You are here

Confessions Of a Pregnant Nutritionist

Riding the Waves

Whoever coined the term "morning sickness" was clearly never pregnant. As most expectant women know, that queasy just-got-off-the-worst-roller-coaster-ride-of-your-life feeling does not magically dissipate when the clock strikes noon. Sometimes, it lasts all day and night. At least for me it did.

That awful, perpetual nausea was my first stumbling block on the path to the perfect diet. For my first three months of pregnancy, I couldn't so much as look at a vegetable if I wasn't near a bathroom. There was just no way I could swallow even a bite of spinach, asparagus, or any similar birth defect-preventing, folic acid-rich veggie. I couldn't even stomach the idea of meat, chicken, or fish -- those all-important prenatal sources of protein and iron.

Truth be told, all I could really eat for three months was cream of wheat, grapefruit, hot chocolate, pizza, mashed potatoes, bagels, and Saltine crackers -- not exactly a nutritionally stellar combination. In fact, it's a combination of foods that could have easily added up to a dietary nightmare -- too few nutrients and too many calories. I was, however, able to use my professional wiles to avoid that trap.

To get the most out of my limited gastronomical repertoire, I snuck in valuable nutrients where I could and minimized empty calories as much as possible. I made my cream of wheat and hot chocolate with low-fat milk instead of water, which added calcium and protein to my diet. I also made my mashed potatoes healthier by moistening them with low-fat milk and using just a dab of butter. I whipped up easy pita pizzas at home with low-fat mozzarella instead of going for the greasy slice at my neighborhood pizza place. And instead of downing whole bagels and sleeves of Saltines to calm my stomach, I found that just a quarter of a bagel or five or six saltines did the trick (and spared me the refined-carbohydrate overload). In the end I still fell short in the iron-rich protein category, and I would have benefited from something green, but overall my diet wasn't a total disaster.

During those months of morning sickness, I was disappointed to find that my usual nausea remedy, ginger tea -- something I've recommended to dozens of pregnant clients -- was completely unappealing to me. The one thing that did keep my churning stomach at bay was to never let it get empty. That meant eating every three hours or so, even at night. (I had to forfeit precious sleep for my midnight feedings.) In the end, I learned a golden rule for dealing with morning sickness: Stomach what you can, when you can, and do your best to make the most of it.