This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support.
If you read my post about pregnancy fears, you know I was terrified of becoming as large as a house while pregnant. Obviously priority #1 is a healthy baby – but my mom gained something like 60-80 lbs with me and that simply did not sound like fun. She swears she lost it a few weeks after I was born and says, “it's like someone put a fat suit on me, then just unzipped me!” Still, as someone who has struggled with body image (you can listen to that journey on the podcast here) – I really wanted use this time to stay healthy (for the baby AND for me). With so many changes happening in the body during pregnancy, I really wanted to build an even better relationship with my body than I've ever had.
That's not to say that around week 16 I didn't continually begin asking the hubby if I looked fat every few minutes versus pregnant (because LBH, there's that period you look like you had a few too many slices of pizza before you look pregnant).
Healthy Eating Tips During Pregnancy
Don't eat for two
I don't care what you heard growing up or on TV, but the idea of “eating for two” has been debunked! Truthfully, you're only supposed to eat like an extra 300 calories a day. I mean think about it, the baby is less than 1 lb the first 20 weeks – if you were taking in an extra 1,500+ calories a day during that time that'd be for you, not so much for baby.
Before becoming pregnant, I thought I'd be alllll about using this time to indulge! I'm talking brownie sundaes every night and daily pizza lunches. However, once I learned I was pregnant, I didn't really crave any of that stuff. Once I did start craving it, I had already gained 10 lbs and the extra weight caused me to move slower and feel a little achier (nothing unmanageable or bad) but enough that I didn't want to eat empty calories to bring on more of that feeling.
Opt for whole, real foods
Meaning try to cut everything processed if you can (or do your best to avoid – because if I'm honest, anytime I get home from the beach on a summer day all I want is sour cream and cheddar chips). Generally though, you'll want to buy foods in their whole form. Meaning, buy black beans, not a black bean burger (because the latter is now processed even if it is “healthy”). You're much better off making your own blueberry muffins versus buying them in the aisle of a grocery store! Yes, that means more cooking and meal prepping, so just do your best here in making wise choices, and if you need some ideas on healthy foods, check out these suggestions from Hancock Regional Hospital).
Be smart about your dairy and meat intake
No matter your diet preferences, the reality is that animals and animal by products (like cheese) have hormones. And when you're pregnant you have a lot of hormones too. So as much as you may want to eat all the cheese and ice cream, if you notice yourself breaking out or having more intense mood swings or feeling extra nauseous maybe take a look at how much dairy you're eating. Also you'll want to ideally opt for hormone and antibiotic free, nitrate/nitrite free, organic meats. Again, the cleaner you can eat the better! You already have so many things happening in your body, no need to add whatever is happening in an animal's body to yours too!
Now that's not to say don't eat meat or dairy! Many women become anemic during pregnancy and need to eat meat to get more iron. And trust me, after a bad blood work draw all I wanted was some Chick-Fil-A! So I let myself have it. It's just about listening to your body and having things in moderation.
Eat balanced throughout the day
I like snacks and I hear the further you get in your pregnancy the less you can really eat a “full meal” since you just don't have room for it with all the squished organs. So instead of focusing on eating a balanced meal, focus on eating balanced throughout the day. Get your fruits in, veggies, proteins, healthy fats, and carbs throughout the day. Personally, I found that if I prioritized getting my protein intake (I've read it's a minimum of 60 or 70 grams per day during pregnancy) each day, then I'd usually end up hitting my healthy fats, fruits, and veggies and didn't have room left to crave sweets or junk food.
Create a meal plan or “emergency” meal list
A large part of staying healthy while pregnant is planning! Personally, I create meal plans and then forget them though. I can't stick to them to save my life. BUT I do have a few go-to healthy meals/food options I'll put later in this post. If you are someone who does well with the structure of a meal plan, do it! Especially if you work a 9-5 job, I feel like this can be SO helpful in planning ahead and sticking with eating cleaner (check out these tips for eating healthy at work too). If meal planning is to structured for you, I recommend having 2-3″emergency” meals on hand always. These are healthy, quick, and easy meals that you always have the ingredients on hand for so you're less likely to order that pizza.
Give into your cravings!
I can't stress this enough – if you have a craving that you're just can't satisfy and it's nagging you, just go get it. In my experience, I'll end up eating way more trying to satisfy the craving (if it's strong enough) than if I would've just given in. All summer I watched everyone posting their ice cream photos on Instagram and it was like a slow build for me. Finally one day I found myself googling the nearest Coldstone – because a simple scoop wasn't going to do, I wanted the richest, thickest, creamiest ice cream packed with brownie and goodies.
The nearest Coldstone was like 20+ min away and my craving wasn't that bad so I pushed it aside. Until 2 days later, I announced, “I'm having ice cream for dinner.” E was flabbergasted and I said, “I've been wanting it and I figure that it's better to just eat it for dinner, rather than eat dinner AND ice cream. Plus this way I can eat the ice cream earlier versus just before bed. It's a win-win-win.” So give into your cravings if you haven't been able to satisfy them in a couple of days and, if you can, do it smartly!
What I Eat In A Day While Pregnant
(Meals & Snack Ideas for Pregnancy)
Here's my go to healthy meal and snacks while pregnant!
Breakfast every day: Smoothie: blueberries, spinach, banana, vanilla vegan protein powder, and greek yogurt (30-40 grams of protein right there!)
Melba toast with yellow mustard and meunster cheese, with a side of cashews and a pickle
Salt, oil, and sugar-free baked potato “fries”
Sprouted wheat bread, avocado, black beans, and a southwest trader joe's veggie patty
Salad: romaine, spinach, or spring mix with dried cranberries, lots of almonds, hemp seeds, carrots, goat cheese (pasteurized of course), and chickpeas (Check out more healthy salad recipes from Hancock Regional Hospital here)
Whole wheat pita, falafel, romaine, carrots, hummus, and greek yogurt
Baked potato with beans, broccoli, greek yogurt, and cheese (I'll add in bacon if I'm craving it but that's been less than a handful of times).
Mexican casserole: brown rice, salsa, corn, black beans, chili powder, oregano, veggie broth, and cheese (feel free to add chicken here!)
Tacos: whole wheat tortilla, sweet potato, mushroom, onion, avocado
Apple with almond butter and chia seeds or hemp seeds
My easy, “I can't even” emergency meals I can make in under 20 min:
- Trader Joe's cauliflower stir fry and sweet thai veggie patty
- Black bean and quinoa pasta, frozen broccoli, with ricotta and tomato sauce
Lastly, I know the months are starting to cool down, so if your a soup lover, check out these healthy soup recipes!
P.S. If you're looking where to go next, check out this post on The Best Baby Registry Checklist: Must Haves + Skips!!