I just gave birth to my second chid in May — a boy! Our family is thrilled to welcome another son. I first learned I was pregnant right in the middle of the pandemic in September of last year. As you can imagine, being pregnant during a global pandemic is high stress and brings with it a unique set of challenges for any expecting mom. Self care couldn’t be more important during such a time. Being a registered dietitian and the Founder of a nonprofit called Fare Meals, my pregnancy self care focused on how I was going to tackle my nutritional needs during pregnancy. I thought I’d share in case it helps any other moms-to-be looking for guidance.
Stay hydrated & regular
Staying hydrated is probably my top priority during pregnancy, but next to that my focus was on getting macros nutrients with every meal. Macro nutrients are proteins, fats, and carbs. This may be too much information for some, but staying regular can be difficult during pregnancy. This is why you want to make sure the carbs you’re eating are complex carbs. So, stay away from white rice and white bread, if you can. Complex carbs are higher in fiber, things like whole grains. They’ll help keep you regular, which is super important during pregnancy and during stressful times.
Next for me, it was important to try not to skip breakfast while pregnant. Sometimes this was difficult, because I would wake up sick (especially during the first trimester) Often the cause of my not feeling well was from having an empty stomach. I strongly recommend keeping some easy, go-to, healthy breakfast items on hand during pregnancy. For me, breakfast often consisted of plain yogurt with berries. The berries also provide antioxidants, which can be immune boosting. When pregnant during a pandemic, we need all the natural immune support we can get.
You’re not eating for two
Sorry friends, but eating for two is not a thing. You only need a couple hundred more calories a day when you’re pregnant and it only kicks in during the second trimester. That’s right — during your first trimester you technically don’t need any additional calories. However, by your second trimester you do need about 300-350 additional calories, during your third trimester about 450-500 additional calories and while breastfeeding you need 450-500 additional calories. This means typically just an extra snack or two a day while pregnant will meet your additional needs.
Now, when it comes to the kinds of snacks you choose to get those additional calories from, there can be a lot of pressure to eat healthy, especially during the first trimester. It can often be something that needs to balanced with morning sickness you might be experiencing. It was surely the case for me. In my opinion, the most important thing is to make sure you’re actually eating. You need to eat things your body is craving especially during the first trimester. I’m someone who doesn’t crave things often, but during my first trimester, I wanted pizza and fries and so I obliged. At the time, I couldn’t even look at at grilled veggies, so I had to give my body what it was looking for.
Nutrients and supplements
I definitely recommend getting key nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids from eating foods like salmon and cod. You can also get much needed folic acid from eating dark, leafy greens. However, sometimes supplements can be beneficial. Taking prenatal vitamins is super common. But personally, I couldn’t take a prenatal vitamin and I know a lot of women can’t tolerate them. I did take a folic acid, but my other key nutrients needed to come from my diet.
Healthy fats for nursing
I stopped nursing within the last month, but while nursing I was focused on healthy fats. I was eating things like avocados to have a fatty, healthy milk. I was also adding olive oil and avocado oil to dishes. When you’re nursing, having things prepared in your fridge is a good idea. Ask someone in the house to cut up fruit or vegetables for you to put in a smoothie in the morning, or you can buy those little guacamole or hummus packs. Keep what you need on hand to get those extra 450-500 calories from sources that will support your breast milk.
Ask a dietitian
There’s a lot of nutrition education during pregnancy and it can be overwhelming.
Speaking to a dietitian at the beginning of your pregnancy can be helpful. Through my nonprofit organization Fare Meals, I offer families free educational programming focused on healthy, simple, and affordable meal solutions. During pregnancy, a dietitian can help you determine what foods to stay away from when it comes to things like unpasteurized dairy, raw meat, or raw fish. At the end of the day, it’s all about balancing what’s right for your needs. During times like these, what we put in our bodies is of the utmost importance, especially when we’re carrying a new life.
WRITTEN BYArielle Kestenbaum