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January 12, 2021 | | Nutrition

Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy

Embarking on the journey of pregnancy is so exciting but can also be a little nerve-wrecking. You want to do everything just right to care for both yourself and your little one, and for some, the idea of gaining weight (which is a good thing!) can be daunting as well. I am going to share what the recommendations are for maternal nutrition as well as what has worked well for me.

First Trimester

In the first trimester, your main concern is resting and trying to keep food down. Typically this is when women experience morning sickness (or all day..). Additionally, food aversions are usually heightened at this time due to nausea and an increased sense of smell. Some women gain the expected 1-4.5 lbs during this time and some lose weight, however no extra calories are needed during this trimester. Either way, don’t fret. Everyone gains weight at different times so do not worry if you feel you are ahead of behind. 

Your main goal is to eat small frequent meals. Some women find that carbohydrates sit best with them, as aversions to meat and vegetables is common. If you find yourself only keeping down a bagel that is okay! You have plenty of time to get baby all of those wonderful nutrients. Plus, you should have started taking a prenatal vitamin which will help cover any bases you may be missing at this time. Small frequent meals help with nausea as well as give you many opportunities to eat throughout the day. Vegetables don’t sound great right now? Load up on those fruits- many contain similar nutrients to your favorite vegetables. And if you find you cannot tolerate much food, at the very least opt for liquids (preferably water) to keep you well hydrated and prevent dehydration. 

Second Trimester

The second trimester is usually celebrated with feeling much better and hopefully kissing that morning sickness goodbye, though some find it to linger for a bit longer. In general weight gain during this trimester is 1-2 lbs per week for individuals with a BMI between 18.5-24.9. To achieve this, roughly 340 extra calories per day should be consumed. With cravings and an increased appetite you would think this should be relatively easy to achieve, however with the uterus expanding up and further into the abdomen this can cause a new set of issues. Feelings of becoming full more quickly and heartburn can be a challenge. The best way to accommodate this is to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Snacks or mini-meals rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and fruits or vegetables are best to provide a variety of nutrients as well as promote lasting satiety. Examples of snacks include: greek yogurt and fruit, apple slices with peanut butter, cheese and whole grain crackers, fruit smoothies with greek yogurt and nut butter, PB&J, etc. Adding in an extra balanced snack is also a great way to get those extra 340 calories. Finally, during this trimester is when most mamas find they have the most energy. Use this time to get in some of your favorite (safe) activities. Regular physical activity can help with digestion, sleep, energy, and preparing your body for the most important workout- labor!

Third Trimester

The third trimester is the home stretch of this wonderful journey called pregnancy. In this trimester the weight gain for a normal (pre-pregnancy) weight individual is about 1-2 lbs per week. This equates to about 450 extra calories per day. Unfortunately heartburn is usually still an issue for many, so remembering to eat those small frequent meals is key. This trimester is a good time to start thinking about postpartum. Pregnancy hunger can seem difficult to keep up with but it is valuable to use this as a trial run for fueling if you plan to breastfeed. Energy will feel lower during this trimester, so stay on top of your nutrition and rest- you deserve it! 

Pregnancy is a different journey for every woman. For some, it will feel like a walk in the park, while for others it will be some of the most difficult months. At the end of the day it is best to honor your body by giving yourself grace to enjoy some of those cravings, sleep a little more, and accept your new and beautiful, ever-changing body. While there are general recommendations for weight gain and calorie intake, they are just that: general. Every body is different and listening to what yours needs and nourishing it the best you can is all you can do. 

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This post was written by our Lead Dietitian, Ashley Stickley. Ashley is a Registered Dietitian and graduate of Virginia Tech with a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise. Hailing from Midlothian, Virginia, she was raised with strong love for food and cooking. As an RD, Ashley is passionate about people, food, and creating a healthy relationship between the two. She loves helping people make practical and sustainable habits that lead to healthful lives. She loves cooking and staying active with her husband. On the weekends you can usually find her running at First Landing State Park, enjoying the beach, and soaking in the newborn snuggles with her precious new baby girl. Learn more about our talented team here