During the 40 weeks of pregnancy, don't be surprised if you develop a love-hate relationship with food. Your body needs specific nutrients, such as folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, protein and iron, for your health and that of your baby, but nausea, cravings and a shrinking stomach make choosing and prepping a healthy meal plan difficult. Make each meal count by planning them out carefully to include the right number of calories and nutrients for you and your growing baby.
Pregnancy Meal Basics
When planning your meals, focus on getting the proper number of calories and choosing nutrient-rich foods to get the vitamins and minerals you and your baby need. During the first trimester, continue to aim for the same number of calories that you normally need. During the second and third trimester, the American Pregnancy Association recommends that you bump that number up by around 300 calories to support the growth of the baby. For every meal, make selections from each food group, but fill half your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Round it out with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, lean protein and a small amount of healthy fats.
What's for Breakfast?
Planning a healthy breakfast while you're pregnant is almost as much about what you should avoid as what you should eat. You should avoid coffee, or limit yourself to just 2 cups a day, for a total of 200 milligrams of caffeine, reports the pregnancy website What to Expect. But then you'll need an energy boost from your food choices. Plan to get a dose of protein from eggs -- but make sure the yolks are thoroughly cooked to avoid salmonella -- complex carbohydrates from whole-grain toast, and fiber from a piece of whole fruit. If you're combating too much morning sickness to eat a full breakfast, reach for a few bland complex carbohydrates, such as dry toast or crackers. Going on with your day on an empty stomach can actually make your nausea worse.
Planning a Healthy Lunch
At the end of the second trimester and into the third, you might run into a new problem: a lack of space in your stomach as your uterus expands. So rather than planning one meal, figure on eating a number of small snacks at regular intervals to keep your stomach moderately full. Small, nutrient-rich lunches or snacks could include crudites with hummus, green smoothies made with fruit, greens such as spinach or kale, Greek yogurt and fruit juice, cottage cheese mixed with strawberries or tomatoes, and string cheese with almonds. If you're a little hungrier, FitPregnancy recommends protein-rich homemade chicken salad on whole-wheat bread and vegetarian chili.
Pre-Plan Your Dinners
After a long day, the last thing you want to do is cook an elaborate meal, especially near the end of your pregnancy when your entire body feels worn out. Make things easier on yourself by stocking your freezer with healthy homemade meals ready to thaw and pop in the oven. FitPregnancy notes that freezer-friendly recipes include beef burgers, turkey meatballs, chicken and veggie stir-fry, and squash soup. Also, aim to eat seafood a couple times a week -- fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain and eye development in your baby. Limit yourself to 12 ounces of seafood a week to avoid overdoing it on mercury.