Women who are newly pregnant often worry that they're going to do something wrong, especially if it's their first pregnancy. But there's an easy way to make sure that all nutrient needs are met for both mother and baby — and you don't have to be a seasoned mama or an award-winning chef to ace this challenge!
Nutrition for the first trimester focuses on four key elements. Address these elements, and put the contradictory advice behind you so that you can enjoy the first leg of your pregnancy — as much as you can, that is.
These suggestions will come as welcome relief for those plagued by morning sickness and nausea, exhaustion, and the other early-pregnancy symptoms that can make life temporarily more difficult as your body expends a massive amount of energy on nurturing another human being!
- Vitamins are a key focus for the first trimester because the baby's organ and skin development depend on them. It isn't important to focus on specific vitamins, but rather that all vitamins are being regularly supplied from whole foods. While prenatal supplements are often recommended, these should be relied on only as a secondary source of nutrients. No amount of supplemental vitamins can undo a bad diet. So aim to get a minimum of 100% daily value of all vitamins from food alone. Eating a wide variety and plenty of the full spectrum of fruits and vegetables, as well as quality fats and meats, will ensure that this happens.
- Micronutrients are more important during this first trimester than macronutrients. Basically this means that the quality of your food is much more important than the quantity. Eat when you're hungry. The baby doesn't need extra calories right now to properly develop, so ignore any advice that says you should start "eating for two" right away. Let your appetite guide you when it comes to how much you eat, and when you eat, choose foods that have a high nutrient value.
- Skipping the junk is very important in the first trimester. Ideally, you will have cut junk food before conceiving, but if you haven't, now's the time. Sugar, refined flours, processed foods, and fried fats don't give nutrients to your or your baby. In fact, these junky foods can actually deplete your body of essential nutrients. The myth that a mother's diet won't affect the baby because the body will still pull nutrients for the fetus is just that — a myth. What you put in your body is precisely what your baby will receive. (When you need a treat, stick to organic dark chocolate and baked goods that are sweetened with raw honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar as these offer more health benefits than their refined alternatives.)
- Constipation is a word that women in their first trimester will become achingly familiar with. It happens because relaxin, a protein hormone, purposefully slows down your digestive tract to make sure that all possible nutrients are extracted from your food. It might seem tempting to take laxatives, but this will only rob your baby of important nutrient potential. Instead, make sure you drink plenty of water, eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber daily, and eat foods high in probiotics (like sauerkraut or kombucha). If probiotic foods are nauseating, take a high quality probiotic supplement. Recommended dosage is between 1 and 50 billion colony forming units (CFUs) daily. These should help promote regularity during the first trimester, and rest assured, things will move better again in the coming months!
Sweet Strawberry/Avocado Smoothie Recipe
This smoothie is a great addition to your pregnancy diet! Avocados are a first-trimester superfood because they contain protein, beneficial fats, 11 vitamins, 12 minerals, and 18 amino acids.
- 1 cup of frozen or fresh strawberries
- 1/2 kiwi fruit
- 1/2 large ripe avocado
- 1 cup full-fat kefir (feel free to substitute full fat coconut cream or milk)
- 1-2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk (1 cup with fresh berries, 2 cups with frozen)
- 1-2 tsp raw honey (if needed)
- Peel the avocado and place half in a blender.
- Add washed strawberries, one-half of a peeled kiwi, and the kefir and milk.
- Blend until smooth.
- Add honey to taste.
- Bouchez, Colette and Lauersen, Niels H. MD PhD. Getting Pregnant: What you need to know right now. New York, NY: Fireside, 2000.
- Planck, Nina. Real Food for Mother and Baby. New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2009
- Mateljan, George. The World's Healthiest Foods. Seattle, WA: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007.
Writer Aimee McNew has a Master's in Holistic Nutrition Therapy (MNT) and is also a Certified Practitioner of Nutrition Therapy (CNTP).
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.