Being pregnant brings about a lot of change: Not only will you have a new life to take care of but you also need to adapt and change the life you’re leading — it can be a lot. With all of the advice, tips, and studies out there warning women about what to eat (and what not to eat) during pregnancy, making the ‘right’ decision can be overwhelming. To simplify the process for other women, author Erika Lenkert paired up with nutritionist Brooke Alpert to create delicious recipes that let women enjoy eating during pregnancy in a fun and healthy way. Her recently published book Healthy Eating During Pregnancy features 100 of these recipes plus great nutritional information and advice.
How did she come up with the recipes? “I thought about what I wanted to eat when I was pregnant and reviewed what more than 100 women I surveyed wanted to eat when they were pregnant," she says. "Then I crafted a master list that addressed those cravings as well as the nutritional needs of pregnant women.” Her goal was to make recipes that were not just healthy, but delicious enough that anyone can make them and be able to fully indulge in them but still treat their body right. To top it off, she also added in dishes from top chefs around the nation. Lenkert says she still cooks these recipes even though she’s not pregnant plus they are also kid-friendly — five-year-old loves them too.
We asked Erika to share some basic tips from her own experience and from the book to provide a starting base for soon-to-be mothers looking for ways to eat well during pregnancy. In the tips below, she shares good snack ideas, what foods to avoid, plus a few fantastic recipes to try out at home (whether you’re pregnant or not).
1. Stick to a Meal Plan or Snack?
In order to stay mentally and physically balanced — as well as to avoid setting yourself up to overeat — it’s a good idea to have five or six small meals throughout each day. Anyone who has been waiting without a snack on hand the minute it’s needed can tell you that hell hath no fury like a hungry pregnant woman. When I was pregnant, I was perpetually hungry, although there were only a couple of months when I felt as though I could eat the leather off of my car seat at any moment.
Recommended Snacks: In her book, Lenkert recommends carrying snacks like low-fat yogurt, string cheese, and edamame in your bag when you’re on the go.
Theoretically, yes, meaning that what you eat your growing baby is also eating, so you should be mindful of what you put in your mouth and opt for healthy foods. But literally, the answer is no. You don’t need to double your caloric intake. In fact, a woman of average weight for her size really only needs between 200 and 300 extra calories per day — and that’s not until the third trimester, when the baby is really bulking up. In other words, all you really need to eat is about 2,500 calories per day.
Recipe Idea: Roasted Beet, Orange, and Avocado Salad.
There is no one right meal plan to follow when pregnant. The secret is to eat a variety of healthy foods — proteins, leafy greens, and other veggies, good carbs, dairy, and fruit — and ideally to forgo processed foods for homemade deliciousness. Also, by all means indulge yourself every now and then!
Recipe Idea: Quinoa Tabbouleh
4. Foods to Avoid
When I was pregnant, I was annoyed at how pregnancy books and media hyped up the fear factor around foods and pregnancy. It was enough to make a confident, healthy person like me suddenly feel as though I didn’t know how to take care of my own body. The truth is seafood high in mercury and meats with nitrates (which is linked to cancer) aside, many of the “no-no foods” are labeled as such because they could give you food poisoning. Eating contaminated foods can result in a serious inconvenience when you’re only taking care of yourself, but can have far more severe consequences for your growing baby. Of course, we don’t get food poisoning that often, but you don’t want to do anything you would regret or blame yourself should anything go wrong during your pregnancy.
For that reason, I always recommend pregnant women educate themselves on food no-nos and make choices that they are personally comfortable with.
With that in mind, here are blanket guidelines of what to avoid:
1. Raw or undercooked foods, including seafood, meat, poultry, and eggs
2. Seafood high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish
3. Cheese, juice, and milk that aren't pasteurized
4. Large quantities of liver, which is a significant source of vitamin A and can be dangerous consumed in large amounts
5. Unwashed fruits and vegetables
6. Excess caffeine
7. Alcohol; no amount has been deemed safe by physicians