First of all, congratulations on starting this beautiful journey with your little bundle of joy!
Getting pregnant is a dream for many women and once you have found out that you are pregnant, this emotional roller coaster begins. This 9 month-long journey is filled with so many ups and downs that it becomes an unforgettable experience for life. Some women sail through these 9 months in a breeze while for some it is a physically and emotionally draining journey.
What To Eat And What To Avoid In The First Trimester Of Pregnancy
The hormonal changes might bring morning sickness, nausea, and food aversions. Digestive discomforts like constipation and acidic refluxes might also trouble you during the first trimester. You are sure to come across a lot of advice from many, on what to eat and whatnot. No matter how much you read and hear, you will still be confused!
To help you cope up through the emotional first trimester that is usually marked by nausea, tiredness, and hormonal swings, here is a breakdown of what to eat in the first trimester and what not to eat in the first trimester:
What is Happening to your Body in the First Trimester?
As your little bub begins to develop in your snug womb, the mother’s body goes through some physical changes to accommodate the baby’s growing needs. The muscles of the uterus are slowly stretching to provide more room for the baby and the body is releasing estrogen and progesterone hormones to help the baby grow. This time is very critical for the baby’s development and these 13 weeks will determine the fruitfulness of your pregnancy so you should know what to eat in the first trimester.
What To Eat In The First Trimester?
It is a simple fact that the baby eats what you eat. The hormone surge in the body is responsible for acute nausea and uneasiness that many women go through during pregnancy. Some essential nutrients that must be included in your diet are calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.
Most of these nutrients are given to expecting mothers in the form of prenatal vitamins but it is very important to include them in the diet as well. Of course, this diet should only be followed after discussing with your doctor as some women are told to avoid certain foods because of their medical conditions.
While pineapple and papaya are best avoided during the whole nine months since they contain compounds that trigger labor, all other fruits are very healthy and should be included in the diet. Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, and pomegranates are great as they are a rich source of fiber and vitamins.
Citrus fruits are a must-have as they provide the body with vitamin C and folic acid that are essential for the baby’s development. You can eat fresh fruits or add them to salads and smoothies to get your fruit quota for the day.
A great source of protein, lentils help in the development of the muscles and tissues in the growing fetus. Most pregnant women experience constipation in the first trimester as the progesterone hormone slows down the digestion process(1). Lentils help to relieve this condition and help in smooth bowel movements.
Lentils are also rich in Folate and one cup of cooked lentils provides the body with half of its daily Folate requirement. They prevent major birth defects like Spina Bifida and Anencephaly as well if taken regularly.
Considered power foods for the body, nuts are good for everybody and especially for pregnant women. They are not only rich in protein but also contain healthy fats for the development of the heart and muscles.
Consume nuts in moderation as they are also packed with calories and can lead to an unhealthy weight gain. Soak them up in some water and eat them with milk in the morning to avoid generating heat in the body in the summer months. In winters, you can consume them as it is or adds them to any recipe. Eat a handful of mixed nuts anytime during the day or add them to salads for some crunch.
Vital for the development of a baby’s brain, eating eggs can help you get over the morning sickness and provide you with all the necessary nutrients. They are rich in vitamin D, calcium, and protein that are the building blocks of a growing human body.
You can have eggs in any form but avoid raw or undercooked eggs to reduce the risk of salmonella infection(2). We will be talking about all the foods that you need to avoid later in the “Foods to Avoid” section of the article. If you do not eat eggs, you can substitute it with soybean that has a similar nutrient profile.
This includes the protein content that you get from lean meat, chicken, or salmon. Chicken is a rich source of iron and salmon provides the body with vitamin D and calcium. Iron helps in the development of red blood cells that ensure abundant oxygen supply to the baby. Make sure that you eat only completely cooked meats as raw or unpasteurized meats can pose a risk to the mother and the baby.
People who do not eat meat can add a couple of tablespoons of protein powder to their milk to get the same protein content. You can also add tofu or peanut butter to your diet to meet the protein requirements of the body.
Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and other collard greens are packed in iron and folic acid that helps in brain development and formation of red blood cells. Spinach is also a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin K, and manganese. You can add shredded spinach and other greens to soups, salads, or make wholesome sandwiches with them to get your daily share of green vegetables.
Washing the vegetables extensively before using them in cooking is recommended as many of these vegetables come directly from farms to our tables and change hands many times so they can be covered with mud or dirt.
Milk & Yogurt
A rich source of calcium, dairy products like milk and yogurt should definitely be included in the first-trimester diet. Drink 2 glasses of milk a day with protein powder after consultation with your doctor to kick-start your metabolism in the morning and to get a restful sleep at night.
You can include yogurt as a mid-morning snack or freeze it to get your dessert fix after dinner. Top it with some fresh fruits to kill two birds with one stone as you get your quota of fruits and yogurt in one go. It can also be used to make delicious smoothies.
So this was our list of the most important foods that must be included in your diet in the first trimester of pregnancy. These foods are very good for the developing body of the baby and help prevent nerves and brain defects in babies. They also help in developing the muscles and tissues and keep the mother’s body ready for the changes that the second and third trimesters bring. Next, we are going to talk about the foods that should be avoided at all costs and what not to eat in the first trimester when you are pregnant. We will also be discussing some diet-related tips in the last part of the article that proves to be quite useful for pregnant women in the first trimester.
What Not to Eat in the First Trimester?
Here are some foods that should be avoided if you are wondering what not to eat in the first trimester:
Raw Milk and Cheeses:
Soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk should be avoided during pregnancy as these can contain bacteria that can harm the baby. If you want to eat cheese, go for hard cheeses and cheese made from pasteurized milk only as there are fewer chances of bacteria growing in this type of cheese.
Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables:
As stated earlier, unwashed fruits and vegetables are a strict no-no in the first trimester of pregnancy and generally as well. Do not pre-cut fruits and vegetables or pre-packaged salads as well as you never know if they have been washed properly or not. Wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly before using them in cooking or eating them raw.
Papaya, Pineapple, and Grapes
Papayas contain latex that is known to trigger a miscarriage or cause early labor contractions. Avoid raw papaya and you can eat ripe papayas in moderation only after consultation with a dietician. Grapes, especially black ones, should be avoided because they contain resveratrol, which can be toxic for the mother and the baby. Grapes are also sprayed with many chemicals and should best be avoided.
Pineapple, on the other hand, should not be eaten in the first trimester as they contain bromelain that causes the softening of the cervix muscles. Many women use pineapple juice and pineapple in the last trimester of pregnancy to induce natural labor.
Avoid eating Mackerel, swordfish, raw sushi, and shellfish, and other mercury-laden fishes during the first trimester. Raw sushi and shellfish can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Salmon is the safest fish to eat during pregnancy. Other species should be kept away from the diet until after delivery.
Undercooked Eggs and Meat
Do not eat rare meat cuts or undercooked and raw eggs during pregnancy as this increases the risk of salmonella infections and can cause toxic side effects for the mother and the baby. Properly and hygienically cooked eggs and meats should be preferred for this reason.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Any amount of alcohol, however small that may be, can harm your baby in the long run and can pose problems during breastfeeding also. It should be avoided throughout pregnancy.
Caffeine, in small amounts, is permissible but large amounts of caffeine can trigger a miscarriage(3) in the first trimester of pregnancy. The safe limit generally practiced for caffeine is around 200 mg/day, which means you do not have to cut caffeine completely out of your life but have to take care of the caffeine content in chocolates, coffees, and energy drinks.
Excessive Sugar and Calorie-laden Snacks
A significant number of women experience gestational diabetes during their pregnancy and are asked to avoid sugary snacks and frequent desserts as this can spike their sugar levels to dangerous limits. It is better to eat sweets in moderation and avoid frequent binges.
Unhealthy snacks and fast foods are responsible for uncontrolled weight gain during pregnancy and this can lead to an overweight baby if you are not careful with these snacks. Overweight babies are harder to deliver and can suffer from obesity in the later stages of life.
Here are some general tips and tricks that will help you sail through this tough trimester easily without any hiccups:
- Eat small portions of food rather than three large meals. This can make it easy for the body to digest the food as the digestion process slows down in pregnancy.
- Include lots of fluids in your diet. Drink at least 3 liters of water a day and supplement it with other juices and drinks to keep your body hydrated when it is working in overdrive to develop another human. This also prevents constipation and keeps the skin moisturized.
- Do not order in very frequently as you lose control of the portions and quality of ingredients when you order food. It can also cause food poisoning or abdominal discomfort if the food is not cooked hygienically.
- If fruits and vegetables do not appeal to you because of morning sickness and nausea, go for frozen fruits and smoothies that contain the same amount of nutrients but are easier to consume.
- Talk to your dietician about any allergies you have or might have so that they can suggest the best alternatives for you to include in your diet.
- Avoid foods that contain high amounts of vitamin A as too much of this vitamin can harm the baby.
The first trimester is a very crucial period for the mother the baby as a major development of the baby happens in these 13 weeks. The chances of miscarriage and birth defects are high in this trimester so it is advised to eat right and be active in this period. Some women experience extreme tiredness during the first trimester but keeping your body hydrated and nourished will help you pass this trimester very easily and get you closer to meeting your little angel. This handy guide on what to eat in the first trimester and what not to eat in the first trimester will you pass this crucial time easily.
Are you an expectant mother or have given birth recently? How was your first-trimester experience and which tips would you like to share with other mothers to be?