Most of us will experience a mixture of pregnancy complaints at some stage of our pregnancy journey. Nausea. Heartburn. Constipation. The list can go on, thanks to a surge in pregnancy hormones and changes that naturally occur in a pregnant woman’s body.
We might know that food during pregnancy is important. But did you know real food (aka food that’s minimally processed) has the nutrients you and your baby need most in this time.
Beyond improving your baby’s development, these nutrients can help minimize common pregnancy complaints. From nausea in your 1st trimester to insomnia in your 3rd trimester, food can heal and nourish – both you and your baby.
Here are the top 5 pregnancy complaints, and the best food to eat to naturally combat them.
If you have nausea in the 1st trimester, try to eat small frequent meals. It sounds ironic, but when you get hungry, your blood sugar drops, and this can make nausea worse. Split up your meals if you need to. Carry snacks. Have a granola bar or some crackers on your bedside table so you can have something to eat when you wake up in the morning – or in the middle of the night.
Cold foods are often preferred as hot foods can trigger the gag reflex. Eat as much fruit as you crave, especially if you can’t stomach greens right now. Don’t feel bad if you’re unable to stomach much more than carbs in the first few weeks of your pregnancy and if you’re one of the majority of women who experience nausea or food aversions, make sure you take a good quality prenatal vitamin with the nutrients you need most at this point in time.
Bottomline is, sneak in fruits and vegetables when you can. They are easy to add to smoothies and soups, or go for simple meals like avocado toast. But, also don’t worry if you can’t each more than bread and pasta at this point. Take a prenatal each day, reduce your toxin exposure as much as you can, and get on track to eating nutrient-dense foods once the nausea fades.
Your digestion slows down during pregnancy, and makes you more prone to constipation and heartburn. This is your body’s way of drawing out as many nutrients as possible from your digestive system to give to your baby and that is good for your baby but will not feel great for you.
Make sure you’re eating enough fiber to keep your digestion “moving”. Fiber acts like a “broom” to sweep out waste and toxins along our digestive tract. Aim for 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day to get the fiber you need. Side note: 1 serving = 1 cup.
Don’t underestimate the importance of water too. The Institute of Medicine recommends women drink 100 oz of water each day, but drink more than that if you drink caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee. Caffeine is a diuretic that makes you pee more, which feels like the last thing you need to do when you’re pregnant!
Heartburn is caused by a combination of hormonal changes, and your growing baby putting pressure on your stomach.
Avoid fried and spicy foods that can contribute to stomach acidity. Eat smaller meals. If you’re prone to heartburn, eat alkaline foods, especially before bedtime or whenever you need to lie down. Foods like bananas, almonds, almond milk, or oatmeal are some examples of alkaline foods. My favorite before bed snack when I had heartburn was a banana and a glass of unsweetened almond milk.
Leg cramps could be a sign of a mineral deficiency. Minerals like magnesium and potassium are needed more during pregnancy to assist with healthy cell multiplication in your baby. Unfortunately, modern farming practices have removed many minerals from the soil. This means that food grown from the land is not as mineral-rich as it once was.
Make sure you take a good quality prenatal vitamin made from whole food ingredients. A good indicator that your prenatal is made from whole foods is that it has folate in it and not folic acid. If you do get leg cramps, eat foods rich in magnesium and potassium.
Coconut water is my go-to drink when I get leg cramps. It’s rich in minerals and electrolytes, so it’s great to drink if you’re sick in the 1st trimester. Bananas and cacao are great sources of potassium and magnesium. Check out my smoothie to beat leg cramps using frozen banana and cacao.
Blame it on the pregnancy hormones, or the inability to get comfortable at night, but many women experience pregnancy insomnia in the 3rd trimester.
To help with this, make sure your eating calcium-rich foods in your 2nd and 3rd trimester. Calcium helps your brain use the amino acid tryptophan to release the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Studies show that if your diet is low in calcium, you’re more likely to experience disturbed sleep patterns.
Some of my favorite sources of calcium include whole milk yoghurt, cheese, broccoli, canned salmon (with the bones), almonds, and leafy greens like kale.
My favorite middle of the night snack during my pregnancies was whole milk Greek yoghurt sprinkled with raw almonds and a drizzle of honey.
If you want to know more about food during pregnancy, and how it can help both you and your baby, the Bella Mama Guide was created for you, the modern mother.
We cover what to eat each month of pregnancy, with nutrition tips and recipes, plus ways on how to eliminate toxins and support your holistic health. Our heart and mission is for you to step into motherhood feeling strong, healthy, and confident.
Zoe is a Certified Health Coach with a focus on pregnancy and pre-pregnancy health. After 5 years at the United Nations, Zoe decided to pursue a passion for pregnancy health after she struggled to find resources that made food during pregnancy easy to understand and accessible to the modern woman who wants her best transition into motherhood. Zoe lives in New York with her husband, son, and daughter.