I enjoy meal planning and preparation–except, as it turns out, when I’m pregnant. For the first trimester, I couldn’t bring myself to scroll through recipes on Pinterest, never mind deal with the smells and textures in the kitchen. I was also worried about getting all the right nutrients to have a healthy pregnancy. Planning simple weekly menus made it easier for my husband to take over in the kitchen. Whether you were a dedicated meal planner before or are just getting started, thinking ahead can help your family put convenient, healthy meals on the table.
Good nutrition is essential to help your baby develop and keep you feeling your best throughout pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s calcium, iron, folate, and other vitamin and mineral needs can jump twice as high as when she wasn’t expecting. As much as you can, build your diet on nutritious foods, such as:
- Dark orange and green, leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruit
- Calcium-rich foods (fortified orange juice, dairy products)
- Iron-rich foods (lean meats, eggs, fortified oatmeal, edamame)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (oily, low-mercury fish like salmon and sardines, walnuts)
Planning weekly theme nights like Taco Tuesdays or aiming for two fish dinners per week can help add structure to meal planning.
Nausea and fatigue are common first-trimester complaints. Eating a balanced diet is difficult when you’re too tired to keep up your usual level of meal prep or feel repulsed by old favorites.
Don’t force yourself to eat a big breakfast if morning sickness hits. If you can manage a glass of OJ or a banana, that’s a good start. Look for quick and easy meals for when you do feel up to eating, like instant oatmeal, Greek yogurt with fruit, or microwavable wraps with veggies, lean meat, and a little cheese.
Planning on a bigger dinner may be helpful if it’s hard to eat much earlier in the day. A stir fry full of lean protein and veggies is quick and easy. A “sheet pan” dinner of meat and veggies roasted in the oven is hands-off, letting you put your feet up.
Your stomach has probably stopped churning, and your energy picks up. Hooray! But heartburn and leg cramps may appear out of nowhere.
Getting plenty of calcium can help ease muscle cramps. Fluids help fight dizziness, so consider adding soups and juicy fruits, along with tons of water, to keep hydrated. Acidic or spicy foods may bring on heartburn. Plan to cut back on spicy food and soda.
Make-ahead meals can make your week easier. Casseroles often reheat well. If you’ve given up lunch meat, try roasting a chicken at the beginning of the week and dividing it into lunch-sized portions. You can reheat it as needed for a protein-rich lunch.
The baby’s growing fast. You may be feeling hungry, achy, and tired from carrying around the extra weight as you make final preparations for life with a newborn.
Your appetite may lead you to believe you’re truly “eating for two,” but you still likely only need an extra 300-500 calories per day. Ease a growling stomach by eating five or six small meals, instead of waiting hours between three square meals. The key is to think healthy, even with snacks. Apples and nut butter, a slice of whole-grain bread with salmon salad, or grapes and a few cubes of cheese can be satisfying and nutritious options.
Upping your fiber intake can help if you’re feeling backed up. Pregnant women need 25-30 grams of fiber per day, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Some iron supplements can also lead to constipation. Drink lots of water and focus on fiber-rich foods, like sweet potatoes and kale. If a change in diet isn’t helping, talk to your doctor.