For many expecting mamas, good nutrition and pregnancy might seem like they are incompatible. Between morning sickness, food aversions, and pregnancy cravings, it can be extremely challenging to stick to a healthy diet. I’m not going to lie: macaroni and cheese was a major staple in my diet both times I was pregnant. So when I found out that our friend and LC.com resident nutritionist Kelly Leveque was expecting, I knew I had to pick her brain on some healthy pregnancy tips. From curbing cravings and aversions to managing morning sickness, read on for her advice…
If you have crazy cravings…
No matter how good your self-control is under normal circumstances, pregnancy cravings can be intense! So Kelly’s advice is to indulge when you need to, but be conscious not to build any bad habits. If you’re craving anything you wouldn’t normally eat, only buy an individual serving size from the store. Pregnant or not, it’s normal to slip up every once in a while. But buying junk food in bulk is the start of a bad habit that could be very hard to break down the line; even once you are no longer pregnant.
She also recommends finding the healthiest version possible of whatever you are craving. If you’re craving carbs… pick really high fiber, low net carb options like Barely Bread, Jilz Crackers, Siete Tortillas, or Cali’Flour pizza crusts. They are all great ways to satisfy that carb craving without letting your blood sugar spike out of control. You can also top any of those options with a little healthy fat and protein (like grass fed butter, avocado, or almond butter) to make it more filling, more nutritious and balance your blood sugar. It is also better for your blood sugar to spread your servings of carbs out throughout the day instead of binging on them all at once. If you’re craving sweets… go for fruit with the highest antioxidant content like berries, which are lower in sugar and higher in fiber. If you’re craving chocolate… Kelly recommends indulging in a square of dark chocolate from The Good Chocolate Company or Hu Chocolate. Just buy one individually wrapped square or one bar at a time if you can, so you don’t have a ton lying around the house tempting you! If you’re craving dairy… try Good Culture cottage cheese, which has 20 grams of protein per serving. If you’re craving comfort food… Kelly’s go-tos are cauliflower mashed potatoes or zoodles shrimp scampi.
If you have food aversions…
Everyone has heard of pregnancy cravings, but did you know that many mamas-to-be also experience food aversions? When I was pregnant with my first baby, I couldn’t stomach even the smell of cooked vegetables or truffles, two things I had formerly loved. Skipping out on truffle fries for 9 months probably wasn’t a bad thing, but finding myself suddenly sickened by vegetables felt pretty detrimental to my diet. When it comes to food aversions, Kelly’s first word of advice is to consciously seek out other healthy alternatives to the food you can no longer eat. In my case, for example, cooked vegetables were unappealing, but I had the option to up my intake of salads and crudités.
Along with veggies, one of the other most common food aversions for pregnant women is poultry or meat. I was already a pescatarian going into my pregnancy, but for meat eaters who are experiencing an aversion, Kelly recommends swapping in protein sources like eggs, lentils, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Menu options include her Fab Four Smoothies, veggie scrambles, and healthy fat- and protein-based sauces like pesto or cashew cream sauce.
When you really can’t stomach veggies or protein, Kelly says to sneak them into other recipes. Blend greens and nuts into a soup, add them to hummus, or sneak them into a smoothie. (Think of it this way: It’s great practice for getting a future picky toddler to eat their veggies!) Also keep in mind that herbs are greens too; go ahead and whip up a pesto sauce or add cilantro to your morning scramble.
If you have morning sickness…
If you have very intense morning sickness, you may have to talk with your doctor about prescription medication options. But for low to moderate morning sickness, Kelly recommends taking a Vitamin B6 supplement (up to 25 mg). B6 is an active ingredient in some prescription options as well, and Kelly’s own morning sickness went away within 48 hours of starting B6! (Of course, you should still chat with your doctor before starting this or any other supplements.)
Check in With Yourself…
Kelly’s other key piece of advice is to take everything one week at a time. Many women who feel super sick at the beginning get into bad habits that stick even once they regain their energy. Maybe you really only can handle dry toast eaten lying in bed during the first trimester—but once you get to week 12 or week 14, take a moment to check in with yourself. You might be feeling a bit better. Ask yourself: Can I go to a yoga class this week? Can I eat a little bit healthier now? Can I put some fiber, some healthy fat, or some protein on my plate? Expect to be a little insulin-resistant when you’re pregnant, and expect to notice a layer of cellulite you’ve never seen before—these things are hormonal, regardless of diet and exercise. But at the same time, hold yourself to higher standards when it comes to staying healthy. Being pregnant (under normal circumstances) doesn’t have to be a free pass to eat poorly and give up on all physical activity.
But most of all, be kind to yourself. You’re growing a human and your body is going through so many changes. Do what you can to feel your best and enjoy this special time in your life.
What do you think… Did you find this advice helpful?
Wishing all of you mamas-to-be an easy pregnancy!
And a big congrats to Kelly!