In case you haven't heard the news... I'm pregnant!!🤰🏼
This little nutrition nerd baby is due August 2023 and I couldn't be more excited!
Before getting pregnant, I studied up on the latest research related to prenatal nutrition for MONTHS ~ what foods should I eat more of, which nutrients does my baby most need, what foods do I really need to avoid.
And it turns out there's a ton of conflicting data out there, which can make navigating the grocery aisle during pregnancy quite daunting.
But after months and months of gathering the data, I've created my own checklist of foods to focus on in order to feel great throughout pregnancy and to support the growth of my new baby nutrition nerd!🤓
In addition to the foods I'm focusing on, I'm also sharing my top first trimester tips that helped me survive the not-so-fun first trimester nausea (and how to get the best nutrition possible when your belly is in complete rebellion).
These tips and foods are what have been working for me, but of course if you are currently pregnant, it's important to speak with your midwife or OBGYN to see what works best for you and your pregnancy.
My Top Morning Sickness Tips
I'm currently 13 weeks pregnant and have officially exited the not-so-fun first trimester. Admittedly, for about four weeks during the first trimester I was feeling so awful that my nutrition was not on par. My main goal during those few weeks was to just get something inside my belly. Although, I did aim to at least keep my meals lower glycemic ~ mostly because I found that even if I did munch on some crackers to help ease my belly, it just made the nausea worse by dropping my blood sugar levels within an hour or so.
So if you're currently pregnant and feeling nauseas, these are some tips that worked for me:
sparkling water with lemon ~ I found the acidity of lemon juice helped to ease my belly.
eating whatever protein I could ~ during those first few weeks, I pretty much lived on cottage cheese, greek yogurt, my zero sugar protein powder and cheese. Not a super diverse diet, but it was the only protein my belly could handle. But eating enough protein allowed my blood sugar levels to remain fairly stable. This is huge because dips in blood sugar can cause nausea to kick in again.
embracing my weird cravings ~ I didn't have a ton of cravings, but the few I did experience were the typical salty ones - mostly pickles. And electrolyte balance is important while pregnant (and always!), which it just so happens that pickles are fantastic sources of electrolytes. Thankfully, I didn't experience much sugar cravings, but if I did, I stuck to whole fresh fruit. Even though it can be tempting to opt for that ice cream, the massive sugar load can ultimately lead to dips in blood sugar levels and more nausea.
walking (whenever possible) ~ Normally I love to walk. But at the peak of my nausea, I was maybe getting 2,000-4,000 steps per day. Whenever I was able, I took a short walk which I found helped improve digestion and (temporarily) reduce nausea.
switching to a gummy prenatal (for now) ~ You know that I'm not a fan of gummy vitamins because they come packed with sugar. But honestly, desperate times call for desperate measures. And in the midst of extreme nausea, the prospect of trying to swallow a huge horse pill-sized prenatal vitamin was something that I couldn't stomach. So during the first trimester, I switched over to a higher quality gummy vitamin called SmartyPants. It does contain 6 grams of added sugar per serving (yikes), but at least I was able to get those much needed nutrients in. Now that I'm less nauseous, I'll be switching back to those huge horse pill prenatal vitamins.
eating crunchy, fresh veggies and citrusy fruits ~ I found that I was craving cucumbers, carrots, bell pepper, lettuce and cabbage. I was also obsessively craving grapefruit. By embracing these cravings, I was able to avoid the more sugar dense, typical pregnancy cravings and instead opt for more nutrient dense alternatives.
eating anytime I felt even the smallest twinge of hunger ~ And typically, even before any hunger hit at all. I've been Intermittent Fasting for over 7 years, so typically I feel great eating big meals in a smaller eating window. But during those first few weeks of pregnancy, I needed food in my belly CONSTANTLY to ward off extreme belly aches. Now that I'm out of the first trimester, I'm back to my more usual three meal structure, but I definitely embraced eating at ALL hours of the day during that time.
The Top 6 Pregnancy Foods I'm Eating (As A Nutritionist)
Below are the top foods I'm focusing on to help support the growth of my baby. Again, remember to consult your midwife or OBGYN before making any changes to your diet during pregnancy!
Eggs are practically a multivitamin. They contain high amounts of vitamin K2 needed for bone and heart health, DHA to support baby's growing brain and various b-vitamins. Not to mention the critical nutrient called choline which helps with baby's brain development.
To hit my daily choline needs, I'm aiming for 3 eggs per day. Thankfully, I have chickens that are keeping me very well stocked!
Grass-fed Greek Yogurt
While the baby grows, it needs calcium and other minerals for development. So if you're not taking these foods in, then those nutrients can get pulled out of your own body, causing various nutrient deficiencies. Grass-fed greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, plus the vitamin K2 that's needed to help put that calcium into the bones.
I eat a minimum of 1/2 cup of grass-fed greek yogurt or skyr per day in either a parfait or smoothie.
Tough Cuts of Meat
Tough cuts of meat that require low and slow cooking (think stewing meat, ground beef, whole chicken or meat on the bone) are extremely rich in heme iron (the most bioavailable form of iron) and an amino acid called glycine. Iron deficiency is a big deal during pregnancy. In fact, during those first prenatal check-ups and blood draws, adequate iron levels are one of the main things that they're looking for. Low levels of iron could lead to a host of problems, such as higher risk of miscarriage or preeclampsia.(1)
To ensure I hit my iron and glycine needs, I'll be whipping up slow cooked stews, pot roasts, whole roasted chicken, bone broth and burgers.
High Fiber Veggies and Fruits
Gestational Diabetes has become more common in the US with rates as high as 8%.(2) This is probably due to a couple of factors such as increased insulin resistance during pregnancy and increased intake of refined sugars and carbs during pregnancy (ice cream cravings, anyone?). To help stabilize blood sugar levels, I'm focusing on high fiber veggies and fruits.
For veggies, these include (but aren't limited to): artichoke, zucchini, leafy greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, snap peas, spaghetti squash, cucumber, bell pepper, herbs, carrots, jicama and Brussels sprouts.
For fruits, these include (but aren't limited to): blueberries, lemon, lime, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple (in small amounts), banana (in small amounts), açaí and peaches.
Just like greek yogurt, aged cheeses can help provide the necessary boost of calcium and vitamin K2. Aged cheeses are also lower in lactose, making it the least likely dairy food to cause bloating. Plus, everything tastes better with cheese :)
Cheeses I'm focusing on include: cottage cheese (not an aged cheese, but still technically a "cheese"), parmesan, pecorino, manchego, grana padano and cheddar.
Interestingly, I typically am not the biggest salmon fan, but I've been really craving salmon throughout my pregnancy (even during those nauseous first few weeks!). I guess it's my body's way of telling me it needs all that DHA, selenium and iodine!
We're currently aiming for salmon about 1-2x/week.
And that's it for now! Stay tuned for additional pregnancy updates :)
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Autumn Elle Nutrition