When I imagined myself pregnant, I pictured one of those skinny limbed ladies in floral flowing dresses – the only outward evidence of her growing fetus is her perfectly round protruding belly. In these dreams, pregnancy was the little push I needed to move my diet from pretty good to exceptional, full of only the highest quality, well sourced foods, rich in vegetables, fish, and eggs. I would meditate daily, drink herbal teas, and even finally get myself into a regular yoga routine.
Despite my incredible joy for being in this situation, pretty much none of my pregnancy vision has materialized. Pregnancy seems to have found its way into every part of my body and mind – my clothes very quickly did not fit, my husband would probably agree that my mood swings have made me something of a hormonal monster, and food aversions have turned me away from many of the healthy foods I’ve always loved. To be clear, I couldn’t be happier about expecting, and the positives so greatly outweigh these temporary side effects. Eventually, a mindset switch from “perfect” to “good enough” has put me at ease, helped me see the hilarity in all of this, and will likely do me well in motherhood and beyond.
I was lucky enough to suffer only from a mild to moderate (but persistent) nausea, starting around week 7 of my pregnancy. Because I know so many women who have dealt with debilitatingly severe morning sickness throughout their first trimester, I hesitated to write this post, feeling that my advice may not be helpful to others like them. Ultimately, I figured that if even one of these tips could be helpful to someone, this would be a worthwhile cause. So here I go!
Despite the near constant recommendations to “drink more water” throughout pregnancy, I found regular tap water to be completely repulsive during those early weeks. (This resulted in a boycott of fluids and associated dehydration.) Eventually, I learned that adding a touch of flavor to my water made it much more palatable and was incredibly helpful for meeting my fluid needs.
My favorite recipe could not have been simpler: a sliced orange in a big pitcher of water that I would keep refrigerated. Though I typically gravitate towards room-temperature drinks, the cold seemed to have additional benefits for reducing nausea, and using a pitcher helped me monitor how much I was drinking over the course of the day.
The possibilities for flavors and combinations are endless, so try whatever calls to you and make adjustments as necessary. Here are a few ideas:
- Grapefruit, orange, and/or lemon
- Strawberry and basil
- Lime, mint, and blackberries
For travelling or work, essential oils make a great (or possibly even better) substitute for sliced fruit. I use the Young Living brand, and Doterra is also very high quality. Grapefruit, tangerine, and/or lemon oils can be easily toted around and dropped into a glass of water whenever you need.
Find a protein source
I’ve never been a huge meat eater – it’s simply not what I crave, but I’ve always loved salmon, a good rotisserie chicken, or the occasional burger or steak. Typically, I’d be happy eating scrambled eggs for at least one meal, every day of the week. However, once the nausea hit, I couldn’t eat any of those foods regularly. Fear of not getting enough high quality protein was actually the most stressful part of navigating my early pregnancy diet, as I felt that my prenatal vitamin at least covered most of my other basic needs. In general, I found proteins that could be disguised as sweet foods were more appealing (ricotta cheese, yogurt, french toast), so I would keep these on hand. Otherwise, I would go through phases of foods. For a few weeks, mozzarella cheese really called to me, salmon lox had a good run (bizarre, I agree), and I could occasionally drink a cup of bone broth.
A few ideas that worked for me:
- Parfaits: layer yogurt or ricotta cheese with berries and nut butters.
- Nuts and nut butters: nuts, gently toasted with coconut oil, salt, and cinnamon are a perfect snack to keep on hand. Nut butters (almond, peanut, etc.) can be spooned and eaten throughout the day and are great paired with apples, pears, or bananas.
- Mozzarella cheese: organic string cheese or sliced mozzarella was cold, relatively bland, and consistently easy to get down.
- French toast or pancakes: healthier versions of these foods become proteins disguised as carbs. Try my almond flour pancake recipe or make french toast from your favorite hearty bread, beaten eggs, and cinnamon.
Fruit, particularly grapefruit, satsumas, and blueberries, were the foods I craved most during early pregnancy. A year ago, I would have turned up my nose at a diet so full of sugar (albeit natural sugars), but fruit sometimes felt like the only thing I could eat, especially in the morning. Fruit is certainly the lesser evil of other sweet foods I could have turned to, so as part of my “good enough” mindset, I stocked my fridge all my favorites. (I also found that eating a bit of fruit could diminish my nausea and make it easier to eat a more substantial meal.)
Ginger is a well known nausea remedy and is especially effective for nausea related to pregnancy or motion sickness. Right around the time I became pregnant, I started doing a bit of work with The Ginger People and was sent boxes full of each of their products. Gin Gins and the Bare Ginger product became my saviors and, similar to fruit, were helpful for reducing nausea prior to having a more substantial meal. (FYI – though I work with The Ginger People, I am not being compensated in any way to pitch their products in this post. It is entirely genuine!)
Normally, I gravitate towards big and hearty salads as well as any kind of roasted vegetable, but during early pregnancy, these foods lost their appeal. Because of my prenatal vitamin (I used the vitamin code raw prenatal), I knew that my micronutrient needs were basically covered, but I hated the idea of a diet without greens and their associated phytochemicals, fiber, etc. Smoothies made it possible to get at least a daily dose of vegetables at times when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to tolerate any. My go-to combo consisted of: ½ banana, about 4 strawberries, about 1 tablespoon ginger, juice from ½ lemon, ¼ cup coconut yogurt, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 teaspoon himalayan sea salt, as much spinach as could be smashed in my blender (~6-8 cups), and water for a smooth blend. This makes at least four servings, which I would keep in the fridge or freezer to drink throughout the week.
Morning exercise has become so much a part of my morning routine, that even when I wasn’t feeling my best, I would walk, slowly jog, or use an elliptical to get a sweat in. Surprisingly, this always seemed to have the effect of reducing nausea, and I would come home with my usual voracious appetite and able to eat a real meal. (I’m certainly not advocating for vigorous exercise in early pregnancy, but it’s definitely worth experimenting with a brisk walk to see if it can revive energy levels and perk up the appetite.)
Hope this is helpful! I would love to hear your best tips for dealing with pregnancy nausea as well as any other pregnancy advice!
*The photos in this post are not my own. Credit goes to (in order of appearance):Edgar Castrejon, Katy Belcher, Alexander Mils, Cala, and Kimberly Pine.