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What To Eat When Pregnant: 5 Common Myths Busted

8 minute read

If you’re expecting — you likely know the importance of eating a well-balanced diet while you’re pregnant. But there are a million nutrition experts out there with a TON of advice on what you should and shouldn’t eat. 

It can all start to feel a little confusing and overwhelming…

Especially since there is conflicting advice and not all of it is actually grounded in science.

Let’s take a look at a few common myths about what pregnant women should eat and replace them with a healthier and easier recommendations.

How To Eat Healthy When Pregnant Vs. What To Eat When Pregnancy

Before we dive into what to eat when pregnant, I just want to mention that I totally understand that knowing what to eat and eating what you plan to eat are two different things. It’s hard to eat healthy when you’re fighting exhaustion, keeping up with work, remodeling the house and all the other demands on many moms.

I LOVE helping moms create a nutrition plan and stick to it. That’s why in my birth course Birth Undone where I help moms be proactive about their health during pregnancy so they can have a safer and easier birth.

When you take the time to eat a healthy meal and share it with the other class members, you get entered to win amazing giveaways for things like UPPA Baby strollers and Gucci baby shoes. A year’s worth of diapers is also on the calendar.

Did you know that studies show that nutritional counseling alone can improve every birth outcome and improve your babies health through the first two years of life? It’s worth it to focus on food.

So if you need help implementing your health goals during pregnancy – and creating an amazing birth – join us!

What To Eat When Pregnant Myth 1: You’re Eating For Two

woman holding orange slice over belly what to eat in pregnancy

There is one feeling I remember distinctly in my pregnancy – once the morning sickness wore off – I was hungry. Yes, I had cravings – but I was also just hungry. All. The. Time. Can you relate?

But, are you really eating for two when you’re pregnant? The answer is no.

In our article about the ideal pregnancy diet, I mention that you only need about 300-450 extra calories a day. But, your body’s need for a complex array of nutrients has gone up significantly. If you’re eating empty calories such as pastries and candy, your body will likely keep sending you hunger signals because you need more nutrients!

How To Stop Feeling Hungry When You’re Eating For Two

A simple way to actually feeling full is to make sure you are getting enough whole food protein.

In fact recent studies have revealed that 40% of women don’t get enough protein in the second trimester and more than 60% aren’t getting enough by the third trimester. If a continual feeling of hunger is normal for you, it may be a lack of protein.

Proteins are the building blocks of your body. They are literally found in every cell — over 37.2 trillion of them! — they make up every skin cell, muscle fiber, hair follicle…not to mention your growing uterus, placenta and growing baby! 

Not only do proteins provide structure to your cells, they help them function properly and even help your cells repair themselves! 

Proteins are also responsible for building new cells — which means protein is pretty important for your growing baby.

So how much protein do you need? To keep things simple, it’s easiest to remember that for most women, you’ll need at least 80 g of whole food protein a day in the first half of pregnancy and 100 g of whole food protein a day in the second half pregnancy. 

If you want to feel satisfied and full, try eating more protein.

What To Eat When Pregnant Myth 2: Follow All Cravings

mom cooking healthy foods for pregnancy with her children playing with food making mustache out of green onion

Pregnancy cravings can be so much fun. Eating a favorite salted caramel ice cream on the reg and then having it become one of your child’s favorite foods years later is cute and interesting. But, not all cravings can and should be honored.

Cravings are often a signal that something is out of balance.

Sometimes we crave specific foods because we always eat them at a certain time of day, or we are knowingly or unknowingly suffering from blood sugar crashes or we are trying to deal with stress.

Cravings can have a lot of causes, but just because they can be overpowering doesn’t mean we should always give into them.

It’s true, your body’s need for extra iron and calcium could make you crave that extra large vanilla milkshake at your favorite dessert shop! But at 1,200 calories a pop, that might not be the healthiest option on a weekly basis. 

I’m not saying eating vanilla ice cream every once in a while is bad, but when it becomes a habit and leads to unhealthy weight gain and high sugar levels…this can be unhealthy for you and your little one.

Solution: Intuitive Eating And Recognizing Your Real Needs

Pregnancy can be an incredible time of self discovery and growth. Yes, sink into joy and relish the cravings you choose to honor. But also, let it be a time of getting to know your true needs better. Begin experimenting with intuitive eating.

If you have disordered eating patterns (like I did!) or eat out of stress (also like I did!) choose to focus on healing emotionally.

You can also start to make some simple replacements to curb cravings caused by coffee or alcohol (or lack of alcohol) in your diet.

Would anything change if you ate like you loved yourself? Would you be more careful about what you allowed into your body? Would you give yourself more permission to enjoy and relish in different foods?

One thing that is really important to discover is how to notice your own hunger cues. When are you eating because of stress? and when are you eating because you’re hungry or thirsty?

Try this affirmation:

“I am going to trust my body to tell me what it needs and I’ll listen”. 

What To Eat When Pregnant Myth 3: Supplements Will Do The Work For Me

what to eat when pregnant: salmon and green spinach on a plate as an example

Expecting mamas often ask me what they can do to prevent unpleasant pregnancy symptoms. 

An easy answer is to simply eat more healthy foods for pregnancy! When you are deeply nourished you can prevent many unpleasant pregnancy symptoms and even lower your risk for certain pregnancy complications. 

If you don’t believe me…try it! When you increase the amount of whole foods you eat each day, a lot of other pregnancy “issues” tend to resolve on their own. 

But it doesn’t work if you just get your nutrients from prenatal vitamins and protein shakes.

The Problem With Prenatal Vitamins

A lot of prenatal vitamins are designed to meet the bare minimum of your nutritional needs – if at all. In fact, most prenatal vitamins leave out important nutrients such as Iodine and Choline that your baby needs to build their body and brain.

Sure, a high quality prenatal vitamin is important. It doesn’t do you any good to not take one. But, taking a prenatal vitamin does not replace a varied and intentional pregnancy diet.

Our favorite prenatal vitamin contains 24 vitamins and minerals. But, consider the skin of an apple has over 300 complex compounds. Nutritious foods and herbal teas provide a variety of micro and macro nutrients a vitamin simply cannot replace. And you can get 20% off by using code SBB20 at checkout.

At the end of the day though, vitamins are helpful, but do not replace food.

The Problem With Protein Shakes And Diet Food

I could spend hours ranting and raving on the importance of protein during pregnancy. On the other hand, not getting enough protein during pregnancy may lead to unnecessary pregnancy complications. You may start to experience weight loss, fatigue, swelling, or even infection. 

Insufficient protein can also lead to lower birth weights , preterm birth, and possibly increase your baby’s risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or high blood pressure later in life

But the good news is that you can help prevent these risks simply by eating enough protein – if that protein comes from a variety of whole food sources.

Studies confirm that when a mom gets protein from a shake, it doesn’t provide the same protection as when she gets it from a varied whole food diet. This is likely because whole food protein gives a range of micronutrients that a simple shake couldn’t possibly replicate.

So sure, if you occasionally need a protein shake – it’s not going to hurt you. But, real food is always best.

What To Eat When Pregnant Myth 4: Quick and Light Breakfasts To Help Manage Morning Sickness

healthy meal for pregnancy: eggs on avocado toast with tea as a healthy start

An easy way to increase your protein intake is first thing in the morning! Breakfast is often called ‘the most important meal of the day’ and for good reason. 

Breakfast breaks the overnight fasting period. It replenishes your supply of glucose to boost your energy levels and alertness, while also providing other essential nutrients required for good health.

But many women are encouraged to turn to crackers, cereals and simple but nutritionless foods first thing in the morning – especially if they are having any symptoms of morning sickness.

This is why Registered Dietician Lily Nichols says that ‘fixing breakfast’ is her number one priority.

Fixing your breakfast can break cycles of energy lows and cravings throughout the day.

High carb breakfasts, even if they are healthy, such as a bowl of oatmeal, can set you up for sharp changes in your blood sugar levels – leaving your prone to even more nausea and a general feeling of not feeling food.

How To Fix Your Breakfast

When you eat enough protein and limit carbohydrates at breakfast, you’re setting yourself up for a day of fewer blood sugar swings and stable energy levels. This is literally the best way you can start your day off on the right foot. 

Here are some of my favorite breakfasts:

You get the idea, whole food protein including the fat, a small amount of carbs and some healthy vegetables to round it all out.

When you start the day out this way, you will be less hungry, and hopefully less nauseous throughout the day as well.

Continue with eating 3 meals and 3 snacks during the day if you can, following your hunger cues. But notice, do your hunger cues change when you change your breakfast?

What To Eat When Pregnant Myth 5: Eat What Is Easy

What to eat during pregnancy - mom preparing healthy foods with her two young children

When your body is working as hard as it is during pregnancy, keeping up with gourmet meals on top of everything else you are doing may feel impossible. You don’t have to be perfect. Start with making one change, and paying attention to how it makes you feel.

Buying an inexpensive and helpful food diary, or just keeping track in a journal may help. Since you are here, I know you are making intentional and thoughtful choices about what to eat in pregnancy.

If you’ve considered what to eat in pregnancy, and feel like you’re no where close to where you want to be, embrace being a beginner. Have fun exploring and trying new things. You might just find that you see and feel your health improving day by day!

The Easiest Change To Improve Your Diet: Eating Organic + Pasture Raised

I know that when I make a change in my diet, I like to get the most benefit for the work. That’s why paying attention to the quality of your foods can make such a huge difference. When it comes to what to eat in pregnancy, quality matters.

Quality matters for eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit, but let’s start by just looking at eggs.

Pasture raised eggs have so many more nutrients:

  • 30% more vitamin A (helps your baby’s eyes develop)
  • Double the amount of vitamin E (helps your body create and maintain red blood cells, healthy skin and eyes, and strengthens your natural immune system)
  • 2.5 x the Omega-3 fatty acids (helps your baby’s brain develop)
  • Fewer inflammatory Omega-6 acids
  • 3-6 times the Vitamin D (deficiencies can result in pregnancy loss, hypertension, gestational diabetes and more)

You can see that just by eating a pasture raised egg, which takes no more time than eating a commercially housed hen egg, that you do so much for your nutiriton.

The reasons to eat high quality organic food are abundant. And it is such a simple switch. If you’re trying to make healthy choices during pregnancy, this is an easy yes, a win-win for you and your baby.

Healthy Whole Food Protein Snacks for Pregnant People

What healthy foods for pregnancy can you turn to throughout the day? When that mid-morning or afternoon slump hits you and your stomach starts to rumble… There’s no better way to fill you up and give you the energy you need to make it to the next meal than with a protein-packed snack! 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

  • Cottage cheese toast (14g protein per slice)
  • Chia seed pudding with fruit (14g protein per serving)
  • Homemade protein bars (12g protein per bar)
  • High-protein smoothie (10g protein per smoothie) 
  • Spinach and goat cheese egg muffins (8g protein per 2 muffins)

These snacks are super easy to whip together. You can even meal prep on the weekend to get a head start on the week! Get the recipes here — plus 40 more delicious snack ideas!