Continuing with where I left off yesterday, talking about food and the morning sickness phenomenon, today we’re tackling how and what to eat during pregnancy.

Dieticians, doctors, midwives and every health nut and guru out there has some perfect plan or process you should follow for eating during pregnancy. The difficulty, though, is that not every person is the same. If you’re like me, you want to get a plan, stick to it, and have predictable results. That rarely happens.

So instead, we need to come up with our own plan, something that is easily modifiable, and based on what OUR specific needs, desires, cravings and aversions are.

For instance, if you’re suffering with morning sickness, you probably won’t be able to eat a high-in-fiber diet the first trimester (or perhaps the whole way through). Whole wheat, whole grain products are harder to digest, which makes our bodies work harder, and makes us sicker.

Or you may not be able to stand dairy (really, we’re supposed to drink a QUART a day?!), even though you’re supposed to eat plenty of protein, a lot of which is found in dairy. So you may have to find those nutrients elsewhere.

Perhaps you’ve been told to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, but the thought and taste makes you gag. Or suppose you really, really, REALLY wanted “eating legumes for morning sickness” method to work, but you couldn’t get past that first bite of lentils without making a run for the bathroom.

If you don’t have morning sickness, then the challenge of eating properly for two is a little less complicated. But just because you ARE eating for two, doesn’t mean you have to eat a whole lot more. Did you know it’s only about 300 calories more that you’re supposed to consume in a day? And did you know that’s only about a cup of yogurt and a handful of granola, or a jam packed smoothie and a piece of toast? That’s not very much when you break it down!

So, how, what and when should you eat during pregnancy? I still haven’t quite figured this out, and I probably never will, but here are some good ideas to follow, as well as a great list of super foods you should most definitely attempt to consume a lot of.

  1. Eat when you’re hungry
  2. Avoid any foods that are empty calories
  3. Eat as many super foods as possible

Sounds easy, right? Let me break it down for you a bit.

Eat When You’re Hungry

When we’re not pregnant, and tired, or bored, or thirsty, we can often feel hungry. But when you ARE pregnant, and you’re feeling hungry, it’s likely because you ARE hungry. So EAT when you’re hungry – because if you don’t, you risk a blood sugar crash, and definitely will end up curled up beside the toilet, or with a headache, or completely zapped of all energy you had left. Just make sure when you eat that you pick something that is going to NOURISH you – and drink with it!

Avoid Empty Calories

That would be any processed foods – chips, cookies, cakes, donuts, etc. But if your pregnancy cravings are calling for something sweet, splurge once in a while if it will make you feel better, and the rest of the time choose homemade, or something simple with less sugar, like a gingersnap or graham cracker. Or better yet, homemade granola! As a general rule, avoid those “junk” foods – if you don’t, you might actually make morning sickness worse! Here are some substitutions for your junk food cravings that will hopefully help get you out of eating those empty calories:

  • Frozen yogurt or sherbet for ice cream
  • Fruit popsicles or mineral water with fruit juice for pop
  • Rice cakes, rice crackers, popcorn, pretzels for potato chips
  • Banana or zuccini bread for cake
  • Granola or oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar for sweet cereals
  • Cinnamon raisin or blueberry bagel with cream cheese for donuts

Eat Super Foods

Super foods? Is that like Superman? What on earth is a super food? Super foods are foods that are packed with nutrients and are totally beneficial to our well-being. Below is a short list of some of the best super foods to pack in during pregnancy:

  • Beans and legumes – if you can eat them on their own, go for it! Otherwise cook them into soups or other dishes (chickpeas, lentils – high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, calcium and zinc)
  • Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. – eat them straight up or blend them into a smoothie (vitamin c, potassium, folate, fiber, and fluid – especially when you can’t drink much, consume as much fruit as possible!)
  • Broccoli, steamed ( folate, fiber, calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenoids)
  • Carrots (beta carotene)
  • Eggs (yay for egg mcmuffins! provides plenty of protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3)
  • Garlic – IN things :D (stimulates immune system, along with many other things)
  • Mango (bioflavonoids to aid the immune system)
  • Nuts (protein, fiber, calcium, iron, selenium, vitamin E and magnesium)
  • Pumpkin – make pumpkin bread or muffins (helps reduce blood sugar, contains loads of vitamins, carotenoids, and lots more!)
  • Red and orange peppers (vitamin C, A, B6, folic acid, fiber)
  • Salmon (protein, B vitamins, and the omega-3 fats)
  • Spinach, steamed (antioxidants, vitamin A (and lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin,
    selenium and omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Sweet potato (vitamin C, folate, fiber, carotenoids – which our bodies convert to vitamin A – and potassium)
  • Turkey (lean protein, selenium, B vitamins)
  • Homemade yogurt (protein, calcium, B vitamins, zinc)

I have definitely found any times I am able to eat these foods, I feel SO much better – and with the exception of sweet potato, I have no aversions to any of these foods, so double bonus!

Some of my most favourite and encouraging resources for how to eat while pregnant have included posts from Keeper of the Home (check out this post and lots of others for great food and recipe ideas), as well as a really great e-book from Modern Alternative Mama called Healthy Pregnancy Superfoods. Kate has really helped me to understand more clearly the essentials of a “pregnancy diet” and eating in a way that will encourage our bodies to work at their best.

To wrap this up, I want to encourage you with something. Again, not everyone is able to maintain the same diet, and not everyone maintains the same weight gain or health level during pregnancy either. I would like to encourage you not to fret if you are not able to eat the way that is “recommended”.

Eat what you can, but DO keep trying new things, and don’t lose heart! Especially if you feel you’re putting on more weight than other people around you, don’t compare! Everyone gains weight differently, and there’s no “right” amount for anyone. I’ll be the first to tell you, with my 4th now at 14 weeks, I’ve already put on 8 lbs. Yes, slightly frightening, but I know that once I am feeling better I will be able to eat things that are better for me and the baby.

And that’s the trick. If and when you do start to feel better, and you haven’t been eating the healthiest, that is exactly when you need to switch modes. Don’t stay in the same place of eating poorly. Get your act together, dig out some recipes, get some help with meals and get as many of those super foods as you can into you – in moderation of course!

Join me tomorrow as we talk about exercise during pregnancy and how important it is to keep on doing it!

Don’t forget to check out the posts from the other bloggers in the 5 Days of Mothering and Homemaking Series!