Good nutrition during pregnancy is important for you and your growing baby, and, like many women, you may find extra motivation at this time to make healthy choices. With all the options out there, it can be difficult to focus and know how to best stock your fridge and pantry. Tips to help you make healthy selections follow.
Many women find that the first trimester brings a combination of ravenous hunger, nausea and surprises such as strange likes and dislikes. Before you run out to buy pickles and ice cream, take some time to listen to your body. If you were a steak lover, for example, you may have a new aversion to meat. Or you may find only cheese pizza appetizing.
This is when moderation becomes key. Consider stocking up on healthy crackers, granola bars, nuts and fresh fruit. Keep these healthy snacks — as well as lots of water — close-by, for when you need a boost. Give in to your cravings within reason, but also keep up efforts to consume vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods, even if in small amounts.
Second and Third Trimester
Once the first-trimester woes have subsided, many women find they are able to tolerate a broader range of foods more typical of their usual diet. This is when you want to really concentrate on stocking the right nutrition to fuel your growing baby.
Healthy carbohydrates will leave you feeling satisfied and give you long-lasting energy. Good choices include whole-grain cereals and breads, brown rice, oatmeal and beans.
Lean proteins will also keep you feeling full and are important building blocks for fetal growth. Look for chicken and turkey, lean pork and lean red meats in moderation, as well as low-mercury fish such as salmon, white fish, tuna (non-albacore is best), shellfish and shrimp.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential for vitamins and minerals, as well as a healthy digestive system — as late pregnancy can bring bowel irregularity.
Low-fat dairy also contains healthy fats and fights hunger while providing the calcium needed in pregnancy.
Therefore, your fridge should be full of fresh dairy, fruits and vegetables and lean meats for the optimal pregnancy diet. As long as you are making healthy choices most of the time, giving in to occasional cravings for sweets and snacks in small amounts is a nice way to treat yourself. Try to avoid processed or convenience foods, such as chips and cookies, and foods high in chemicals and preservatives.
Preparing for Postpartum
With sleep deprivation, physical healing and the constant demands of your sweet newborn, you may find it difficult to address your own nutritional needs postpartum. However, good nutrition is as important as ever to keep you healthy and, if you are breastfeeding, is essential for good milk supply.
In the latter part of your third trimester, while you are nesting, do what you can to load your freezer. Options could include soups and stews, chili, healthy lasagna or anything else that reheats easily.
You can also make ready-to-go smoothie kits: Pack small sandwich bags with spinach and banana or berries, then simply throw into your blender with some juice for a quick, nutrient-rich snack. Oatmeal is another healthy selection that can boost milk production.
If friends and family offer to make you food, take them up on it! It may be some time before you can grocery-shop and plan meals, so take advantage of offers from others to do so — or investigate if your local store has a curbside pickup option.
When in doubt, focus on fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and dairy, whole grains and nutritious snacks that you can easily eat on the fly. Keeping healthy options stocked in your fridge and pantry will make it easier for you to make healthy choices.
Margaret K. Chory, MD, is a general ob/gyn practicing in Pittsburgh, PA.