We’ve all heard the common phrase “you’re eating for two now!” when it comes to pregnancy diet and it’s one that drives me absolutely bonkers. On the one hand we’re encouraged to go for that third scoop of ice cream yet at the same time our culture still believes a woman’s body should just ‘bounce back’ immediately after having a baby.
While it is true that the caloric requirements increase slightly during pregnancy, it’s funny to suggest an apricot-sized baby needs the same amount of food as an entire second person and for many women, myself included, the thought of eating at all during the first trimester is enough to make a girl queasy.
The basic tenets of a healthy diet and lifestyle still apply when you’re pregnant. However, in addition to eating fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes, it’s important to up your intake of certain nutrients so your baby gets all the superfoods needed for a healthy start in utero. Today I’ll talk about choosing foods for each trimester and how to sneak these powerful nutrients into your meals even if you’re not craving a kale salad anytime soon.
**As always, these are general recommendations and you should talk to your OB before making significant changes to your dietary intake.**
Vitamin B (folate), Choline and Vitamin C play a vital role early in pregnancy, both to prevent neural tube defects and also to boost your weakened immune system which takes a hit in the first trimester. While you can supplement with a good whole food-based prenatal vitamin, naturally occurring sources of folate, like leafy, dark green vegetables, asparagus, lentils, and legumes give you the most bang for your buck. The tricky part is most women run the opposite direction from these foods during this time.
Kath Younger, RD and author of the blog Kath Eats, tells newly pregnant mamas to pretend you’re a picky two-year-old and blend veggies into smoothies, sauces or soups. She also says a little creativity with recipes keeps your diet well-rounded. For example, if pancakes sound great, but eggs turn your stomach, mix eggs into your pancake batter so you’re still getting a healthy dose of choline and protein.
Many women reach a turning point once they hit the 13 week milestone and are finally able to eat a more balanced diet, rather than the bland, mostly white/yellow carb-heavy diet of weeks past. No judgment! It’s not like my Trader Joe’s shopping cart wasn’t all snacks for the first twelve weeks.
Imagine you’re eating the rainbow when you make your plate of food to ensure you’re consuming a variety of nutrients. If it’s pizza or burger night then leave room on your plate for a side salad. Oatmeal topped with berries or a pasta salad loaded with veggies will do the trick. Opt for protein-rich snacks like nut butters and chia pudding so you’ll be satiated longer.
As iron needs increase along with increased blood volume, eating iron-rich foods like red meat, legumes, leafy greens, etc. will keep you feeling strong and energized. Now is the perfect time to whip up a batch of chili with some spinach mixed in. Also, you’ll be extra thirsty and drinking water like it’s going out of style, so add something fun to your water to keep it interesting, like cucumber slices, a few blueberries, or some citrus.
You’ve made it this far so keep up the good work! While your appetite will still be there, you’ll find yourself getting full more quickly, so eat the veggies on your plate first before diving into the pasta. Keep a variety of healthy snacks ready to go so you won’t reach for that bag of chips just because it’s easy. Have a stash of whole wheat crackers with cheese, veggie sticks with hummus, and trail mix on hand.
You also may feel like rewarding your efforts with extra treats and you absolutely should, but stay mindful in your choices. If you’re craving ice cream then choose one with a short ingredient list and likewise go for dark chocolate over a snickers bar. Continue to drink plenty of water, but indulge in a mocktail when socializing so you can feel festive along with everyone else. You’re in the homestretch!
How pregnancy influences diet is different for every woman and ultimately the most important takeaway is to simply let your intuition guide your eating when nourishing yourself and your baby. Registered Dietician Laura Grazioli says this perfectly by “having a healthy relationship with food during your pregnancy is just as important as focusing on getting all the right nutrients for your growing baby”. Educate yourself, seek out the advice of a nutritionist if you have questions, and enjoy your food!