If you’re reading this column, chances are you’ve experienced a pregnancy—either yourself or with your spouse. And you realize the significant role nutrition plays in a healthy baby. Let’s look at two common challenges while eating expectantly.
Got morning sickness? You’re not alone. Most women experience some queasiness or an aversion to certain foods. And it’s not limited to morning hours. Because it is so common, could there be an evolutionary reason for it? According to registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide, certain researchers believe morning sickness plays a protective role, keeping mom and her baby away from potentially harmful foods.
Increased hormone production is linked to the symptoms many women experience. Estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) all rise during the critical first trimester when women tend to experience the most problems. Levels of hCG start to rise as soon as you become pregnant. "So, if you’re feeling sick, you can at least take comfort in the fact that your pregnancy is progressing along," says Largeman-Roth.
While the only remedy for most cases of morning sickness is to wait it out until about the 17th week of gestation, you may benefit by eating whatever reduces that sensation of nausea.
Tips to help with queasiness
• Steer clear of foods with strong flavors or aromas. Some women have an exaggerated sense of smell that can make even a familiar aroma repulsive.
• Eat mini-meals every two-three hours to avoid an empty stomach.
• Drink beverages between meals, not with them.
• Try drinking lemon or ginger tea, lemonade, ginger ale or water flavored with lemon or ginger.
• Sniff lemons to help block background odors.
• Don’t feel guilty if the only foods that stay down have a less-than-pristine nutrient profile. This queasiness won’t last forever and you can get back to eating healthier soon.
Do you know anyone who actually craves pickles and ice cream? In reality, commonly craved foods are dairy, sweets, chocolate, fish and citrus fruits.
Why do four out of five women experience cravings during pregnancy? While some regard it as a learned behavior, others believe it may be your body’s way of getting the nutrients it needs for a healthy pregnancy. Largeman-Roth, who delivered her first baby just weeks ago, says a citrus craving could be your body’s way of getting more vitamin C and folate. Many of the women she contacted for her book described strong cravings for meat, perhaps linked to an increased need for iron.
Largeman-Roth suggests you indulge your cravings—but do it in a healthy way. For example, if you have an overwhelming craving for salt and vinegar potato chips, don’t buy a huge bag of them. Go for a small, single serving.
Whether this is your first pregnancy or your sixth, coping with eating challenges is easier when you can imagine the beautiful end result.
Creating a go-to pantry
Creating a "pregnancy pantry" packed with versatile and healthful ingredients makes meal prep a lot easier—even if you are retaining fluids and with a toddler hanging onto your leg. Eating fiber-rich whole grains, as well as vegetables and fruits, is especially helpful in combating pregnancy-induced constipation.
Consider these pantry (and refrigerator) picks:
• Vitamin-C and folate-rich fruits and vegetables, like oranges, grapefruit, berries, asparagus and spinach
• Low-fat, calcium-packed dairy, including milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir and cheese (string cheese makes a great on-the-go snack)
• Nutrient-rich whole wheat cereals, bread and pasta, grains, nuts and nut butters
• Omega-3 DHA-enhanced eggs, natural chicken and salmon
• Frozen berries, mixed vegetables and edamame. And don’t forget the ice cream.
Love That Bump Lemonade
8 ounces fresh lemon juice (about five lemons)
1/2 cup clover honey
64 ounces of cold water (8 cups)
Mint sprigs (optional)
After you’ve juiced all the lemons, set them aside. Place the honey in a heatproof container and microwave it for 30 seconds. It should be liquidy. If not, put it back in for another 10 seconds.
Whisk the warm honey into the lemon juice. At this point, you can use the honey-lemon mixture as a concentrate, making a serving at a time and keeping the rest in a covered container in the fridge. Add 1/4 cup of the concentrate to either cold water and ice for lemonade—sparkling water is a nice twist—or hot water for a soothing lemony beverage. Or you can add it to a big pitcher (filled up the rest of the way with the cold water), add a mint sprig and pour yourself a refreshing glass.
Makes eight 8-ounce servings
Nutrition facts per serving: 71 calories; 0 g fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 0 g protein; 20 g carbohydrate;
17 g sugars; 9 g fiber; 0 mg iron; 1 mg sodium; 10 mg calcium; 7 mcg folate; 14 mg vitamin C.
Reprinted with permission from Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide
(Sourcebooks Inc. 2009) by Frances Largeman-Roth.