Eating Healthy When You Are Expecting

Finding out you are pregnant can be a game changer for many women when it comes to food. All of a sudden, you start to see coffee, lunch meats and sugar in a whole new light. Instead of trying to decide between sushi and a medium-rare steak, you worry about folic acid and B vitamins. Are the foods you are putting in your body giving your growing baby the nutrients he needs to develop? Luckily, eating well when you are expecting doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. By following these simple suggestions, you can be assured you are giving your baby the best start to life possible.

Embrace the healthy fats. A developing fetus needs fat for proper growth and brain development. However, the quality of the fats is important. Work on incorporating healthy fats from foods like avocados, almonds, grass-fed meats, organic eggs and full-fat organic dairy. Remember, what you eat now can affect your baby’s taste for foods in the future. Unless you have aversions, try to introduce your baby to a variety of interesting flavors from the very beginning. Both of our girls’ favorite foods are very similar to what I ate during both of my pregnancies (goat cheese for Annie and kale for Ellie).

Be ready when hunger pains start. We all know it’s more difficult to make good food choices when you’re starving. This is never more true than when you are pregnant and your blood sugar starts to plummet. Stock your purse, car and desk with healthy snacks that will satisfy your craving for crunchy, salty, sweet—whatever. Some nutrient-packed and tasty options are almonds and raisins, homemade granola, dried fruit, homemade protein bars, apples and single serving packets of almond butter, string cheese, and carrots with hummus. (Recipes can be found at

Eat six mini-meals instead of three large ones. Especially during the first trimester when morning sickness is strong and the third trimester when your body is running out of room, eating six mini-meals instead of three large ones may be a better strategy. Try to get a serving of protein, produce and healthy fat at each sitting and you will be good to go!

Rest, rest, rest! I know this isn’t really about food, but I still think it’s worth mentioning. Your body is working hard to grow another human. You may not have as much energy as you used to and you certainly won’t have as much energy when you start doing midnight feedings. That is okay. Stock up on sleep when you can, and let go of any guilt that you are “indulging.”

Don’t sweat the small stuff. When it comes to eating healthy, go for an 80/20 rule. If you are stressing too much over what, how much and when you’re eating, you won’t be able to fully enjoy your pregnancy. Aly Millert, RN, BSN, at Shawnee Mission Birth Center, and Lenexa mama to 3-year-old twins, reminds us that, according to science, all foods have the capability to nourish unborn babies. That being said, Aly does want to remind us to limit sugar, especially if gestational diabetes is an issue. Blood sugar instability is incredibly dangerous for a newborn baby. Luckily, that doesn’t mean no sugar at all—just use moderation.

Stock your freezer. As your due date approaches, start stocking your freezer with meals and snacks for the first few months. In my cookbook, Feeding Our Families, 18 of the 48 meals are completely freezer-friendly. Marsha Boyer, Shawnee grandmother and retired Shawnee Mission School District family and consumer sciences teacher, says that even if cooking is not your thing, you always can have a freezer-friendly baby shower. Have your hostess ask guests to bring a freezer-friendly meal to your shower. To make this a win-win for all, your hostess also can ask guests to bring enough copies of the recipe to share with all of the other guests. This way, all of your friends will go home with an arsenal of new freezer-friendly recipes, AND you will be sure to have baking instructions on all of your future meals. (I suggest taping the recipe onto the freezer bag so that, when mommy brain kicks in, you won’t be wondering where your recipes are. Just saying.)

Finally, listen to your body. Women have been birthing healthy babies since long before there was a whole section at the bookstore dedicated to doing it “right.” We are all unique. Just because a book says something works doesn’t mean that it works for everyone in every situation. Embrace the changes, listen to your body and enjoy every flutter and kick that come during this special time!


Top 10 Healthy Brain Foods to Eat While You Are Expecting:

  1. Avocado - easily digestible fat that can be assimilated easily
  2. Eggs - promote fluidity on a cellular level
  3. Grass-fed meat - rich in CLA and Omega-3
  4. Yogurt and kefir - probiotics for good gut health
  5. Wild salmon - Omega-3s and will help the baby get used to the flavor of fish
  6. Salads - antioxidants and the fiber can help with constipation (bonus points if you use an olive oil-based dressing)
  7. Hard cheeses - healthy fat and less contamination risk than soft cheese
  8. Real chicken and turkey - Skip that deli meat and slice up the real thing.
  9. Asparagus - natural diuretic to prevent bloating
  10. Organic ice cream (in moderation) - Choosing organic helps you avoid high fructose corn syrup and fake colors and sugars, which can be transferred to the baby.

Katie Newell is a certified nutrition coach with a passion for helping families become better.  She is also a culinary instructor, cookbook author and mama to two sweet girls, ages 7 and 8. You can order her cookbook, Feeding Our Families, and check out her real food recipes at

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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