By Caitlin Fiss, MD
When you find out you’re pregnant, you’re motivated to make a lot of changes. From buying a new wardrobe for your growing belly to buying a new home for your growing family. But one of my favorite changes I see lots of moms in my practice make is cleaning up their not-so-great eating habits. Though you might think pregnancy is an excuse to indulge non-stop (thanks TV sitcoms!), so many of my moms are motivated to start this new phase of life with a healthier diet.
Here’s why eating healthier during pregnancy—and beyond—is good for you, your baby, and your whole family.
Your baby’s tastes are established in utero.
Research shows that what a mom eats during pregnancy not only nourishes the baby while they’re in the womb, but may shape their food preferences throughout their life. So if you want your child to grow up loving veggies, eat them regularly while you’re pregnant. Want to up your chances of not raising a sugarholic? Cut way back on the sweet stuff now.
Mindful eating can help with pregnancy symptoms.
Interested in having less nausea, reflux, and other not-so-fun issues that commonly come with pregnancy? Your diet can help. I recommend eating small, bland meals with some protein and a complex carb at two- to three-hour intervals throughout the day. Want more help with nausea and reflux? Mommy’s Bliss Prenatal Multivitamin + Probiotics is formulated with probiotics, ginger, and vitamin B6 to help ease these symptoms. Moving up your dinner time can help, too: I tell my moms not to eat dinner after 8pm. And eating dinner earlier is a good habit that will serve you well long after baby’s born: research shows that eating dinner 4 or more hours before bedtime helps your sleep, your blood sugar regulation, and your metabolism.
Remember: food is the fuel for growing your baby.
Your baby gets every bit of the nutrients it needs to grow from what you eat. So look at each meal as an opportunity to “feed” them the good stuff. That means increasing nutrient-dense whole foods—vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and “clean” meats if you’re not vegetarian or vegan—and decreasing the amount of “empty” calories you consume: sweets, sodas, fast food. This is true throughout pregnancy, as well as on the postpartum side of things, especially if you’re planning on breastfeeding.
Make eating healthier a family affair.
In my practice, the non-pregnant partner often asks, “What can I do to help? What’s my role?” And one good way to support mom in her pregnancy is to join her in the journey to healthier eating by helping with meal planning and cooking. And when you make the entire kitchen a “healthy eating zone,” it will be easier for mom to pick foods that are good for her and baby.
The family that cooks together, stays together
Before the pandemic hit, family dinner was virtually non-existent. And once our lives get back to their busy normal, eating dinner together will likely be one of the first things to go.Though, if you start the habit of family dinner now while you’re pregnant, you’ll have a much better chance of making it stick once the baby comes and life gets just a tad more complicated. 😉
It’s okay to treat yourself (in moderation)
While pregnancy is a great time to “curate” a healthier diet, it’s not the time to deprive yourself. If you don’t make room for little treats now and then, you could be setting yourself up for failure. And here’s an interesting fact: pregnant women often crave the foods they loved when they were young. So it’s okay to treat yourself once or twice a week to something sugary like ice cream (I actually prefer frozen yogurt because it has more protein!) or something indulgent like pizza. To make sure you compensate for any nutrient gaps, I recommend supplementing with a good prenatal multi, like Mommy’s Bliss Prenatal Multivitamins. These multis not only have the vitamins baby needs, but added nutritional support for mom, too.
Like everything in pregnancy, every body is different and so it’s important to listen to yours and make decisions that fit you and your family’s lifestyle. And remember: there’s no such thing as a “perfect” diet. Just do your best, day by day. And of course if you have any questions, check in with your doctor.