I get a lot of emails with questions about pregnancy nutrition, even more so now that I’m pregnant myself. So I thought this might be a good time to look back to the beginning and talk about pregnancy nutrition in the first trimester.
I think it’s important to note that I am in no way an expert on pregnancy, nor am I a physician or a clinical dietitian. So the information I’m sharing on pregnancy nutrition comes from a combination of information I’ve gleaned over the course of two degrees in nutrition (BSc and MSc), and my own pregnancy experiences so far. Please be sure to speak to your health care professional if you have any specific concerns.
In general, I flip flop a lot between these two thoughts: “how did anyone manage a pregnancy without the internet?” and, “ugh, so much internet.” Seriously. There’s so much information. So many comparisons. And it can be soooooo overwhelming.
Here is the most important thing I’ve learned so far: your pregnancy is YOUR pregnancy. The way you feel, the energy you may or may not have, and the foods you may or may not be able to eat, that’s yours and yours alone. So let’s just hold up right now and stop comparing ourselves with our friend / cousin / sister who ate kale salads and ran marathons in the first trimester. Just because you’re wrapped around the toilet bowl at the slightest whiff of lettuce doesn’t mean that they get an A+ in pregnancy and you don’t.
Pregnancy hormones are no joke. And whooooeeeee, do you ever learn that quickly in the first trimester, especially if you’re having a rough go of it. Here’s the thing. You won’t do yourself any favours by beating yourself up about what you are or are not able to eat. You have to give in to the first trimester and just roll with what works.
The bad news is that you may feel like crap. But the good news is that nutrition really doesn’t matter all that much during the first trimester. Your body is a highly sophisticated baby-growing machine, and it will make sure that your little tadpole is getting exactly what it needs, even if your diet consists entirely of boxed macaroni and cheese. Just make sure you knock off the booze, stay hydrated, and start on a good prenatal vitamin if you aren’t taking one already.
Although I consider myself one of the lucky ones when it comes to morning sickness, I had terrible, horrible food aversions that hit at around the 7-week mark, that still haven’t entirely left me. And it happened overnight. I made a huge batch of a roasted corn and bean salad from one of my favourite food bloggers, which was delicious to me on Monday, and on Tuesday morning the sight of it made me feel so physically ill that I had to throw it all away, container and all. I still can’t really look at a photo of that dish without feeling queasy.
So what’s with that anyways? No one really knows why we get food aversions during pregnancy, but one totally plausible explanation is that it’s a leftover protective mechanism from our pre-refrigeration days. This makes sense if you think about it – the foods we tend to shy away from are things like vegetables and meats, which would have been more likely to spoil, and we reach for ‘safer’ foods like plain crackers, pasta, and crackers.
Eating for two?
Sure thing, but keep in mind that one of you is the size of a peanut. The general rule is that in the first trimester you get an extra 50 calories a day. That’s half a banana, or a medium apple, to put things into perspective. So don’t go using your pregnancy as an excuse to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet, but for pete’s sake, if you’re hungry, eat!
On the flip side, if you’re so nauseous you’re having a hard time eating even a normal amount of food for you, never mind worrying about 50 extra calories. Eat what you can, when you can, and look for ways to sneak in extra calories – like switching to full-fat dairy products or eating fistfuls of nuts if that’s something you can stomach.
The bottom line is, eat as well as you can. And I mean, eat as well as YOU can. No comparisons, no guilt, no beating yourself up over anything. This phase will pass, and you can make up for it in the 2nd trimester when you’re feeling better. More on that soon!