Expert advice and real-life solutions, plus delicious recipes for every stage of pregnancy
You may be hungrier than ever, but nausea, indigestion and the need to control your calorie intake can make it tough to get the nutrition you and your baby need. Our expert advice and satisfying recipes will help you overcome the challenges each trimester poses.
Challenges Morning sickness; fatigue.
The good news about eating when you're newly expecting is that it's not much different from following a "normal" healthy diet, says Melinda Johnson, R.D., an Arizona-based expert on maternal nutrition. In fact, during early pregnancy there's no need to eat any more food than before.
The bad news is that you're likely to suffer from morning sickness, which can make eating almost anything difficult. But don't sweat it. "Your focus right now should be on finding foods you can keep down, not on nutrition," says Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., author of Feed Your Family Right (Wiley). Just make sure to take a daily prenatal vitamin; your doctor can prescribe or recommend one. Once you pass this bumpy stage you can concentrate on eating a variety of healthful foods.
Strategies and Solutions To combat queasiness, try popsicles, dry toast, ginger ale and citrus-flavored water; choose bland dishes without strong odors, which can trigger nausea; and opt for nutritious unheated foods or cold foods because they are less odorous that hot ones. Fight fatigue by pairing complex carbohydrates with protein, such as a whole-wheat pita and hummus, or apple slices and string cheese.
Expert Tip To ward off morning sickness, keep plain crackers by your bedside and nibble on a few before getting out of bed, suggests Zied.
Try: Ginger-Lime Sparkler
Challenges Eating a balanced diet without overeating.
With morning sickness a thing of the past, you now have your energy and appetite back. In fact, you will probably feel hungrier than normal. This is the time to eat 300 extra high-quality calories a day for the remainder of your pregnancy. Warning: That’s not very much. “It’s important not to go crazy,” says Zied.
Portion control will help you keep your weight gain under control. “It’s critical to gain enough weight but not too much,” says Seattle-based nutritionist Lola O’Rourke, R.D. (For the latest guidelines, go to fitpregnancy.com/weightgain.)
Strategies and Solutions “Choose nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense, foods,” O’Rourke suggests, which means focusing on lean meats, low-fat dairy, vegetables and fruit.
Concentrate on eating a variety of foods in moderation. Have three meals a day plus a couple of small, healthful snacks, choosing from at least three food groups at every meal and two at snack time, Johnson advises: “If you’re doing that consistently, you’ll inch out junk food.”
Aim for a balance of complex carbs (whole grains, vegetables and legumes) and lean protein (chicken breast, sirloin and tofu). Also important are calcium (from low-fat dairy foods and fortified soymilk); folate (found in fortified orange juice, cereals and bread); iron (from leafy green vegetables and lean beef); and vitamins A and C (plentiful in intensely hued fruits and vegetables).
Expert Tip For a custom prenatal eating plan, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, mypyramid.gov, and input your stats, advises Keecha Harris, Dr.P.H., R.D., a Birmingham, Ala.-based dietitian. Follow the recommendations at the upper range of each food category.
Challenges Excess weight gain; feeling deprived; digestive difficulties
The discomforts of late-term pregnancy may make you feel entitled to overindulge in high-calorie foods, leading to excess weight gain. “You don’t want to be counting calories, but if you’re not doing much physical activity, you don’t need as much food,” cautions Zied. At the same time, your expanding uterus is pressing against your stomach, making you feel full quickly and causing heartburn. Constipation is another frequent problem.
Strategies and Solutions Gauge how you’re doing in terms of your goals with weekly weigh-ins: You should put on only about a pound a week after the first trimester. To avoid feeling deprived, it’s OK to enjoy the occasional evenly spaced mini-meals throughout the day, stopping well before bedtime if heartburn wakes you up at night. High-fiber vegetables can help keep you regular; if you’re having trouble with gas, eat them cooked instead of raw.
Tempted to limit your fluid intake to avoid frequent bathroom visits? Don’t—you also need water to prevent constipation, says O’Rourke, who advises drinking 12 8-ounce glasses a day. Also limit yourself to one cup of coffee a day: It irritates the stomach and acts as a diuretic.
Expert Tip To avoid feeling full after just a few bites, nix beverages during meals, Harris advises.