Admit it. When it comes to fighting a craving for that delicious chocolate chip cookie (or three, if we’re being frank here)… the struggle is real. And what about that last minute decision to stop off at the nearest fried chicken place because you saw a commercial on TV last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it?
Yup. If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably been in this position at least once since the day you peed on a stick and saw those two little lines. Try not to be too hard on yourself. I know I’ve been there – on more than one occasion – and I’m not even going to pretend otherwise, because I’m a human being like the rest of us. We can’t always be perfect because that’s just not real life.
But for all the times that I’m sure you DO find yourself earnestly trying to stick to “as-healthy-a-diet-as-possible”, especially as you think about the growing little human that’s also eating the family-size bag of potato chips that you just inhaled…
The following short list contains some easy-to-remember guidelines that you can try to aim for at your next well-intentioned meal:
#1: Eat a rainbow of fruits & veggies
I know it can be difficult, but try to sneak a colorful variety of them into your weekly diet as often as possible. Snack on a piece of fruit if you’re hungry and craving something sweet. Toss some baby spinach and a few carrots into your morning smoothie. Opt for a leafy, green salad at lunch once or twice a week (or more, if it strikes your fancy). Always try to include a veggie somewhere on your dinner plate. It all counts, so the more often you can remember to do this, the better.
#2: Protein, protein, protein!
Your baby NEEDS protein. It’s one of the essential building blocks for every component his/her entire body. And baby needs it EVERY. DAY. Your source of protein can be animal or plant-based, or a bit of both if you’re not a vegetarian. Try to stick to lean meats if you can, but don’t stress yourself out if you decide to opt for something fattier every once in a while (just don’t make it a habit). Try grabbing a handful of nuts and seeds if you’re hankering for a light snack and aren’t sure what else sounds good. Add beans to your salad, or have them as a side dish with your lunch or dinner. If you’re not lactose intolerant, have cereal with milk or a cup of Greek yogurt for breakfast. Have string cheese with your lunch. There are lots of ways to meet your quota, you just need to be creative with it.
#3: Choose whole grains (in place of processed)
Yes, I’m talking about the brown, chewier kind. These should be substituted whenever possible for the the white or highly processed varieties. That means asking for brown rice instead of white. Use “100% whole wheat” bread for your toast or sandwiches. Choose whole wheat pasta instead of the regular kind. Have old-fashioned oatmeal or some type of bran cereal for breakfast on occasion. Maybe even cook up some quinoa in chicken broth (instead of water, for better flavor) to have as a side dish with your dinner. Quinoa technically isn’t even a grain, but it’s a super healthy, fluffy, and delicious alternative to rice that only takes about 15 minutes to make.
#4: Have dairy every day (or some other reliable source of calcium)
Your baby needs lots of calcium… not just for growing strong bones, but also for regulating his/her heartbeat, having blood clotting abilities, and helping nerves and muscles to properly contract. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t make calcium naturally, so we have to obtain it from our diet. And if you don’t get enough, then your baby will leach it from YOUR bones. This could potentially make you more prone to things like osteoporosis later in life (not good!). So if you’re dairy-tolerant, then have a bowl of cereal with milk more often. Or just drink a glass of milk with your breakfast of choice. Top your salads and sandwiches with cheese! Eat a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese whenever you’re craving a light snack. Have a scoop of ice cream for dessert every once in a while! If you’re lactose-intolerant (or just don’t eat dairy), then fear not… there are plenty of other foods that contain calcium! Just think “dark, leafy greens” (broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, collards, swiss chard), as well as things like tofu, almonds, and canned salmon. You can also try calcium-fortified milk alternatives like almond, rice, or soy milk, and of course orange juice!
#5: Drink LOTS of water
Not only does staying properly hydrated have a whole host of benefits for you as a pregnant woman (less risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, and preterm labor?… yes, please!), but water is the vehicle for all the nutrients you’re consuming as they are delivered to the blood cells that your baby uses as he/she grows in the womb! Although some of your daily water intake comes from your diet (in things like fresh fruit, milk, and broths), you still need to drink water throughout the day to obtain enough. Obviously pure water is always the best choice, but if you just need a change of taste, then you can also receive some of your hydration from sparkling water, decaf coffee or tea, and no-sugar-added juices. Just try to steer clear of soda and other drinks that contain more sugar than anything else (ahem, Starbucks…), since the amount of water they provide is negligible and they contain other things that are not good for baby, anyway.
What did YOU do to try to maintain a healthy diet during your pregnancy? Share your tips below!