One of my favorite memories from my first pregnancy was going on a cruise when I was 22 weeks pregnant. While the people around me were complaining about their expanding waistlines, I relished the fact that I was under doctor’s orders to gain a few pounds. I was in the right place for that!
Eating everything in moderation is a widely accepted principle, but that can be quite a challenge when cravings take control. What helped me control those cravings (especially when faced with the dreamy buffets on that cruise) was remembering that “eating for two” is essentially a myth. When you’re pregnant, your body is better able to extract nutrients from food, so you don’t need to double up on food to nourish your baby – you just need to make sure you’re getting enough of the right nutrients. As is so often the case, what the movies told me about pregnancy turned out to be false! On the other hand, it’s also really important to make sure you’re not eating too little because you’re worried about weight gain.
Below are some general nutrition tips, but be sure to talk candidly to your medical team to figure out what’s best for you and your baby. What are your favorite pregnancy nutrition tips? Comment below!
Aim for balance.
One of the surest ways you can improve your diet is to eat more whole foods and fewer packaged foods. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally indulge in your favorite frozen foods, but try starting your meal with a salad of colorful vegetables and dark leafy greens, have a fruit salad for dessert instead of ice cream, and opt for wholesome protein choices like eggs, beans, legumes, and lean meats.
Whether you prefer several small meals throughout the day or three “square” meals, keep in mind the recommendations of your doctor and the American Pregnancy Association, and check out My Pregnancy Plate for a visual representation of a balanced pregnancy diet. And if you’re dragging midday, these pregnancy snacks can help you make it through.
Some women struggle to get enough fluids even when they’re not pregnant. Touch base with your medical team to find out how much water is right for you, and ask if milk or other non-caffeinated liquids might count towards your hydration goal. If you’re not a big water fan, add lemon or other fresh fruit for some light flavor. You can also satisfy your craving for hot beverages and get appropriate hydration at the same time by heating up water – it’s definitely not a yummy cappuccino, but it might give you some of the same sensations. Drinking ice-cold water out of a cup with a lid and straw can also mix things up.
Take a prenatal vitamin.
Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should be on a good prenatal vitamin. That said, it might be helpful to focus on eating a well-balanced diet and consider vitamins as your daily insurance, just in case you didn’t get all the nutrients you needed from your food that day. Check in with your healthcare team and follow their recommendations. You also might need to experiment with a couple different brands to find a prenatal vitamin that won’t irritate your digestive system.
Since every woman and every pregnancy is different, the right balance of nutrients can vary from person to person (and even day to day). Talk to your healthcare team, be open about what you’re eating, and follow medical recommendations. And listen to your body. It knows what makes it feel good; give it that – love it the way you love the baby you’re growing.
Be you bravely,