Pregnancy often leads many women to peruse cookbooks and search for recipes that are both appealing and nutritious. The combination of nausea, vitamins and need to feed your growing baby can be stressful for expectant mothers. Trying to count calories, learn about the significance of different nutrients, balance food groups and find foods that are as appealing as they are healthy all at once doesn’t have to leave you looking for ways to cook up an easier way to eat.
“Pregnant women should look at pregnancy as a time to begin eating healthy,” says Rachel Brandeis, of Alpharetta, Ga., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Proper nutrition is important during pregnancy. When you understand what you and your baby’s nutritional needs are, you’ll be able to satisfy your taste buds and caloric needs nutritiously. You’ll also ensure you enjoy what you eat when you’re expecting.” Here are 5 tips to get you started:
1. Counting Calories
“Moms-to-be shouldn’t think that they are eating for two,” says Dr. Randy Wittman, an OB/GYN in Crystal Lake, Ill. Moms-to-be should approach eating as though they need to eat ‘a little extra’ in order to consume the required additional 300 calories a day that adult pregnant women require.
The flip side to eating for two is contemplating dieting during pregnancy. The recent trend of fad diets is often alluring to women who are watching their waistlines. These diets are not recommended for expectant and nursing women because they do not allow for consuming calories from balanced sources. “An expectant woman and her baby need nourishment from all food groups,” says Brandeis. “For example, restricting carbohydrates limits folic acid intake and iron. This can lead to anemia or neural tube disease.”
2. Start Your Day Right
Nutrition experts agree that starting the day with a healthy breakfast offers countless benefits. Unfortunately, when you’re battling morning sickness or are too rushed to prepare an elaborate meal, you easily skip breakfast. “Yogurt sprinkled with low-fat granola, a bag of trail mix or a peanut butter sandwich made on whole-wheat bread are terrific breakfast options,” says Connie Diekman, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Creatively combining commonly eaten ingredients lets you eat foods that supply protein and heart-healthy nutrients. “Almost every day, I ate fresh, homemade salsa with sesame seed crackers or cottage cheese with tomatoes,” says Angela King, a mother of two from Kenmore, N.Y. “That was my snack, lunch side dish and even part of breakfast some days.” Whole-grain crackers and peanut butter or hummus and fresh vegetables are just a few more foods that make eating breakfast or snacks on the go quick and easy.
3. Super Snacks
Relying on small meals or several healthy snacks throughout the day helps many women combat nausea and consume their recommended daily nutrients. “Consider fruit or whole grains instead of drive-thru restaurants or sugary foods,” says Brandeis. Specializing in maternal nutrition, Brandeis explains that protein-packed snacks are healthy and also boost an expectant mother’s energy level. “Easy options such as crackers and peanut butter offer the combination of protein and carbohydrates,” she adds.
Although the stereotypes of craving pickles are not always accurate, expectant women do often experience pangs for certain foods or find that their sweet tooth is overactive. Moms-to-be often find themselves compelled to indulge in double-thick chocolate shakes and juicy cheeseburgers. “Following a well-balanced diet plan doesn’t preclude giving up all tasty treats or indulgences,” says Brandeis. Feed your cravings in a healthy fashion. Swap a double-thick shake for one made with low-fat ice cream. Bake a cake following a low-fat recipe or make a pizza with low-fat cheese.
4. Powders, Bars, Vitamins and Shakes
Diekman stresses the significance of eating whole foods. “Vitamins should be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and not thought of as a replacement for healthy foods,” she says. Whole, intact foods instead of foods that have been processed and grilled or steamed foods instead of fried foods are strongly suggested as alternatives to energy bars and liquid processed shakes. “Mix cottage cheese with granola, fresh fruit or nuts for a snack or meal that is more nutritious than a drink geared toward supplementing nutrition,” she adds.
5. Don’t Forget to Hydrate
“It is important for expectant women to remain properly hydrated and aware of the nutritional value of what they are drinking,” says Diekman. Read the labels of juices, flavoured waters and colas. Often there are a lot of sugars and empty calories in many drinks. Choose beverages that supply calcium and folic acid when you’re looking to quench your thirst. “Depending on their doctor’s recommendation, expectant mothers also need to reduce or completely restrict their caffeine intake,” says Diekman.
Read more on dehydration during pregnancy
Healthy Snacks During Pregnancy
Here are some healthy snack options courtesy of Doreen Chin Pratt, a registered dietitian at Women’s & Infant’s Hospital in Providence, R.I.