Avoid this! You must snack on these! Eat this—but not this! Elizabeth Ward, RD, knows how tricky a task something as simple as choosing a snack can be for moms-to-be, who are bombarded with prenatal diet advice from friends, family, magazines, and online forums. Herself a registered dietitian, nutrition counselor, former longtime spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and regular BabyZone contributing expert, Ward is intimately familiar with the most current healthy eating guidelines during pregnancy. And as a mom of three, she knows how difficult it can be to make the best food choices during months of wavering nausea, out-of-control cravings, seemingly insatiable hunger.
Ward recently completed a new book Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy, so we asked her to share her insights on some of the most common eating quandaries during pregnancy. Here, she graciously indulges us.
Eat Smart from the Start
Q: Every brand-new mom-to-be has that, "I'm pregnant, now what?" moment. When it comes to their diets, what should women immediately do—or stop doing—once the test is positive?
A: They should stop trying to lose weight and immediately start eating a more balanced diet (my book provides directions for that). Pregnancy is no time to restrict calories, but it isn't an eating free-for-all either, especially given the fact that you don't need extra calories until the second trimester starts.
If you aren't doing so already, stop drinking alcohol and take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid in it. Your developing baby is most susceptible to harmful substances and a lack of vital nutrients during the first trimester when his organs are forming. Also, it's important to check the safety of all prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements you take with your doctor. Of course, quit all recreational (illicit) drugs, and avoid radiation from X-rays or radiation therapy, lead (from contaminated drinking water, mainly), and mercury (from high-mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark).
Swap out Cravings
Q: You have three daughters—which means you've been down the cravings path three times! What did you crave, and what were your smarter-snack swaps?
A: Ha! You probably won't believe what I ate, given my profession. I couldn't pass a fast food place without pulling in to the drive-thru for french fries. Also, I loved meat during my first two pregnancies (which were 13 months apart). During my last pregnancy, I craved anything fruity (in addition to the french fries and meat!). I found that I had much better control over myself once the morning sickness went away in the second trimester. That's when I could make smarter choices when cravings occurred. Here are a few from the book:
- Instead of chips, try flavored rice cakes, an ounce of nuts or sunflower seeds, whole grain pretzels dipped in almond or peanut butter, or a quarter cup of trail mix: equal parts whole grain cereal, chopped nuts, and dried fruit, such as California raisins.
- Craving ice cream? Opt for a 100-calorie frozen treat, such as fudge bars, or a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt.
- Have chocolate pudding that's been prepared with fat-free milk instead of a chocolate bar, or dip fresh strawberries or dried apricots in an ounce of melted dark chocolate.
- Instead of cookies, try angel food cake drizzled with fat-free chocolate sauce or half a whole wheat bagel smeared with peanut butter and drizzled with honey.
- Opt for roasted potato wedges instead of french fries.