Have pregnancy nausea? How to get the nutrition you need, according to a dietitian

Get in those nutrient-dense foods when dealing with on-again, off-again nausea.


Pregnancy nausea is often referred to as 'morning sickness,' but the unfortunate reality is that pregnancy nausea can persist throughout the entire day.

Nausea is typically at its all-time worst during the first trimester. Thankfully, most pregnant women notice that nausea begins to subside during the second trimester (to the others, I feel for you!).

When unable to stomach fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods, a lot of women worry that they are not getting the nutrients they need to support the growth of their babies. While this is a valid concern, it should be reassuring to know that your body has nutrient stores available and greatly prioritizes the health of your baby in the distribution of these nutrients.

If you are dealing with severe nausea and vomiting, don't stick it out! Head to your doctor or midwife to discuss treatment options: there are many!

The following tips can help you optimize your nutrition and get in those nutrient-dense foods when dealing with on-again, off-again nausea.

1. Pick the right protein for pregnancy.

Protein is the building block of all of our body's tissues and is critical for the healthy growth of your baby. Pregnant women require more protein per day (about 75 to 100 grams) to help support the development of their baby and the growth of their breast and uterine tissues.

During pregnancy, it is not unusual for women to develop an aversion to protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and poultry. If you find yourself unable to stomach animal proteins, try incorporating more plant-based or vegetarian sources of protein into your meals and snacks.

Some ideas are:

  • Legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils)
  • Nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds, pistachios)
  • Nut butter
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Greek yogurt

2. Cook your veggies.

Vegetables are full of many nutrients that are critical to a healthy pregnancy, like folate, iron and vitamin A, among others. However, the mere thought of your favorite salad might sound revolting during early pregnancy, making it more challenging to get these essential nutrients in.

Try changing the texture, temperature or consistency of your veggies to increase their appeal.

For example, many pregnant women find cooked vegetables to be more appetizing than raw vegetables, so start roasting, sautéing or steaming your favorite veggies. Milder-tasting vegetables, like sweet potatoes, green beans and carrots, might sit better than vegetables with a stronger flavor and odor like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage.

Cold foods often give off less of an odor so eating your veggies cold or at room temperature might be more tolerable than eating them right out of the oven. Switch things up to see what works for you!

3. Sneak your veggies in.

If you are really struggling to eat vegetables, try hiding them in certain foods to mask their flavor and odor. Blend frozen cauliflower and spinach into a fruit-based smoothie, add zucchini to a breakfast muffin or puree butternut squash and use it as a sauce on your favorite pasta.

Psst: Check out this doctor recommended green juice recipe for a healthy pregnancy for some additional inspo!

4. Eat small, frequent meals.

Nausea often strikes when our stomachs are empty or conversely when they are too full. Rather than eating three large meals per day, try breaking your meals up into four to five mini-meals.

This will also prevent drastic spikes or crashes in blood sugar, another potential cause of prenatal nausea. If you notice you are getting nauseous immediately upon waking in the morning, keep a snack or two at your bedside so you can get something in your stomach first thing.

5. Shop smarter.

When feeling nauseous and fatigued, it is often tempting to grab a processed snack or meal rather than cooking a meal from scratch. However, not all take-out and packaged foods are created equally. Many such foods are full of additives and preservatives and lack the vitamins and minerals your body needs during this critical period of growth.

Read nutrition labels closely and pick snacks with ingredients you recognize. Look for more nutritious versions of your favorite comfort foods.

For example, if you find yourself regularly reaching for saltines when nauseous, find a cracker made with seeds and nuts instead. A seed cracker will provide important nutrients like omega-3s and iron and will also help to keep your blood sugar levels stable thanks to the fiber content.

Hang in there, mama. Trust that you are doing what you need to for your baby, and never hesitate to reach out to your provider when you are concerned.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

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