While fueling your body with good nutrients is always important, it’s especially important when you’re expecting. I am currently pregnant with a little girl due in mid-May. When I found out I was pregnant, I was already taking advantage of the annual six free nutrition counseling visits I get with my Independence Blue Cross (Independence) health plan.
After I told my nutritionist I was pregnant, we began to tweak my diet plan to ensure my baby was getting the nutrients she needed. For example, I had been limiting dairy, but when I became pregnant, I added it back in since calcium is a crucial nutrient for developing babies.
Focus on What to Add
Seeing a nutritionist doesn’t mean you have to give up the foods you love. This is especially true when you’re pregnant and have serious cravings. (I have ice cream almost every night after dinner!)
It’s more about making sure you’re including nutrients in your diet that are good for the baby’s development. Making healthy food choices while pregnant will help give your baby what they need to develop and gain the proper amount of weight.
Important Nutrients During Pregnancy
While all the normal healthy eating recommendations still apply when you are pregnant, there are certain nutrients that you should pay close attention to:
- Folate and folic acid: Help prevent certain birth defects (dark, leafy vegetables)
- Calcium: Strengthens bones and teeth (yogurt, eggs, broccoli, kale)
- Vitamin D: Strengthens bones (milk, salmon)
- Iron: Promotes growth and brain development (Red meat and spinach)
- Protein: Supports baby’s growth (lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts)
Like many other pregnant people, I had a very rough first trimester. The mere thought of food made me nauseous, and I had a difficult time keeping anything down. I talked with my nutritionist about my food aversions, and she told me to just focus on getting any kind of nutrients into my body.
I was eating a lot of carbohydrates like pasta, bread, and crackers, so she told me that I could try pasta alternatives, like a chickpea-based pasta, which is high in protein. Not only is protein crucial for my baby’s growth, it may also help ease first trimester nausea. This worked great for me and helped settle my stomach.
She also told me to focus on small, frequent meals since being hungry can make the nausea worse. She recommended fruits like apples and bananas with a nut butter to get more protein in my diet. I also kept mixed nuts and dried fruit on my desk and in my purse in case I got hungry. These small snacks helped to keep my nausea at bay.
Thankfully my food aversions started to fade around 16 weeks. I was able to focus more on eating the nutrients my baby needs for her development.
Per my nutritionist’s recommendation, I focused on adding iron-rich foods — such as spinach and lentils — into my diet. One of my favorite things to have on hand is lentil soup to reheat for a quick lunch. It’s easy and keeps me full until dinner.
She also helped me adapt my diet to align with what worked for me before I was pregnant. I could easily tweak it to being more pregnancy-friendly. For example, before I was pregnant, I liked having oatmeal for breakfast. It was easy and kept me full throughout the morning.
Unfortunately, when I became pregnant, I had a hard time with the smell of cooking oatmeal. Standing near the stove smelling the oatmeal made my stomach turn. I struggled to find a breakfast alternative that kept me full until lunch. My nutritionist recommended baked oatmeal, which has become my breakfast go-to.
As my baby continues to grow, I’m starting to experience indigestion and more frequent heartburn. To help with both, I eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. I also limit citrus fruits and avoid tomato-based foods as well as spicy and fatty foods. It also helps to remain upright after I eat, as sitting or laying down can contribute to heartburn and indigestion.
Barriers to Healthy Eating
For many people, it may be difficult to access healthy foods. Barriers include the cost of healthy food, a lack of time to prepare nutritious meals, as well as a lack of transportation to grocery stores.
The good news is, resources are available:
- Health Coaches: Our Registered Nurse Health Coaches can put you in touch with a social worker who can help you access healthy foods. Our Health Coaches are available 24/7. To reach a Health Coach, call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY/TDD: 711).
- Coupons: Go to getgoodliving.com for coupons, recipes, and pregnancy-related articles. Blue365® offers health and wellness discounts and coupons.
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): WIC helps pregnant people, parents, and caregivers of infants and young children learn about good nutrition to keep themselves and their families healthy. It provides nutrition services, breastfeeding support, health care and social service referrals, and healthy foods to eligible participants.
Our Health Coaches also support expectant parents through the Baby BluePrints® program.
Independence covers up to six nutritional counseling visits a year at no cost to you.*
Find an in-network registered dietitian using the Find a Doctor tool.* Not all employers offer nutrition counseling visits as part of their benefits plans. Please log in to check your benefits booklet or speak to your benefits administrator to determine if this benefit applies to your coverage.