One of the things that really bothers me as a naturopath and as a pregnant woman is that it’s difficult to find trimester-specific nutritional information. Throughout pregnancy your vitamin and mineral needs are slightly different, so rather than writing about pregnancy in general, here is the first of a series of three articles on how to eat for optimal nutrition during each phase of your pregnancy.
The first trimester is characterised by nausea, poor digestion and fatigue for many. Already at this point you may be completely repelled by certain foods and highly sensitive to tastes and odours. Most women only desire bland foods in this stage of pregnancy. Anthropologists theorise that this was a way for newly pregnant women to protect their babies by avoiding potentially spoiled foods.
For many, keeping food down or having an appetite is challenging. Luckily at this stage the baby’s needs are small and no extra calorie consumption is required unless your Body Mass Index is below normal (18.5). If you have a low BMI, it is a good idea to start increasing food portions in order to attain a healthy BMI. Check out the following website for information on calculating your BMI.
To make sure you get adequate vitamins and minerals, which are really important for your developing baby, choose a variety of whole foods and make your meals appealing in order to satisfy your finicky palate. If you need to limit your diet due to nausea or digestive problems make sure to compensate with a prenatal vitamin.
For the duration of your pregnancy:
The importance of avoiding the items on this list lies in the fact that your placenta does not filter what you put into your mouth, meaning that baby’s little tiny developing organs are exposed to the same substances you expose yourself to. This includes pesticides, bacteria, mercury, chemical food additives and other toxins.
- Caffeinated drinks: coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, …
- Raw meat, raw fish, raw eggs
- Unpasteurised milk and cheese
- Smoked seafood
- Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
- Aspartame: high doses could result in birth defects
Make sure you:
- Eat nutrient dense foods * (see below for explanations)
- Limit soy products to 1 portion per day
- Carefully wash your fruits and vegetables
- Eat only thoroughly cooked meat, eggs and fish
- Eat foods rich in omega-3’s, such as fish, that are important for your baby’s brain development. BUT, make sure to choose fish that contains a low mercury content such as: small fish, salmon, tilapia, light tuna, trout (freshwater), sole…see complete list
- Get sufficient sleep; listen to your body and rest when you need to
- Take folic acid or a prenatal vitamin that includes 400 mcg of folic acid
- If you choose to eat hot dogs or deli meats, make sure to thoroughly heat them before eating
- Choose unsaturated fats (from plants or fish), limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats
- Choose whole grains rather than ‘white’ carbohydrates and avoid sugar consumption to steer clear of gestational diabetes
- Increase your water consumption
- Choose organic if your budget allows
Throughout your pregnancy you will need an abundance of vitamins and minerals. The best way to obtain these is by eating nutrient dense foods*. What are these? They are whole foods like colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains (which have not been stripped of their fiber and nutrients), nuts, seeds, legumes, lean, unprocessed meats and non-hydrogenated, extra-virgin vegetable oils.
Important Nutrient for the 1st Trimester
- Folic acid: If you have not started taking this supplement, start today! It is recommended that all women trying to conceive take 400 mcg per day and continue throughout the first trimester. This nutrient plays an important role in DNA synthesis, gene expression and regulation, and proper development of the nervous system. Increased consumption of foods rich in folic acid is also recommended. Look for spinach, chicory, cress, walnuts, chickpeas, melon…
- Ginger herbal tea (make your own, its healthier and cheaper: boil 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of chopped raw ginger for 5-10 minutes)
- Don’t let yourself get hungry; nausea often comes when your stomach is empty; eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Have healthy crackers or another salty snack to chew on when you feel nausea approaching
- Walk it off. Get some fresh air and a bit of exercise.
- Steer clear of unpleasant odours as much as possible
By following these tips, you’ll be starting your pregnancy off right. Assuring quality nutrition throughout these crucial first months is very important to your developing baby. Vital organs are being formed and by avoiding certain foods and including others, you support the process. Hang in there! The best part of pregnancy is just around the corner! Soon your energy and appetite will be back.