Nutrition Habits For Pregnancy
As an advocate of ‘macro tracking’ and ‘flexible dieting’ before falling pregnant, it did not take me long to work out that navigating nutrition during pregnancy would need an entirely different approach and with good reason. During the first trimester, every woman is different. For me, the nausea and fatigue set in hard around 2 hours without eating, so trying to long without a carb rich snack was almost impossible. Continuing to tracking calories would have only set me up to fail, so I decided early to change to a healthy habits based system. This has helped me to ensure we are both getting the essential nutrients we need to thrive without too much over indulgence along the way.
My Experience With Morning Sickness
Everyone will experience morning sickness differently. Mine was a mild to moderate feeling of being ‘hung-over’, while feeling nauseous and like I could sleep for days. There was only one thing that made me feel better and that was toast, dry biscuits and potatoes. On one day I remember eating a whole packet of Sa-ka-tas without even feeling like they hit the sides. But this time did pass and I was surprised to see that by the 12 week mark weight gain was marginal in comparison to the amount of food I felt like I had consumed. I also regained my love of vegetables and water, which were difficult to stomach prior. I also learnt that listening to my body was important. On somedays I craved oily foods, so I opted for Atlantic salmon and avocado and I reduced my caffeine and refined sugar intake as the very thought of it made me want to gag.
Why Habits Over Calories
Many pregnant women will experience challenges to eating such as food aversion, nausea, new food cravings, varying hunger levels and more. These symptoms may be sporadic or constant so it is far better to focus on positive habits around food through reflection and planning.
It is important to learn to listen to your body during pregnancy and not be scared to put on some additional body fat too. Before falling pregnant I was around 16-18% body fat, which was on low side for most women. I went into the pregnancy knowing that additional body fat would be a necessity and to embrace my new curves and bits. In the same breath, I also do not want to make my pregnancy or recovery harder by putting on more weight than needed, especially going into a summer pregnancy.
Are we eating for two?
During the first trimester, the placenta is still establishing itself and the hormones, and your pregnancy hormones play a significant role in helping the foetus develop. Daily calorie requirements will increase above baseline by around 340 calories in the second trimester, 450 in the third and 500 calories while breastfeeding. That said, it is important not to get too caught up on the numbers. I am enjoying this time to really focus on what my body needs and practicing foundational nutritional habits, which I will detail below.
Habit 1: Eating more mindfully
Okay, this is a big challenge for me at the best of times. But slowing down and taking time to enjoy my food gives my body time to recognise it is no longer hungry. Some tips I have implemented here is use a timer, pausing between each bite, taking smaller bites, sitting down to eat (and avoiding eating while on the gym floor), sipping water between bites and chewing each mouthful before swallowing.
This habit is helping me stop from over eating. I have found that since being pregnant, hunger signals can be ALOT stronger. Now that I am 23 weeks and the nausea has passed, I make sure I am organised to eat at regular intervals. For me this is 5am, 8:30am, 12:00pm, 4pm and again around 7pm or 8:30pm (depending on what time I get home). I try to stop eating when I am satisfied, rather than full. I also much on veggies will preparing food that may take longer to get ready.
Habit 2: Eat a portion of protein at every meal or snack
Protein is filling, satisfying and vital to maintain a healthy body. My general rule is to have a palm size of protein with every meal and a half size as a snack. I can do this successfully by planning my meals around my chosen protein source, adding a scope of protein powder into a veggie/ fruit smoothie or looking for high protein snacks, such as greek yogurt or cottage cheese.
Habit 3: Eat a serving of vegetables or fruits at every meal and aim for 5 serves per day
Eating a variety of veggies and fruits will ensure that you are ingesting a range of micro nutrients important for health. Some people are worried about the higher blood sugar spike occurring from fruit intake and the effect this has on insulin. But fruits are an awesome source of fibre, which in itself slows the entry of glucose into the bloodstream. But I particularly like to pair fruits with a protein sources at snack time as this helps me to feel fuller for longer as well as helping to maintain blood sugar levels. Some examples of this include apples and cheese, banana and nut butter or rockmelon and cottage cheese.
Other practical tips to increase fruit and vegetable intake includes buying pre-chopped or packaged fruit or veggies to save time, going to the market and buying produce that is in season, buying frozen berries and greens (the are awesome to have on hand to throw into smoothies), adding veggies with a mild flavour (especially in the first trimester), roasting veggies in large batches (like zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and capsicums) and buying a salad or julienne slicer to save time.
Habit 4: Eat a portion of healthy fats at every meal
A serve of healthy fat is approximately the size of a thumb and this is important to regulate hormones, balance blood sugars and energy levels. For most of us, eating healthy fats is quite easy. But this can be done by eating whole eggs, adding a drizzle of olive oils or adding a serve of nuts to curries, yogurt, smoothies or oats.
Habit 5: Eat a portion of carbohydrates at every meal
It is important to ingest more nutritionally dense carbohydrates like those from vegetables, fruits, oats, rice and quinoa rather than those that are highly refined products like breads, baked goods or sweets. Some practical tips include making large batches of your favourite minimally processed carbs to have these on hand for quick meal prep. Another practical tip is to look for healthier substitutions like wholegrain breads instead of white or making hand cut oven roasted chips instead of store bought French fries.
Habit 6: Drink 2-3liters of water per day
The exact amount of water a women should drink while pregnant is dependent on her body size and activity levels. But some practical tips I found helpful included adding lemon or cucumber to plain water (I was shocked how unpalatable I found water in the first trimester), trying to drink more regularly in small quantities, drinking warm apple cider water in the mornings and buying a new drink bottle (I am loving the double walled steel bottles on the market at the moment).
Pregnancy is such a beautiful time to let go of for hang-ups and truely look inwards to building good habits based on good health. It is important to change your nutrition mentally around food and take steps to evaluation how your current food intake is serving you. As someone who is health and body conscious, I have found nutrition habits helps me to feel satisfied, fuelled and body positive.
Stay tuned for a summary of training guidelines while pregnant.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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