- 1 What To Eat In First Trimester – Handling Our Cravings Right
- 1.1 Timing & Frequency
- 1.2 Eating Well
- 1.3 My Personal Recommended Special Food Item
- 1.4 My Favorite Dishes Right Now
- 1.5 Drinks
- 1.6 What Not to Eat
- 1.7 Benefits Of Eating Healthy
- 1.8 “Add Variety and Color” Rule
What To Eat In First Trimester – Handling Our Cravings Right
Today I want to discuss healthy food options and the necessary foods you should be eating during the first trimester. I need to ask though… Do we really have the free choice on what we eat? I mean, one day I am eating baby carrots and the next day I can not even stand the site of them! My aversions change daily and it is hard to stick to a consistent meal plan and I keep buying foods I think my body still agrees with, but the next day it changes! If you are like me, I understand your frustration, This is why we have to be prepared and remain flexible, if not, we will cave to our cravings which are usually unhealthy sugary foods and our growing little bean inside of us, will not appreciate these empty calories. So what to eat in the first trimester ladies? Let us begin.
Timing & Frequency
Most pregnancy advice says to eat often, approximately 6x/day and to eat in small portions. This is of course, is also a good idea when you are not pregnant because it helps with digestion and not over eating. It is specifically helpful during first trimester because it can help minimize the nausea and vomiting, if this is happening to you.
As I have discussed in my other pregnancy articles such as “9 Weeks Pregnant Belly” , we are all different and no one way will work for everyone. Pregnancy books are general rules which are of course good to be aware of, but there is no reason to immediately worry if the process is different for you.
For me, I am starving from the minute I wake up; which is 6 am lately. And that hunger stays strong until about 5 pm. Seriously, I am not even exaggerating – I eat small portions but can not even wait 1 hour in between each meal or snack because my stomach is aching of hunger. And even though I feel nauseous, the idea of eating is soothing, which seems totally irrational right?
I have been feeling like I am already eating for 2 and even worried I am putting on unnecessary weight during my 1st trimester. But my advice is this: listen to your body. If you know you are hungry, EAT. Your body is going through some indescribable changes and it needs the energy to do this. As long as you are not eating because you are bored (which is hard nowadays with the Covid 19 social isolation) then you are fine. You are even more fine, if you are making nutritious choices.
The reality is, eating well during pregnancy is no different from eating well when you are not pregnant. The major differences are that eating well may be challenging with the food cravings and food aversions you may be having and that you have a little one counting on you to make the right choices. Before being pregnant, eating high levels of sugar or lots of alcohol was putting only yourself at risk of health issues. But now, you have the responsibility to take care of your growing baby so it is important to make that extra effort because your baby is relying on you.
Rather than breaking this down into food groups, let us discuss what are the essential vitamins and nutrients your baby needs, and in which foods you can find these necessary elements.
Folic Acid or Folate
Even I, who had not planned to have a baby for many years, and at most points in my life, I thought I never would be a mother, I had heard of folic acid being crucial for pregnancy.
Folate is the common form of vitamin B9 present in many whole foods, while folic acid is a synthesized version of vitamin B9 often taken in supplement form. (1) Folic acid is so important that many women trying to conceive even start taking folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant.
IMPORTANCE OF FOLIC ACID OR FOLATE
Folate deficiency during pregnancy can contribute to low birth weight and neural tube defects and therefore folate is highly important for avoiding common birth defects. This is why it is a common ingredient in many prenatal vitamins.
It is recommended that women expecting to become pregnant or who are pregnant, need between 400 to 1,000 micro-grams per day of folate or folic acid before conception and throughout pregnancy.
Where To Find Natural Folate in Your Food
- Dark green vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, brussel sprouts and okra
- Legumes such as lentils, roman beans, white beans, black beans, soybeans like edamame and chickpeas
- Citrus fruit like oranges
- Orange-colored fruit like papaya
- Beef liver
- Peanuts and seeds especially hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, flax seeds and almonds
- Cereals that are over 50% fortified especially fortified oatmeal
IMPORTANCE OF CALCIUM
We all know calcium is essential for the healthy development of bone density and healthy teeth.
Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous system run normally. (2)
The role of calcium is also for your developing baby, and so the recommended daily intake if you are pregnant is at least 1,000 mg of calcium every day. If you’re 18 or younger, then you need at least 1,300 mg of calcium every day.
In order for your body to effectively absorb Calcium, you need enough Vitamin D which you will get from the eggs you are already eating for your folic acid intake, and oily and fatty fish (which we will discuss for Omega 3s and protein).
Where To Find Calcium in Your Food
- Yogurts – stick to yogurts that have no to little sugar and sweeteners and high protein like plain Greek yogurt
- Tofu containing calcium
- Canned fish with bones such as sardines and salmon
- Most legumes and dark green vegetables (which you have covered from the folate foods)
- Cheese – ONLY hard cheeses. It is recommended that pregnant women avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican style cheeses such as queso fresco, queso blanco, and panela that do not state they are pasteurized to avoid developing Listerosis
IMPORTANCE OF PROTEIN
We know we should eat healthy lean protein for muscle development and for energy. While pregnant, protein is very important for the baby’s muscle and organ development and therefore eating extra protein from healthy animal and plant based sources is very important.
Where To Find Protein in Your Food
- Chicken – Chicken breasts
- Lean pork
- Lean Beef
- White Fish
- Cottage Cheese – low fat, 1% if possible
- Peanut Butter – Natural no sugar added
Added benefit of beef, pork, fish and chicken is that they are also rich in iron, choline and B vitamins, all of which are important nutrients during pregnancy.
IMPORTANCE OF IRON (3)
You can read my article about iron to fully understand it’s importance and it`s role. To summarize, your body needs iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby.
If you don’t have enough iron stores or get enough iron during pregnancy, you could develop iron deficiency anemia. This will cause fatigue and can also increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight baby and postpartum depression.
During pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that non pregnant women need, which is 27 milligrams a day. As just mentioned, you can get your iron from the animal based proteins such as fish, pork, meat and chicken. From my article, you can also get a list of plant-based iron foods if you are a vegetarian.
Note that in order to absorb iron from plant-based foods, you need sufficient Vitamin C.
A great food source for Vitamin C, which is also important for pregnancy are sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes also are a huge source in potassium. (4)
Important note: Lots of the health benefits from potatoes are in their skin. So scrub the skin clean and cook and eat the whole sweet potato including the skin:)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
IMPORTANCE OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS (5)
Omega-3 plays a very important role in the development of your baby’s brain and eyes and is also essential for neurological development of the baby. Omega-3 dietary deficiency is common in today’s society and being pregnant adds to this deficiency because generally, the fetus uses omega-3s for its nervous system development. This deficiency does not end after delivery, because Omega-3s are needed to develop breast milk.
Adequate levels of Omega-3 has been shown to prevent preterm labor and delivery, lower the risk of preeclampsia, may increase birth weight and may decrease the risk of allergies in infants.
BENEFITS FOR THE MOTHER (6)
Recent studies have shown that omega-3 helps prevent the mother’s risk of depression and postpartum. Given that several pregnancies can cause a cumulative effect, meaning a larger omega-3 deficiency, the risks of metal health issues further increases. So maintaining proper levels of Omega-3 during breast-feeding and between multiple pregnancies is very important for the mother’s health.
Where To Find Omega-3 in Your Food
- Fresh, frozen or canned salmon
- White fish
- Sea bass
For vegetarians, your plant-based sources of omega-3 are:
- Algae and Seaweed
- Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seds
- Flax Seeds
- Soybeans (edamame)
- Kidney beans
Important to Note: According to the National Institute of Quebec Public Health, you only need 2 meals per week containing oily fish, to meet your omega-3 intake for both you and the baby.
IMPORTANCE OF FIBER (7)
Fiber is a very important topic and that is a whole other post that I would need to prepare. Fiber is necessary for everyone because it helps with digestions and it is a slow releasing carbohydrate. Carbohydrates that have high levels of fiber, are very good for your health.
For pregnancy, fiber becomes even more important because the high levels of hormones causes your digestion to slow down. In addition, many of the folic acid supplements prescribed to women for pregnancy and for nursing, contain iron and iron is known to cause digestion issues including constipation because of the stool-hardening effect of iron.
Benefits of fiber are to prevent pregnancy-related hemorrhoids and to prevent glucose intolerance that can lead to gestational diabetes.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women eat 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber each day.
There are two types of fibers and you need a balance of the 2 to have effective health benefits.
Where To Find Fiber in Your Food
- Fruits – berries
- Vegetables like carrots and green vegetables
- Oats – oatmeal
- Legumes like lentils
- Vegetable peel
- Nuts – unsalted
- Wheat – eat only whole grain bread
- Rice – eat brown rice
Special Note: Most plant-based foods will give you both insoluble and soluble fiber.
My Personal Recommended Special Food Item
A personal favorite of mine that is very easy to add to almost any meal is pumpkin seeds.
IMPORTANCE OF PUMPKIN SEEDS (8)
The health benefits in relation to pumpkin seeds are numerous but over all, they are a good source of healthful oils, magnesium, and other nutrients that enhance the health of the heart, bones, and other functions.
My Favorite Dishes Right Now
So I am obsessed with a few things right now. I mean to be honest, I have always LOVED cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs, protein powder, peanut butter, avocados and potatoes, but these items in particular I am even more addicted to now and so far, I have never sensed any aversion to them during my first trimester so far.
Other foods like vegetables and animal based proteins, I have a different feeling everyday so I need to be flexible and go with how I feel that day. In some cases, I want these foods hot and sometimes cold! Yes cold cooked chicken and fish! Why? I have no idea and do not ever try to understand your food aversions and cravings but they have no real basis! LOL
So what are some of the things I have been eating daily? I tend to be eating lots of “snack-like” foods rather than full meals. I find that it helps with the nausea and I can eat more variety by combining 2 to 3 small things that I still really enjoy.
These are the foods that I have been having everyday, but of course, I eat more than this. The other meals I try to change daily, so I get variety or different sources of vitamins and nutrients.
1. This photo is part of my morning breakfasts – yes I eat a few times in the morning.
So this meal has:
- About 1/4 cup of cottage cheese;
- About 3/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt;
- 8-10 cashews or almonds;
- 2 table spoons of pumpkin seeds;
- 1/4 scoop of a high quality vanilla protein;
- 1 tsp of cocoa powder.
This meal is FULL of the nutrients and vitamins we discussed. It honestly tastes like dessert to me.
2. Sweet Potatoes and Peanut butter
I slice sweet potatoes like “chips” with the skin and roast them in the oven. A few slices of these with some natural peanut butter spread on the sweet potatoes is such a delicious snack with some healthy fat, fiber and many other vitamins.
I got this idea from Pinterest, and there are lots of other topping ideas.
3. This picture is another one of my favorite and easy meals, high in protein and omega-3 and fats.
I take a microwavable dish and add about 1 cup of egg whites and either a can of spicy tuna or with some oven-baked salmon and some sauteed vegetables.
I place it in the microwave and cook for about a total of 3 min, stopping it midway to stir the mixture. It turns out to be like a fritata. I eat it with some brown rice organic wafers and sliced avocado.
4. Another good stack and good combination of carbohydrates, fat and protein all in one, is a fruit with a boiled egg.
Water, water and more water. In order for the body to work efficiently and effectively, we need water. Increasing fiber also requires and increase in water so that our digestive system can work properly.
Recommendation for water intake when pregnant, is 10 and 12 cups of fluid each day. Can I say, I am totally guilty for not doing this. I can not seem to drink more than 5 glasses of water a day. For the first few days, adding lemon and/or lime helped, but then I developed an aversion to the citrus taste, so not my water intake has taken a dive and I know I need to increase my water.
Other Sources of Water
Fluids can also be in the form of smoothies or protein shakes and so I have 1 smoothie a day.
For a natural smoothie, combine some unpeeled fruit with flax seeds and some water and/or milk, like almond milk, soy milk and/or coconut milk.
Another alternative is coconut water which has lots of essential nutrients and many important health benefits.
What Not to Eat
- Limit canned white tune to 2 cans per week
- Soft cheeses as mentioned earlier
- Raw or not well cooked meat and fish
- Liver – has too high levels of Vitamin A
- Avoid white bread and white rice
- Too much caffeine (only 1 cup per day)
- No alcohol
Benefits Of Eating Healthy
- Not putting on excess weight
- Prevent gestational diabetes
- Can prevent complications in pregnancy
- Prevent developmental issues for the baby
- Lose weight quicker after pregnancy
“Add Variety and Color” Rule
It is impossible to keep track of every vitamin or nutrient that you consume each day. It would be an impossible task to measure your daily dosage and would make the act of eating so stressful and complicated. On top of that, you are dealing with aversions and cravings so simplicity is what we need.
Each food recommended in this post, although suggested for a specific vitamin or nutrient, also contains many other benefits. There is huge overlap between foods and therefore the key is to eat a different combination of each of these foods, according to your cravings and aversions of course. A general rule or “trick”, is to add color. Multi-colored dishes equates to multi-vitamin containing meals. This will ensure having a balance of everything that you and your baby need, without eating too much or too little of the necessary foods we need.
Let me know ladies if this post helped you with any concerns you may have had regarding what to eat during pregnancy. Share any of your creative dishes or snacks with us as our senses are much more “interesting” during pregnancy and we tend to invent some unique combinations.