My Pregnancy Nutrition
I will preface this post with a few disclaimers:
I am not a nutritionist or counselor of any kind.
I LOVE chocolate, especially in chips… in cookies.
I set a goal to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, and with the help of my dear husband, I did not blow right past it.
This is my personal story, and you are welcome to disagree. My main point here, as with EVERY pregnancy post I have done, and will ever do, is to listen to your own body.
A few things that I’m going to throw right out there just to get your juices flowin’. I did not cut out caffeine; I cut down from two to a single shot of espresso a day, but not out completely (check back again when I’m nursing). I eat deli meat, usually warmed up, but I’ve been known to eat a cold sandwich in a pinch too. I did not drink or smoke during my pregnancy, though I made a lot of breads and sauces with beer and wine at one point because things get tough, okay? I am not the epitome of health by any means. In scientific, body-mass-index terms, I am considered overweight by about 20 pounds on a normal day. I worked out prior to getting pregnant, and I worked out during my pregnancy in ALL different ways.
Some background: I was a chubby kid. I think I was adorable, but right around 5th grade I got my first ‘fat kid’ joke, and it was not funny. Thankfully, my mom built up all of her daughters to believe we are lovely little flowers, even when we were going through puberty and the not-so-beautiful zits, attitudes, and remarks from others that go hand in hand with growing into womanhood. I slimmed out (and lengthed about 3-4 inches) over the summer of 2006, and my mom and I worked out daily together. We started watching what we ate together, learning about protein shakes and the importance of having a calorie deficit to lose weight, and also the effects of cardio and lifting small weights. Nothing crazy, this was all done in home for us. I went into my freshman year of high school a new person! I was 3 sizes smaller in jeans than I’d ever been and I was squeezing my medium framed self into my best friend’s sized small jackets, but she was sweet enough to just let me force myself into them, because ‘that made me a small’. I had never been defined by the number on my scale, I hadn’t learned unhealthy diet habits, and I didn’t do anything that thousands of people hadn’t done before to lose weight. It was all very natural. I then became a three-sport athlete and I placed a lot of importance on looking good, eating when I was hungry, and drinking to thirst, always. I always had a mindset that if I started to feel my jeans get a little tight, I needed to cool it on the nacho cheese at lunchtime and opt for a healthier alternative.
Being a chubby kid makes for a self-aware adult in my opinion. I was made to be aware of myself at a young age, not only because it was embarrassing, but because I knew it wasn’t healthy. It runs in both sides of my family to be overweight, we live in America where I’d assume most people are overweight to be honest, and it’s extremely easy for me to gain weight. For example, each year from October to December, I usually float about 10-15 pounds heavier than normal. After the holidays, give it about a month, and I’m fluctuating closer to my normal weight without crash dieting, just a healthy, balanced meal and 3-5 days a week at the gym. Another example, I met my goal weight of 180 pounds just before my wedding day in October 2017. The day we returned from our honeymoon, just three weeks later (from Greece, Italy, England, and Barbados with all the pasta, bread, wine, and gelato my body could possibly handle) and I was a stout 200. Yes. 20 pounds. 3 weeks. You do the math. Unfortunately for me, the holidays came right after so I floundered there for a while. Needless to say, In March 2018 when I got pregnant, I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be weight wise, but I didn’t let that get me down. I knew the real work would come in the next 9-10 months when I was feeling intense cravings that I’d have to really sit down and figure out if they were true hunger pains, boredom, or pregnancy induced crap-food-overload (I feel like that’s a thing).
I went into this pregnancy head on, with all the research I could find, and here I am with a packaged up little set of rules for yourself, to outline a healthy pregnancy. I have (to date at 35+ weeks pregnant) gained 28.5 pounds; my doctor anticipates a total of 35-40 pounds total weight gain. I do not have any preexisting health conditions that would throw off my weight gain or loss, nor do I have gestational diabetes. I give into my intense cravings once a week where I’ll get fast food or a really high fat/calorie dessert, and I cook as cleanly as I can handle most days (chicken has smelled like wet dog to me since my first trimester, so that’s kind of out for a while). My husband gently guides me to eat cleanly, and supports me even further by eating cleanly with me, which makes this so much easier (10 out of 10 highly recommend having your man eat clean with you; just remind him that dad bod’s aren’t “in” until you physically have the baby bwahahahaha).
Here’s my list of pregnancy nutrition advice (that I literally write as my husband is on his way home from Taco Bell. This is a guideline people! Don’t think you’re a failure if you don’t stick to every single piece 24/7!) that I found to be helpful while picking out food and drink for my growing baby (and self):
1. You’re going to gain weight and that is totally normal. Don’t have body dysmorphia here. There is a weird time between your second and third trimesters where you just look bloated, not pregnant, and you’re worried people will think you’re just chubby, not carrying new life inside of you so you frantically find ways to bring it up during every social encounter. Totally normal. Your bump is coming, you just wait. You’re going to gain baby, blood, uterine muscle, placenta, breast matter, milk, the works! A normal weight person with a BMI between 18-25 should gain 25-35 pounds.
2. You’re not actually eating for two. It’s a sad, sad myth, but if you need a reason to make my small batch chocolate chip cookies, here’s your sign and I won’t mention the myth again! The necessary caloric increase won’t actually come until your 3rd trimester when my doc recommended 2-300 calories extra per day. If you’re overweight, you’ll actually be just fine gaining less than your normal or underweight counterparts, somewhere around 11-25 pounds (we can all laugh at that, but know that it’s a true calculation). I’m definitely considered overweight with regards to my BMI, and I’ll end up gaining 35-40 pounds total. That was just my pregnancy journey.
3. 2-300 calories is not a lot. This is not a full blown 4th meal. One egg on an english muffin, one greek yogurt parfait, one pita with hummus, one protein shake with milk, etc. It’s basically another large snack. I like to eat smaller meals throughout the day anyway, so I try to keep between 1800-2200 calories a day, personally. That’s 6-8 small meals for me.
4. You do need to eat more if you’re exercising. If you’re extra hungry when you work out, that too is totally normal. Make sure to snack on something healthy to make up for those lost calories momma!
5. You’ll need to eat more often. Thankfully, the body is pretty well designed thanks to evolution. The coolest part able being pregnant (to me anyway) aside from the actual bearing a child part, is that you get to eat literally all the time. Once you do require additional calories, your body can’t really handle huge meals anymore. Your guts are squished and you get full (or uncomfortable) quickly when you do eat. I love being able to eat every few hours, because it keeps my energy levels up, and my discomfort levels down. Basically, I take everything as a sign to eat. Fatigued? Eat. Tired? Eat. Headache? You should prooobably eat.
6. Along with food, you’ll need more water. Blood volume is increasing, and your baby lives in a little water sac that replaces an ungodly amount of times throughout the day. The body’s need for rehydration is REAL here. Get in the habit of carrying around a big water bottle like a 32+ ounce Hydroflask and refill it often. I drink about six, 32 ouncers a day right now, and I set time goals, though I usually fly right past them (ex. First bottle by 11 AM, one with lunch, one by 2 PM, one by 4 PM, one by 6 PM, one with dinner, and then I take one to bed as well). Don’t count juice, coffee, tea, etc. It’s fluid, but not water.
7. Whether you eat well or not, you’ll get uncomfortable. Heartburn, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea are all very common in pregnancy, though they may affect you more if you have a sugary or high fat diet. Eating well helps you maintain your proper weight gain, but it doesn’t mean your body won’t act adversely towards certain foods. Tomatoes absolutely rip my stomach to shreds if I eat them after 2-3PM, and they certainly cause mild discomfort if I eat them at all. Sometimes, that pasta is worth it though. While we’re here, I’ll just share a few things I’ve found about dealing with discomforts caused by foods:
Heartburn: Try to narrow down what exactly in your diet is hurting you. It could be something specific, it could be everything. If you can’t identify it to avoid it, or you don’t want to give it up, try not to eat it after 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Eating it before bed can really hurt you when you lay down. On the same note, you can sleep with a few pillows propping you up on an incline to relieve the stomach acids from creeping up on you. Avoid spicy, fatty, and high sugar foods in the evening, and try to eat dinner early so you have plenty of upright time before bed. You can of course take Tums or Mylanta, whatever your doc recommends, but I honestly found that eating greek yogurt about an hour before bed saved me a tremendous amount of pain and worked better than any meds or remedies I previously tried. Like clockwork, if I skip my nightly yogurt, I usually have digestive issues.
Gas: I don’t know if you already pass gas in front of your spouse or not, but believe me, you will whether you elect to or not while you’re pregnant. Something with the relaxation of the muscles and the slowing down of the metabolism can cause gas that literally makes you feel like you might burst. Sometimes, I would have gas so severe, that I thought I was going to vomit and go to the bathroom at the same time. Totally normal. Again this can have a lot to do with your diet so avoid foods that give you severe indigestion.
Diarrhea: I won’t lie to you, I have dealt with this one since day one of pregnancy. I’d rather have this ailment than constipation, but it’s still uncomfortable. You can let your doc know and they may want to keep an eye on it, or, if it’s severe, get you on meds and fluids, but if it’s mild and only a couple times a week like mine was, I just beared with it. Again, certain foods...um.... went right through me… so I learned to take it easy on those, but what’s more important is staying hydrated. You’re losing fluids, make sure to replenish.
Constipation: Again, always make your doctor aware of any severe issues, though I didn’t have much of an issue with this one. I eat a ton of fiber in my fruits, veggies, and grains, and I drink water like crazy which I think helped save me from this particular issue. When I do have tummy trouble here, I tend to use foods to help me out. Coffee has a way of working with me here, but I’ve also employed broccoli, grapes, berries, and more to help ease my pain.
Nausea: Probably everyone’s least favorite on the list, and the one that afflicts us all most often. Nausea thankfully only got me a few times, but when it did, it was usually smells that sent me over the edge. Chicken, as I mentioned, was off limits for a long time in our house because it smelled like wet dog to me and would send my tummy into a tantrum. When I did feel nauseous, I would try to rest if I could, get down some water or Gatorade if water was too plain, snack on crackers, and for some reason salty broths helped me too.
8. Macro and micronutrients should always be important, but even more so now! It’s a common myth that the baby will ‘take whatever it needs from mom’ to grow itself. If you’re not ingesting any Vitamin C, your body won’t just make extra for your little one. If you can’t keep a prenatal vitamin down, try to eat your micros in your everyday diet, or opt for a gummy, even if it doesn’t have iron, etc. some nutrients are better than none at all. With that being said, I use MyFitnessPal to track my daily food intake, and focus on my macros because I do take my prenatal vitamins regularly, as well as a vitamin C supplement to boost my immune system and iron absorption. Your macronutrients are:
Protein: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING GUYS!!! Protein helps support your baby’s growth throughout pregnancy. You should be ingesting 80-125 grams of protein daily according to most experts. That’s fish, chicken, lean red meats, eggs, and protein shakes (the good ones, not the ones with all the extra crap). You can add in nuts and dairy products as well, but note your fat intake with these guys. Good fats are fine, but fat is fat.
Carbs: This is your personal energy source, and most experts say that you want a nearly equal amount of carbs to protein ratio if not a little more carb heavy, around 100-160 grams of healthy carbs. These are fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, yams/potatoes (with skin!), rice, oatmeal, etc.
Fats: This is your smallest macro group, but still so important. Fats should never be more than 30% of your daily intake, somewhere between 30-50 grams of healthy fat is acceptable here. These are avocados (omg, my faaave), cheese, eggs with yolk, salmon, nuts, oils, etc.
Micronutrients to note and ask your doctor about suggested amounts are: Calcium, Iron, Folate/Folic Acid, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.
9. Snacking: So just a few tips from experience here. 1) Carry around easy ‘to go’ snacks in your purse. Hanger is a thing, and it’s kicked up a notch when your pregnant. For me, an empty tummy for even just a minute too long meant I was going to be nauseous for hours. I like to have a protein bar/premade shake, premade/packaged oatmeal, pretzels/crackers, nuts, or dried fruit in my purse 24/7. Honestly crap on a cracker sounds good when you’re ravenous, so just have SOMETHING handy. 2) When you’re in a place where you’ll have access to a fridge, try to bring fruits or veggies cut and ready to go. They won’t sound good all the time, like maybe even never..., but they’re better for you than chips. Hate me now, thank me later (like when you’re back to pre-baby weight 8 weeks postpartum). I always leaned towards grapes, apples, and berries. 3) If you’re going to keep empty calorie food in the house, you’re going to eat it. Just being real with you, don’t buy the Oreos or chips. You don’t have that kind of self control. Get some veggie straws, pretzels, and hummus. It’s not perfect, but it will satisfy your hunger and it won’t be completely without nutritional value. 4) Find something moderately healthy that you’ll actually eat. Nik wanted me to be the epitome of health during our pregnancy, and though I failed miserably at times, he never stopped pushing me to make better decisions. I found that I loved: yogurt, grapes, cheese, certain protein shakes, premade oatmeal and chia seeds, hard boiled eggs, and green beans. Go with whatever makes you happy and also has a health benefit, no matter how weird the combination, or even if you have to go to a specific store to get the exact brand you like. It’s worth it!
10. Don’t beat yourself up: Should you fall off the wagon, you are in good company. I felt like I’d really ruined a good diet day with one bad meal, and in reality, I wasn’t eating great, but I wasn’t eating like dirt. I was making the best decisions I could, and I was rewarding myself too. Just like anything else, it’s a trade off. If you fall off the wagon, don’t let yourself be dragged behind for 8 weeks, pull yourself together woman. But you don’t have to eat plain ground turkey and almonds either. You need this to be realistic, because you’ve got 9-10 months of eating like this, and likely longer if you’re breastfeeding after birth. Purge your pantry if it makes it easier for you, and set yourself up for success with decent snacks in the house and readily available. Ask your hubby to jump on this health train with you, and even to cook some nights. “Cheat” and have your pizza and ice cream once in a while. For me, it was helpful to remember that everything I’m eating was to be fuel, not only for me, but for my little man too. He doesn’t get to choose his foods yet, I have to supply him with all the things he needs to be healthy and strong. That was enough for me to choose a protein shake, over a chocolate malt (almost) any day!
Good luck mommas! Let me know what works for YOU! Share your secrets!