How to Eat during Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, the key is to eat small quantities frequently throughout the day. People tend to focus most of their nutrition attention on what to eat or what not to eat. Not nearly enough attention goes toward how to eat.
Eating frequent, small meals
In the first trimester, the goal of eating small amounts frequently is to prevent nausea by having a little bit of food in your stomach at all times (that way, your stomach doesn’t have to go into acid overload). As your baby bump grows and you progress into your second and third trimesters, you’ll find that your body literally has less room for your stomach!
As a result, the baby may press on your stomach and the area where your esophagus meets your stomach, causing heartburn. If you have small amounts of food in your stomach, you’re less likely to experience this reflux.
The key to eating small amounts frequently is to enjoy a mix of smaller meals and regular snacks throughout the day. Now, before you start envisioning bags of chips and pints of ice cream in your snacking future, remember that the majority of your snacks need to contain the nutrients you and your little one need. Otherwise, you’re just eating empty calories.
Keeping cravings in check
Another trick for keeping your eating in check is to avoid overindulging your cravings. You’ll no doubt hear other women talk about cravings they had in pregnancy, and maybe you’ve already been experiencing them yourself. Although everything in pregnancy gets blamed on hormones, cravings are truly a case of hormones gone wild!
Sometimes those hormones cause food aversions, and sometimes those hormones make it impossible to imagine living through another moment without one particular food. If you give in to every craving, you may end up putting on more pounds than you planned during your pregnancy. If you’re determined to survive your cravings without experiencing excess weight gain, follow these tips:
- Eat a variety of foods throughout the day. If you eat nothing but protein, you’ll probably crave carbs. If you eat only carbs, you may find yourself craving a steak. Eat some carbs, protein, and fat at every meal and get a variety of grains, meats or meat alternatives, fruits, and veggies every day. Doing so helps you (and your baby) stay healthy!
- Figure out how to distinguish between physical hunger and psychological hunger. Ask yourself whether you’re truly hungry or just bored, sad, happy, or stressed. If you’re truly hungry, eat a snack or meal. If you’re not, stall and distract yourself (see the next bullet).
- Stall and distract yourself if you aren’t physically hungry. Instead of giving in right away to a particular craving, buy yourself some time by engaging in another activity (call a friend or go for a walk, for example) to see if the craving goes away. A lot of times it does, but if you come back still wanting the particular food, then have it for your next meal or snack to satisfy the craving.
- Figure out what you really want, and choose the healthiest version of what you’re craving. If you’re craving a strawberry milkshake, for example, ask yourself what you’re really after. Are you craving the strawberries or the creamy, cold, sweet taste of the milkshake? Could you satisfy the craving with some fresh berries and whipped cream? What about a half cup of strawberry sorbet or lowfat ice cream? Would a strawberry-banana smoothie do the trick? Any of these options would be much lower in calories and/or have more nutritional value than the strawberry milkshake.
But don’t substitute if no good substitute exists. For example, if you want pickles, eating a plain cucumber won’t be very satisfying! Just eat the pickles and be done with the craving.
- Be aware of your portions, eat slowly, and enjoy every bite. With foods like cake, ice cream, chocolate, cookies, chips, and other high-calorie foods, pay attention to the portions you eat. Place one serving on a plate and put the rest of the package away instead of plopping down on the couch with the entire container. Savor your food.
- Avoid trigger situations. If your favorite doughnut shop is on the way home from work, take an alternate route to avoid craving doughnuts simply because you drove by the shop. Get rid of the candy jar at work. Ask your partner and those close to you to avoid tempting you unnecessarily.
- Rest up and pamper yourself. When you’re tired, you may crave food for energy. If you find yourself unusually tired or you’re not getting the proper sleep at night, do everything you can to give yourself a break. Get a massage or pedicure, take a nap, or simply put your feet up with a good book or magazine. That way, you won’t find yourself craving high-sugar, high-fat foods that’ll just lead to energy crashes and excess weight gain later.