Christal Sczebel, C.H.N. Nutritionist in the Kitch
As an expert in nutrition, I thought I’d have it easy throughout my pregnancy when it came to eating healthy. Why would being pregnant change what I’d want to, or be able to eat?! Well, one lesson I learnt very quickly is that there’s really no way to know how your body might handle pregnancy, and baby is going to do what baby is going to do!
Considering the first trimester can sometimes throw a wrench in healthy eating intentions, I definitely recommend focusing on good nutrition while trying to conceive, taking a good quality prenatal supplement, and exercising regularly. Having a healthy lifestyle pre-pregnancy is extra insurance that your body will be primed and prepared to help baby grow and develop healthily in your womb.
Pregnancy is truly an amazing miracle! In the first trimester so much change occurs in the body, so it’s not usual to feel bombarded with nausea, fatigue, and bloating due to fluctuating hormones. Some women are able to breeze through this first three months relatively easy with some fatigue and tiredness, whereas others can be put almost out-of-commission by morning sickness and exhaustion. In my case, I was stuck to the couch, with regular daily exercise that consisted of running to the bathroom due to some serious morning sickness. Whether you are easily breezing through your first trimester, having a very hard time, or find yourself somewhere in the middle, here are my top nutrition tips to try and implement during these first few crucial months of fetal growth and development:
1. Take each day as it comes with self-love and patience!
I was quite down on myself in the first trimester when I developed major aversions to anything green, most vegetables, and my typical healthy meals. I often didn’t feel like eating, and when I did, I couldn’t muster up more effort than that to eat some crackers, soup, a smoothie, or a sandwich. It was so odd to me that my usual big healthy salads had become cringeworthy and they sure didn’t seem to settle my stomach. After some personal pep-talks I reminded myself that this too would pass, and to just do the best I could. I still loved fruit, so I made sure to enjoy a lot of fresh fruits and smoothies, like my Raspberry Apple Flax Smoothie, for boosts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. I also reminded myself that the healthy foundation I had created pre-pregnancy would surely see me through this rough first trimester. Some days I felt a lot better than others, and on those days I would aim to stock up on healthy wholesome foods. On the days I didn’t feel well at all, I’d make sure to rest, hydrate, and munch on crackers or whole grain toast. If you find you are struggling like I did in the first trimester, be kind to yourself, take it one day at a time and do what you can. This really will pass!
2. Do not take on the motto “I’m eating for two” just yet
As soon as women find out they are expecting, many can often develop that motto, “I’m eating for two,” using it as a pass to overeat and indulge on many foods. However, in the first trimester, there is actually no need for extra caloric intake just yet. This isn’t actually necessary until the second and third trimesters in pregnancy, so unfortunately overindulging in the first trimester will only lead to excess weight gain over-and-above the normal pregnancy weight gain. Gaining weight rapidly during pregnancy as opposed to slow and steady healthy weight gain can actually contribute to stretch marks, more fatigue, and digestive issues.
3. Stay well hydrated!
One important aspect during all of pregnancy but especially in the first trimester if you are experiencing morning sickness, is to stay well hydrated. Vomiting can cause dehydration which ultimately can lead to worsened fatigue, constipation, and heartburn. Even if you don’t have much appetite, carry a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day and take small sips often to keep your body hydrated and healthy. You might find soda water or carbonated water is more enjoyable or helps with the nausea. Aside from water, you can also try pregnancy-approved herbal teas like rooibos, ginger, and mint, or natural juices in moderation.
4. Enjoy light nutritious meals regularly
During the day it’s important to eat, even just small amounts, on a regular basis. Skipping meals or going several hours without eating at all will not only cause blood sugar lows which can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and moodiness, but it can also worsen nausea. While it may seem counterintuitive to eat when you feel nauseous, having light nutritious meals and snacks like a bowl of Overnight Oatmeal, Chicken Stew, or a Homemade Energy Bar will definitely take the edge off and keep your body fuelled for all the work it’s doing. If you want something even easier, a handful of nuts with fruit or avocado on grain toast can also do the trick!
5. Give ginger a go
Ginger is known to be one of nature’s best natural anti-nausea therapies. While it didn’t work the greatest for me, I do know it works wonders for some women during the first trimester, so I wouldn’t knock it off the list until you give it a try. Grate fresh ginger root into a cup of hot water with a few lemon slices and a drizzle of honey, or add fresh ginger slices to carbonated water with a drizzle of honey to create your own low-sugar ginger-ale. You can also try natural ginger chews or simply add some grated ginger to a fruit smoothie.
While the first trimester can be challenging for some, it truly is still an amazing time as you experience the reality of a precious life growing inside of you. In combination with rest, stress management, and light exercise, good nutrition will arm you with the best fuel to strengthen your body as it does some miraculous baby-building work!
Christal Sczebel is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and Published Author based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is owner of a private nutrition practice, Pure & Simple Nutrition, with a team of practitioners focused on helping their clients discover optimal health. Christal is also the owner and writer of Nutritionist in the Kitch, a website filled with her recipe creations, food photography, ramblings, and a selection of online nutrition guides and programs that help readers reach their best health through nutrition and living well. Her cookbook Energy Balls was published in early 2017 and she is currently working on her second cookbook publishing in January of 2018.
Christal is happily married and they are expecting their first little bundle of joy in May of 2017. She loves to travel, spend time with friends and family, write, experiment with recipes and photography, and stay healthy and active. You will often find Christal planning her next adventurous getaway eager to explore new healthy foods on the horizon!