered out of the freezer. Not only are many of them packed with sodium and carbs, they also offer far fewer of the essential nutrients and minerals you'd get from the equivalent fresh foods.

Folks like to give gifts when a baby is born. Maybe one of those gifts should be a good cookbook that shows how to quickly prepare simple and delicious meals using natural foods. Natural foods (before food is processed) still contain their vitamin and mineral content. What more could mommy and the new baby need?

That's a gift that would last a lot longer than one more baby blanket, and would help the whole family – not just the new mommy.

Think about that next time you're shopping for a mom-to-be.