When I first found out I was pregnant, I was determined to make it my healthiest pregnancy yet. I knew I would be stretched to my limit taking care of a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, teaching part time, and running my business and blog, so I needed all the extra energy I could get! Unfortunately, my plans were derailed when morning sickness set in, and lasted until well past the halfway point.
Bland carbs were all I could stomach for the longest time, and walking was the only form of exercise I could manage. I was tempted to feel guilty about it, especially when I read articles and blog posts that claimed eating healthy and exercises would "cure" morning sickness. (Whoever wrote those articles has never thrown up at the mere sight of a green vegetable). Instead, I decided to make the best of the second half of my pregnancy.
As I reach the end of my third pregnancy, one thing I realize about healthy eating while expecting is that it's all about equipping yourself with the tools to succeed. When I plan our meals, and only buy the items we need at the grocery store, there's no chance of me going overboard with chips, cookies, or candy. And even though I'm exhausted by the end of the day, my husband and I both know exactly what needs to be made for dinner, so we don't end up stopping by a fast food joint. If we keep junk food on hand, however, my willpower and energy are gone by the time the kids go to bed, and I know I won't be able to resist.
With those thoughts in mind, I would love to share what I eat on a daily basis as a pregnant woman. Keep in mind, I am not a doctor or dietitian, so this is not meant to be advice to anyone else. This is also not EVERYTHING I eat ever day. I never count calories - I simply eat when I feel hungry, and do my best to make informed, healthy choices.
Healthy Pregnancy Meal Ideas
Meal Replacement Shakes: My day has begun with a nutrient-dense chocolate meal replacement shake for the past 3 years, and that doesn't change when I'm pregnant! I absolutely love them, because they can be a meal all by themselves with the perfect balance of protein, carbs, and fats, packed with vitamins and minerals and surprisingly filling. I can tell a difference in my energy levels when I don't drink them. This was one of the few things I could stomach when I had morning sickness. Slowly sipping on a shake helped give me life again.
I have read that protein is so important when you're pregnant, and these have 24 grams of very high-quality whey protein in them. My doctor suggested chocolate milk to help my morning sickness, and when I asked him about these shakes instead, he was delighted! Most days I just drink a plain old shake blended with water, but other days I'll blend it super thick and make it into a protein bowl drizzled with natural peanut butter to add some extra calories (like the picture above).
More Healthy Breakfast Ideas:
- scrambled eggs with chopped vegetables, salsa, and cheese
- whole wheat toast with nut butter
- Greek yogurt with muesli
- Spinach protein pancakes (blend Kodiak Cakes mix with spinach)
Midmorning I tend to get pretty hungry, so I make sure to fill up on a snack that contains protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. I also tend to take my prenatal vitamin at this time, since my stomach is just too sensitive first thing in the morning.
Side note: my morning sickness *ahem - all day sickness* is pretty awful all day every day for the first 25 weeks or so, but I've found that it's more bearable if I continuously snack on bland foods. To avoid gaining excessive amounts of weight I strive to make healthy choices most of the time, but please don't feel bad if all you can stomach is saltine crackers. The day will come when you can eat real food again, I promise!
Morning Snack Options:
- toast. all the toast. more toast. (first trimester)
- Greek yogurt with berries
- apple slices with peanut butter
- baked oatmeal + fruit bar
- no bake protein balls
- a glass of lemon water (sip slowly to ease morning sickness)
My lunch is spent supervising students most days, so I need convenient healthy options. Some weeks I might make myself a crockpot of chicken tortilla soup to last for the whole week.
On the weeks I'm not as prepared, I'll grab a nutrient dense meal replacement bar along with baby carrots and some sort of fruit, like grapes or berries. The bars may not look like much, but they are surprisingly filling and packed with whey protein (18 grams). Some days I even take the dairy-free options made with plant-based protein - somehow they are still so delicious, and don't even have a weird texture!
Healthy Lunch Options:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Lettuce and spinach salad with grilled chicken
- Meal replacement bar with carrots + grapes
- Green smoothie with added protein powder + an English muffin
I might be a little more adventurous with my afternoon snack if I'm feeling a bit less nauseated. This is where I typically get the munchies and all I want are chips or french fries, so planning ahead at the beginning of the week is so important! (Check out my Meal Prep Tips for Busy Moms). Again, it's important to pair a protein with a carb to really stay full until dinner.
- Veggies + hummus
- a Kind bar + bell peppers
- a protein donut (a pronut, if you will)
- string cheese + celery w/ peanut butter
- air popped popcorn + orange slices
- protein shake
Our dinners are basically the same every single week. We are busy, have young kids, and are on a budget, so we keep things simple. One of my favorite healthy, easy dinner options is burrito bowls! I make shredded crockpot salsa chicken, rice, and quinoa. Then we chop up veggies and add toppings like cheese or sour cream. Each person can build their own, and the only requirement for the kids is that they have to include at least one veggie. I love mine with crispy green bell peppers!
- whole wheat pasta w/ hidden veggies in the sauce
- burrito bowls
- burgers on the grill with a veggie plate
- one pan meal (chicken, red potatoes, seasonal veggie)
- stuffed peppers
Besides my morning cup of coffee, I mostly stick to water throughout the day. Lately I've been carrying around a gallon jug of water to remind myself to keep drinking. If I don't, the humid Florida weather causes my hands and feet to swell, which can actually be kind of painful! I don't always hit 128 ounces by the end of the day, but even so, my water intake has improved tremendously. I plan on carrying this habit over to post-baby, when I'm nursing. I refill the gallon jug once or twice throughout the week so I'm not spending a fortune at the grocery store.
If I feel the need to switch things up, or if I feel like my energy is dragging a little bit, I'll add a few scoops of an all natural electrolyte drink and 1 scoop of my favorite fruit supplement which is loaded with cold-pressed super fruits like açaí berry, mangosteen, noni, pomegranate, and wolfberry (and only 1 gram of sugar per serving - that's a win in my book!). I can't wait to add the greens back in after baby is born, but unfortunately, they're not recommended during pregnancy. Goodness knows I need all the help I can get when it comes to consuming vegetables!
And lest you think I'm a perfectly clean eater (ha!), I had to make sure to throw in some real life. I am not immune to grabbing a few of my kids' crackers, or sneaking a few chocolate eggs from their Easter baskets. It's about balance, right?
So that's my daily meal plan while pregnant! It's not perfect by any means, but I strive to find balance and continue to make healthier choices. My main purpose is to fuel my body to be able to complete my work to the best of my ability, and the foods and beverages I choose during the day have such a big effect on how I feel!
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