What does healthy eating during pregnancy look like?
In my last post, I shared my thoughts about whether healthy eating during pregnancy really matters. The brief overview? Yes, but perhaps not why you'd think. Yes- your baby is going to take what it needs, and save for some crucial nutrients like DHA and folate, baby is likely going to be just fine whether or not you go on a mac and cheese bender your whole pregnancy (can you tell I've got pasta on the brain?!) or not. But the person who REALLY suffers when you let good nutrition go out the window during your pregnancy? That's right, it's YOU mama. Pregnancy does aid the baby in reducing pregnancy complications, ensuring adequate weight gain and even aiding in your baby's future development. But far more profoundly, not allowing yourself adequate nutrients, even at a base level, during pregnancy can result in a severely depleted mama- which doesn't make for a happy or healthy mama postpartum! So my argument for maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is so that YOU, mama, can be the best mommy you can be.
So what does healthy eating during pregnancy look like? You might be surprised that even as a nutritionist, I'm not going to give you an eat-this, not-that list (beyond those foods that we know are potentially unsafe for pregnant women), tell you exactly what portions of each food group to take in or give you a specific diet plan to follow (though if you want a peak at what 5 days of a balanced pregnancy diet looks like, check out my free printable). What I am going to give you is advice from one two-time pregnant mama to another- who happens to have some nutrition knowledge, to boot. Because ultimately, eating healthy during pregnancy looks different for every woman, at every point in their pregnancy. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the best pregnancy diet. But there IS an eating style that feels best for you-- and that, mama, is what I want you to focus on for you and your baby. Here's how that looks:
Healthy eating during pregnancy looks like listening to your body.
Above all, listening to your body is KEY during pregnancy (and really, always!!). The first trimester is always rough, and sometimes even eating at all can be a challenge. Nourish your body the best you can. If today, that simply means saltines and ginger ale, that's a-ok. Continue to work on including more nutrient-dense foods, as you can. But don't stress about it. Listen to what your body wants and respond accordingly. The same goes for the second and third trimesters, especially when a baby is taking up most of the space in your abdomen and there really isn't much room for food. Listen to what your body wants and needs.
Healthy eating during pregnancy looks like doing your best to maintain balance.
Again- notice when I say, doing your best. It's not about hitting that perfect 80/20 every day. It's about figuring out what nutrient-dense foods you actually LIKE, and including those as often as you can, as well as simply eating what sounds good- because nourishing your baby is always going to win, even if it means not eating what you consider a 'perfect' meal. It's all about balance.
Healthy eating during pregnancy looks like emphasizing nutrient-dense foods, more often than not.
The key to maintaining that balance, is, when you can, including nutrient-dense foods as much as possible. What type of proteins sound good to you? If meat sounds icky, eggs are a powerhouse of protein, healthy fats and minerals. How about veggies? If broccoli makes you queasy, how about simply adding a handful of neutral baby spinach to your morning smoothie? I'm all about adding, not subtracting. Sure, there are things like undercooked meat and seafood and unpasteurized cheeses we want to avoid- but save for those few restrictions, I don't believe there should be any restrictions in your pregnancy diet. Perhaps now isn't the time to eat a tub of frosting at every meal, but why not add some spinach? Kidding. My point is, adding in the nutrient-dense foods that taste good (check out my favorite pregnancy superfoods) and letting the rest go.
Healthy eating during pregnancy looks like not saying no to every craving... but not saying yes, either.
This is where balance comes into play, again. Do you NEED that fourth cookie? Really? Or were you actually satisfied after two or three? Pregnancy doesn't need to be an excuse to binge on all the foods you restricted yourself before you became pregnant- though I know it can be easy to want to go crazy when you've spent a long time in a diet-mentality; now is a great time to start flexing that mindfulness muscle (intuitive eating should be a lifetime practice, not just during pregnancy). Same goes to feeling like you should say no to every burger or brownie-- pregnant or not, it's ok to indulge when you really want it! It's just as easy to get into the "Must eat healthy" mindset as it is to get into the "I'm pregnant, so what?!" mindset. Listen to your body. Eat until you're satisfied, each and every meal, snack and treat.
Healthy eating during pregnancy looks like taking your own health into consideration, and adjusting as needed.
Some of us mamas need to take special consideration due to health complications such as gestational diabetes (or conditions that put you at higher risk for these conditions, like PCOS). There is nothing wrong with adjusting your diet to have a healthier pregnancy- I just don't want you to stress about it! Avoiding high blood sugar can be simple when you learn the tricks to maintain balanced blood sugar, like avoiding excess added sugar and making sure to pair carbs with protein and healthy fats. High blood pressure can be avoided in part by reducing excess sodium and exercising regularly. Do what you need to do for the healthiest mama and baby during pregnancy- and beyond.
Healthy eating during pregnancy looks like not comparing yourself to the next woman or so-called-expert. YOU are the best expert on you, mama. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Want to know what 5 days of a balanced pregnancy diet looks like for me- as well as my top 10 everyday pregnancy superfoods? Click the link below to download for free, with just your name and email.