5 tips to get you through the early stages of pregnancy with our registered nutritionist, Katie.
Knowing what to eat in the early stages of pregnancy might seem straightforward, but if you are one of the 50% of women who experience nausea and/or vomiting, then eating the food that you know is best for you, can be extremely difficult.
There is no clear cause of morning sickness, and although for most women it will resolve by around 20 weeks, those first few months of pregnancy can be tough. Add to this the knowledge that this is the time your baby is developing all their major organs, and it can easily lead to huge anxiety about the quality of your diet.
Checking in with a pregnancy nutritionist is an ideal way to make sure you are getting everything your body needs. Here are my 5 top tips to support you through those tricky first few months.
1. Eat little and often
Dips in blood sugar can make symptoms of morning sickness, particularly nausea, much worse. By eating small amounts regularly, you can avoid those sudden dips in energy which can quickly bring on sickness. This means being super organised, and you might need to pack extra snacks to take to work or on your morning commute. If you can, include some protein-rich foods and some healthy fats in there – nuts and seeds are a great choice.
2. Embrace carbohydrates
Don’t feel guilty for only being able to manage toast on some days - carbohydrates, such as wholegrain bread, oatcakes, and crackers, are full of energy, fibre and B vitamins. These are all things your body, and your baby need and the plain flavour can make them easier to stomach when you’re feeling ill. Where possible, aim for wholegrain varieties, or fortified options, such as cereal, for an extra nutrient boost, and if you’re feeling up to it, add a spread or a dip, such as some peanut butter, marmite or hummus.
3. Stay hydrated
This is especially important if you are experiencing vomiting as well as nausea – avoid dehydration by drinking small amounts regularly. Where possible water is best, but ginger or mint tea might help, and some people find that smoothies are a tolerable way to stay hydrated and get some nutrients in too. Be careful with drinks that are high in caffeine, such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and some energy drinks – they could make you feel more dehydrated, and more than 200mg caffeine/day isn’t recommended during pregnancy.
4. Keep things plain and simple
Trigger foods can vary from person to person, so keep a note of what you can tolerate. Very often, foods that are spicy or strong-smelling can make nausea worse, so you might find cold dishes to be more appealing. If you enjoy the taste, there is some evidence that suggests ginger can be helpful in relieving morning sickness.
5. Choose a multivitamin wisely
If you are struggling to keep much down, then a multi-vitamin might seem like a good choice – to act as a safety net for those vitamins and minerals you aren’t getting from food. Supplements are best taken with food, and if you aren’t able to stomach food in the morning, then taking your supplement in the evening can help you avoid feeling more nauseous.
There is some evidence to suggest that adding in some extra vitamin B6 might help manage symptoms of morning sickness. Most pregnancy multivitamins already contain B6, so check with your midwife or a pregnancy nutritionist prior to taking any additional vitamins, to avoid over supplementing.
Looking for more personalised support?
It can be hard to eat the diet that you want to when suffering from morning sickness, so speaking with a pregnancy nutritionist can give you reassurance. Katie is experienced in working with women at all stages of pregnancy, and having suffered from nausea and morning sickness herself, offers support with empathy and compassion. Katie focuses on finding an approach that works for you and is realistic for the stage of pregnancy you are at now. Complete our nutrition assessment form to book Katie.
O'Donnell A, McParlin C, Robson SC, et al. Treatments for hyperemesis gravidarum and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: a systematic review and economic assessment. Health Technol Assess. 2016;20(74):1-268.
EFSA (2018) Overview on Tolerable Upper Intake Levels as derived by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) and the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA)
NHS (2021) Vomiting and morning sickness. [accessed 1st July 2021]