By Theresa Hogue, OSU Internal Communications Coordinator
Pregnancy seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge. I mean, you’re growing a little person in there, shouldn’t this be the time when it’s actually okay to go after the second (alright, third) piece of pie on the plate?
I’m twelve weeks into my first pregnancy, and while extremely excited, am already realizing what a tough physical challenge pregnancy can be on your body. No matter how many books you read on what to expect, experiencing the dramatic changes is something difficult to prepare for.
I’m lucky, I only experienced about two weeks of ‘morning sickness’ although mine typically hit in the afternoon. But what I have faced since my very earliest stages of pregnancy is a deep and constant hunger that requires me to snack pretty much constantly in order to feel even-keeled.
At the same time, I’m supposed to keep my weight under control during the first trimester. My doctor warned my on my first pre-natal visit that I needed to watch how many pounds I pack on during the pregnancy, especially early on.
“You’re going to be pregnant during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that’s a lot of temptation. You’re going to have to be strong,” she said.
I inwardly snorted. Strong? At Christmas? That is the season of pie and potatoes, no way am I going to refuse the deliciousness of holiday meals with my family. But I recognized that the truth of the matter is, the healthier I am during the next seven months, the healthier the baby and the better I will ease back into my body following birth.
I’m not a fast food, deep-fried kind of person to start with, but I’ve found by focusing on what is healthiest for the baby, it’s making it easier to take healthy choices even further. For starters, I’m drinking a lot more water these days. I keep a big BPA-free water bottle at my desk and fill it frequently, which means more trips to the bathroom but frankly, pregnant women get used to it. Also, since I’ve totally cut out caffeine and am trying to eliminate sugary drinks, water is the obvious healthy choice.
Snacking is a challenge, but I’ve stocked my office drawers with almonds, dried fruit and organic wheat crackers. Those keep me energized during a long workday and were a lifesaver during the morning sickness bout I faced earlier in the pregnancy. In those early weeks when you’re not telling anyone the news yet, it’s easy to keep the snacks hidden in a file cabinet nearby and surreptiously snack.
Lunches became a bit of a challenge at first, especially since there’s a long list of items pregnant women should stay away from, including deli meats and soft cheeses, which takes sandwiches off the last. Tuna should also be eaten very selectively, so when I don’t bring leftovers to work, I have to be strategic about meals. Some days a big salad with chicken and dried cranberries (minus the feta) is just the thing, while others find me craving rice and vegetables.
Since early in the pregnancy, I’ve craved beef much more than usual, so when I do decide to indulge in a burger, I select a local restaurant that serves organic, hormone-free beef, and I avoid my usual favorite topping, bleu cheese, which is a no-no for pregnancy. I also try to get either a side salad, or on occasion sweet potato fries, which are not exactly “healthy” but are a step above regular fries because of their Vitamin A content and fiber.
Snacking at home is easier, and frequently involves yogurt (growing babies need calcium) or a few slices of cheese, or hummus and whole wheat crackers. When sugar cravings hit, I am lucky enough to be pregnant during an Oregon summer when fresh fruit is readily available. Blueberries, peaches and nectarines are my go-to sweet of choice these days.
Dinner hasn’t changed too much since I got pregnant, except for avoiding things like sausages (nitrates) and some kinds of fish. I have been upping the amount of broccoli I eat, which happens to be another of my cravings, and luckily is fabulous for a growing baby.
So far, it’s working. At my 12-week exam my doctor pronounced my weight as ‘perfect’ which caused me to do a little victory dance. But I also know it’s better to try and focus on healthy choices rather than becoming obsessed with calories or try to ignore cravings. I like to think that the wider my selection of food choices, the more adventurous an eater my baby will be, and there have been studies to back that up (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/139033757/babys-palate-and-food-memories-shaped-before-birth). So I’m making sure that in addition to being as healthy as I can be, I still nurture my love for food of all kinds.
For more tips on healthy eating during pregnancy: