Keeping a balanced diet when you don’t have an appetite

During pregnancy, many moms-to-be find themselves stuck between a rock and a queasy place. Sick, tired, and unable to keep down nutritious food, they find themselves avoiding the stores of vegetables in the fridge and wandering instead over to the crackers and chips stashed in the pantry.

If this is happening to you, don’t worry. With some trial and error, you’ll be able to find a balance between the nutrition you need and the foods you can keep down. The most important thing is that you can find ways to supplement whatever nutrients you need.

Every pregnancy is different and what works for one woman might not be what works for another – but there are some common problems that women face when trying to keep a balanced diet during pregnancy.

Problem #1: You only have eyes for carbohydrates

This is a common issue for women during pregnancy. Some women swear by carbs as a morning sickness remedy, and others say it’s simply the only thing they want to eat. Because gestational diabetes may be more likely with high carbohydrate intake during pregnancy, try to make most of those carbohydrates that come from whole grain sources as opposed to refined grains. Unrefined carbohydrates also provide fiber, which can help deal with pregnancy-related constipation.

Try to sneak some dark chocolate into the carbohydrate mix. It contains iron, an essential pregnancy nutrient.

Problem #2: You can’t eat a lot, but eating only small amounts leaves you hungry

Maybe small portions throughout the day are all your stomach can manage these days. If you find yourself experiencing hunger pains as a result of your limited food intake, try to add more protein and fiber into your diet. Both are vital in pregnancy and help keep you fuller for a longer amount of time.

Problem #3: You crave dairy – lots of dairy

Legend has it that dairy cravings mean you’re carrying a girl. Statistics don’t back this up, but they do show that dairy is one of the most commonly craved food groups during pregnancy. If you have an extreme hankering for milk, yogurt, or cheese, you’re probably not getting enough calcium in your diet; pregnant women need 1200 milligrams of calcium a day. And don’t forget vitamin D – it helps your body absorb calcium.

An easy way to get more calcium from your dairy is to consume low-fat or nonfat milk forms of it. When the fat is removed, there’s more room for calcium-rich liquid in your diet.

Problem #4: You can eat anything, but are constantly throwing up

You may not be able to pinpoint any specific food that’s making you nauseous – perhaps the urge to run to the bathroom comes at random times, and doesn’t seem connected to any particular food. If this is the case, find a way to stomach your prenatal vitamin (maybe by switching to a chewy vitamin or a sweeter-tasting one) and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, whether you drink water, low-sugar lemonade, or a ginger-based drink. This will ensure you get essential nutrients even if you’re struggling to consume enough of them.

Problem #5: You can’t stomach anything

If you’re at a point in your pregnancy where just about everything comes back up, try eating watermelon. Many pregnant women find that a cold cube of watermelon tastes refreshing and is light enough to stomach. You might be surprised to find that watermelon has health benefits for pregnancy, too: it reduces heartburn and swelling, and the water and sugars that it contains rehydrate your body and loosen your muscles so that you don’t cramp as much.

For the most part, nausea during pregnancy is a normal occurrence and doesn’t have extreme negative health impacts on babies. No matter how limited your food intake is, paying attention to your cravings and balancing some foods with others will help you keep a balanced diet throughout your pregnancy.

  • “Ch. 17: Nutrition During Pregnancy.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Apr 2015. Web.
  • Natalia C Orloff and Julia M Hormes. “Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research.” Front Psychol. 5: 1076. Web. Aug 2014.
  • JEM H Alberts, et al. “Coping with food cravings. Investigating the potential of a mindfulness-based intervention.” Appetite. 55 160–163. Web. 2010.
  • TM Bayley., et al. Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: relationship with nausea and vomiting. Appetite 38 45–5. Web. 2002.
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