From heartburn, sleepless nights and leg cramps to managing your hunger levels and preventing dehydration in your third trimester, here are some tips on how to combat the most common pregnancy complaints as you head into the home stretch!
Don’t know where to start making healthier choices during pregnancy? Here are two simple ways to start that can really shape your pregnancy for the better.
1. Eat real, whole foods most of the time
Choose real, whole foods when you can, so you don't feel bad about the times you have an insatiable craving. I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle, which means you eat real, nutritious whole foods 80 percent of the time and leave yourself 20 percent for more-processed meals or snacks.
Real, whole foods are the opposite of food that comes from a factory, which is most food that comes out of a box or packet. However, in our busy, modern-day lives, eating food out of a box or a packet is sometimes unavoidable.
Unless you cook all your meals from scratch, it's inevitable that you're going to eat some packaged food here and there. But the secret to a healthier pregnancy is to make sure you're eating real, whole foods at least most of the time, so you don't feel bad for the occasional treat or meal that comes out of a box or packet.
2. Choosing the least processed option
Processed foods don't contain the same amount of nutrients for your baby's development as real, whole foods. Instead, what these processed foods have are a lot of ‘empty’ calories - calories with little nutritional value that can contribute to excessive weight gain if not used for energy.
For example, if you need to choose an energy bar, choosing one that has whole food ingredients (like a Larabar or Rx Bar) is better than choosing one with a long list of ingredients, especially if that list includes added sugars, artificial sweeteners or preservatives you can't pronounce.
When I was pregnant, I would often go to long work meetings that were catered. (Some of these meetings would go for 3-4 hours at a time!) There would always be cookies and pastries, and sometimes sandwiches and fruit. If the sandwiches were made with whole-wheat bread, I would have a sandwich and a small serving of fruit. If there were no real, whole foods available, I’d always have one of my own snacks that I’d pre-packed in my handbag for when I got hungry. I'd always carry a piece of fruit or a packet of raw almonds or my own home-made trail mix so I would have a nutrient-dense option to eat and not be left hungry… because no one wants that when you’re pregnant!
Try out my pregnancy superfood trail mix below!
If you’re like me, your idea of what a pregnant woman should eat is probably from what you've seen in the movies and on TV… the pregnant mama chowing down on her third packet of Oreos… or screaming for Doritos and ice cream at 3 o’clock in the morning. It makes us feel like we could, or should be doing exactly that when we're pregnant.
And while you could eat whatever you like during pregnancy, being mindful about what foods you eat during your pregnancy will have payoffs - for both you and your baby.
By no means is pregnancy a time for restrictive eating... your body has additional energy requirements because you are afterall, growing a human being inside of you and that takes a lot of work!
However, it is a time to be intentional about the choices you make when it comes to food.
Real food vs junk food
If you choose to eat real, whole foods most of the time, you’ll get the nutrients your baby and your body needs, without worrying about excessive weight gain during pregnancy and the complications that may bring.
Real foods allow your body to naturally put on weight where you're biologically programmed to. The beautiful thing about mother nature is that you'll be biologically programmed to lose weight from these places once you've given birth.
On the other hand, junk or processed foods don't contain the nutrients your baby needs so you're left hungry for more - and more susceptible to the cycle of cravings. Someone once told me that if eating junk food before you were pregnant made you put on weight, wouldn’t the same thing happen while you were pregnant? Food for thought...
So, while you can eat whatever you want during pregnancy, not everything is going to benefit your baby’s development - or give your body what it needs to stay healthy and strong after your pregnancy.
Instead, make healthier choices when you can, and focus on eating real, whole foods that don’t come out of a packet or box. Choose meals with real food ingredients, that you have to put together yourself.
As a quick and easy snack (or breakfast), I love to make whole-wheat toast topped with nut butter, bananas and chia seeds. It's quick to make, satisfying to eat and full of nutrients that'll look after your baby and your body.