With each trimester comes unique challenges and greater nutritional needs. There is a saying let food be your medicine and medicine be your food, there is no better time to let food be a source of nourishment and help to manage some of the usual suspects that can show up in pregnancy like nausea, anemia, and leg cramps, to name a few.
In the first trimester, we are often spending a lot of our time trying to alleviate nausea, it can feel like a full-time job! Nausea and vomiting, also referred to as morning sickness affects 70 to 80% of pregnant women. There are some powerful food allies that can help to reduce nausea.
- Sour…yes…sour, the taste of lemon, lime, even smelling lemon slices can reduce nausea. Think lemon water, lemonade, sour citrus fruits like limes, lemons, and grapefruit. There are also sour candies for nausea in pregnancy like Three Lollies. You can also diffuse lemon essential oil like these.
- Pack your nightstand with morning snacks or have breakfast in bed! Nausea is usually worse on an empty stomach. Waking up on an empty stomach can be dicey, pregnant women report that when they eat a snack while still sitting up in bed it can dramatically lower their nausea for the whole day. Think sprouted bread and almond butter, granola and coconut milk, smoothies, eggs, apple slices, and sunflower seed butter, whatever you are in the mood for that combines some protein/fat and carbs, eat at least a little bit before standing up and getting out of bed.
- When we are experiencing nausea we often crave very bland foods and have an increased craving for more simple carbohydrates, like saltine crackers! But whenever possible make sure you are also eating enough protein daily. Optimal protein intake daily lowers nausea, maybe not at the moment, but it will often reduce and prevent nausea overall. Eggs can end up being a great protein source during pregnancy. Plant-based proteins work too, beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, and seeds are all great.
Iron requirements during pregnancy start to increase especially in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy because of the expansion of red blood cell mass and the transfer of increasing amounts of iron to both your growing baby and the placental structures. Iron deficiency and anemia in pregnancy can push up to 25% of all pregnant women in the US. Not only is iron critical to your baby and your pregnancy, but low iron levels can also feel exhausting. You want to go through your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and early motherhood with energy and NOT in an anemic slump!
These are the foods you want to make sure you are eating to prevent anemia: grass-fed red meat, poultry, pasture eggs, all leafy greens especially spinach. black beans, lentils, sardines, dried un-sulfured apricots, and nettle leaf tea. Think eggs and black beans for breakfast, a big mixed green salad with chicken for lunch, a snack of pistachios and dried apricots with nettle tea, and a spinach and lentil stew for dinner. For extra Iron points consider adding a green juice or green smoothie during the day, I recommend 1 cup of leafy greens, 1/2 apple, a wedge of lemon, 2 oz of filtered water, coconut water or coconut milk, and a few ice cubes.
In the 3rd trimester your calcium, magnesium, and omega 3 needs for your baby’s development increase and in preparation for breastfeeding. A common sign of this increased demand may be leg cramps. If you are having leg cramps it may be time for more magnesium and calcium. Optimal magnesium can also significantly reduce your risk of preterm labor and preeclampsia. Increased omega 3’s are also correlated with a greater chance of easier and healthy labor and delivery. The best food sources of Calcium are leafy greens, grass-fed dairy sources like yogurt and cheese, almonds, garbanzo beans, and sardines with bones. The best magnesium sources are leafy greens, especially chard and spinach. Additionally, almonds, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and black beans are excellent magnesium sources too. Some of the best sources of omega 3’s in pregnancy are wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
It is often advisable to take extra calcium and magnesium as a supplement, I recommend whole food or chelated forms. I also often recommend an omega 3 supplement providing ample EPA and DHA, preferably derived from wild Alaskan salmon.
Let food be your best medicine for optimal support to your pregnancy-related symptoms while also nourishing both you and your baby.