I have to be honest, one of the biggest lies people tell you about pregnancy is the whole “eating for two” and “you get to eat whatever you want” lie. Yea, I’m gunna call B.S on that.
As it turns out, pregnancy is not a free for all, eat whatever you want, 9 month Oreo buffet. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?! I’ve actually found that more of the opposite is true and I have to eat much healthier than I did prior to pregnancy. Before pregnancy, I felt like I had a pretty good eating routine. I knew about how much I needed every day and I was good at balancing eating well while still letting myself indulge. But, pregnancy definitely flipped my eating routine around. I was hungry more often, I have to manage food cravings and food aversions, and I was trying my best to ensure I was getting in the healthy nutrients that are important for my growing babe. So, today I want to tackle breaking down the “eat whatever you want” stereotype and share some tips on how I’ve managed to balance healthy eating while pregnant. I’m going to share how I’ve adjusted my eating to accommodate pregnancy and how I manage to eat well during my pregnancy while juggling food cravings and other pregnancy symptoms.
Your Body Image During Pregnancy
Ok, first I just want to quickly breeze over the topic of body image during pregnancy. I’m still on the fence on if this will be an entire post or not, but I feel like addressing it in this post makes sense. Your body is going to change during pregnancy and you’re not going to love all of it. You will gain weight in places you didn’t have it before, your body will start storing away fat (oh, hello cellulite), and things move and shift and are just…different. I think adjusting to these changes to our body is even harder in the day and age of social media. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen some superhero fitness person on my Instagram feed who is pregnant but looks more fit than I did before pregnancy. Talk about a slap in the face. It’s really (REALLY REALLY REALLY) easy to get down on yourself. Know that you’re not alone in feeling this. It’s a feeling that I guarantee almost every pregnant woman has experienced at one time or another. You’re likely going to be the biggest you’ve ever been before. While it’s all for a good cause (the best cause in your life, you could argue) that doesn’t make it any easier.
So, let me preface this ENTIRE post by reminding you that you are making a damn person. It’s important to try to keep your mind in-check and remind yourself that this is NOT the time to over analyze your body. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE. Just like every pregnancy is different and every baby is different…every woman will carry their pregnancy different. Some women will gain 20 lbs and lose it in 6 weeks all while eating junk food and others will gain 50lbs and take 12 months to lose it all while eating well and exercising. Make a conscious effort not to get into the comparison game. If necessary, avoid places on social media that can exaggerate this. Remember that what you see online is a highlight reel, and often photoshopped. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to other pregnant women – we’re all a hot mess, some of us are just better at hiding it.
Ok, now let’s get into talking about healthy eating during pregnancy. While you need to give yourself grace and accept the changes to your body, that doesn’t also mean “EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT!”
Let’s me just come right out and say it: you may be eating for two, but one of you only needs about 300 calories a day. It’s SO easy to give in to food cravings or overindulge by using the “eating for two” excuse. And, the truth is, during pregnancy you do HAVE to eat more and you’re going to find you’re probably hungry more often. You’ll likely find that some weeks you literally CAN’T GET ENOUGH FOOD. Even though the pregnancy apps will tell you that “you’ll gain a pound a week,” the reality is your baby and body will grow in spurts. Leading up to growth spurts I always found myself ravenous.
But, even though I was hungrier than usual, I knew this didn’t mean that it could be a free-for-all. If I spent these days indulging in food cravings like sweets, pizza, fried food, etc., I wouldn’t be giving my body and baby what it needed during these growth spurts. Instead, I tried to focus on eating high-quality foods that I knew were filling. Many “junk” foods don’t offer us a lot of nutrition and our body burns through them quickly, just leaving us even MORE hungry ever quicker.
To manage hunger, I focused on foods that were high in protein and high in fiber to help keep me full. I shared some of my favorite foods the next section.
Fill your house with good food
On the biggest surprises to me has been how hungry I’ve been some days during pregnancy. Like I mentioned, when Baby Branciforte was gearing up for a growth spurt, I’d have days where I was hungry every 60 minutes. I would even wake up 1-2 times a night! It was honestly exhausting.
While the best thing to do is obviously focus on healthy foods during these spurts, it can be really hard to do that if there are unhealthy choices lying around. I made a very conscious effort to make sure I filled my house with a lot of healthy and easy-to-grab snacks. This way whenever hungry would strike (like 2am), I would have super easy but good-for-me snacks I could easily grab. This helped me avoid less nutritious options.
Some of my favorite quick but healthy snacks are:
- Energy bites (I make a big batch of these and then keep them in my freezer) – I use this recipe.
- Any fruits or berries: bananas, cherries, frozen blueberries, peaches, apples, etc.
- Whole wheat crackers and hummus
- Avocados (I’d just eat them with some seasoning or mash one on top of a rice cracker and top with tomato)
- Cottage cheese (topped with nuts and honey)
- Almonds and pecans
- Granola bars – I like the Larbars because they have only a few ingredients each so I know they aren’t filled with junk
- Apples with peanut butter
- Healthy cereals (look for low sugar high fiber/iron/protein)
- Veggie roll-ups (I bought low carb wraps and would add cucumber, avocado, and spinach, and then roll it up)
I think it’s important to mention here I’m not a big “meal eater.” In general, I eat small portions throughout the day and maybe only have one actual “meal” a day – if that. It’s something I adopted a while back that’s always helped me eat healthier and maintain a healthy weight. I have an entire post about my “diet” if you want to read a little bit more about my general healthy eating habits.
Indulge! Just Not Every Day…
I think it’s really (really, really, really) easy to use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever you want. People will tell you “the baby wants it!” or “you’re pregnant, you should eat whatever you want.” But, I have to say I kind of disagree with these statements. Heck yes you should treat yourself during pregnancy. Being pregnant is hard and cookies help. But, you’re also growing an entire human being. Your body is working on overdrive. You need to make sure you’re giving your body the nutrition it needs to do its thing! Not only does junk food not give you the nutrition you need, but it can’t give you the energy you need as well – meaning you’re just going to be hungry again in an hour when your body burns through that food.
I’ve taken pretty much the same approach to indulging in cheat foods during pregnancy that I did before pregnancy. I’m all about cheat meals and treating yourself to those bad-for-you foods, but it’s all about moderation. Typically I choose to have cheat meals on weekends and avoid them on the weekdays, but you can do whatever works for you. Maybe give yourself 5 “cheat” items a week and spread them out how you want, or pick one day a week that’s a “cheat day.”
Replace Your Cravings
To combat your food cravings in between cheat meals, I find ways to replace my food cravings with healthier options.
Everyone has bad foods they crave (especially during pregnancy!) Instead of just giving in to every craving OR sitting around wishing I had something and depriving myself of whatever I want to eat, I have found that I can usually replace the craving. I find a healthier option that helps me not feel like I’m depriving myself without giving in to the craving completely. Since I personally have a sweet tooth, I always keep fruit and berries in the house. This way I can make up a quick fruit salad. Other healthy alternatives to my sweet tooth are apples with peanut butter, a sliced banana with a few chocolate chips on top, or 1/4 cup of chocolate almond milk on top of frozen fruit (the frozen fruit turns the almond milk to a slush!)
Know what your trigger foods are and look for healthier replacements, and then make sure you keep those in the house. Of course, replacing your craving won’t ALWAYS work. Sometimes you’ll have some berries and still want the damn cookie- and in the case, hell, have the cookie. But, the idea is often you can replace the craving all together and give yourself a much healthier, nutritional option.
Make Yourself Accountable for What You Ate
Like I’ve said, one the hardest struggles for me during pregnancy is actually feeling hungry a lot more than I anticipated. So often the feeling of hungry can lead to bad food choices. When I’m in a rush or super busy and hunger strikes, sometimes the thought of just grabbing some fast food or a baked good seems like the best option. While these are fine choices on occasions, the problem is when they become a habit. So, I like to find simple ways to track what I’ve eaten in a day. I find this helps me stay accountable and make better healthy choices overall.
I’m not super strict about this, I might just do it in my head or jot it down in my phone’s notepad. But, the idea is just to write down what I’ve eaten that day. That way when 3:00 hunger rolls around I can look down at my day’s list and see how I’ve been doing. Did I eat any fruits today? Have I had any servings of vegetables? Have I only been eating cravings all day? It’s like a quick check-in and can help me make the right choice. Maybe I’ll see I haven’t had ONE green thing to eat all day yet, so I’ll opt for 1/2 an avocado or some cucumbers with hummus. Or, I’ll realize I haven’t had enough food with proteins so it’s no wonder I’m so hungry! Or, maybe I’ve eaten really great all day, and then I’ll treat myself to a cookie or sweet treat.
The truth is (in my opinion) is that there isn’t any perfect diet for all people that’s some magic cure. I think the most important thing is to educate yourself on the foods you eat. Learn what foods offer what nutritional benefits, and the pros and cons of them all. Focus on whole foods and avoid processed. Give your body diversity, try to eat a mix of proteins, fruits, vegetables, and so on every day. Understand it doesn’t have to be about completely ridding things from your diet, for example: sure too many carbs are bad, but SOME carbs are good (they are your body’s energy source).
I think my tips for eating healthy during pregnancy come down to a few simple rules, and those rules aren’t ALL that different than my healthy eating rules before pregnancy
- Focus on foods that fuel your body- think of your body like a gas tank, it can only hold so much, are you putting in high-quality fuel or crappy, bottom-of-the-barrel sludge?
- Let yourself indulge but practice moderation
- Make yourself accountable for what you eat
What are some of your best tips for eating well and choosing healthy foods?
Shop this post:
I’m wearing a Pinkblush maternity dress here, of course. Their maternity dresses are my favorite because (as I’ve told you all a million times) the fabric is super soft and nice and thick! This long-sleeve navy dress flatters the bump while still giving you the coverage you want.