Nutrition in Pregnancy - From the Point of View of a (Pregnant) Sports Dietitian
As a clinical and sports dietitian, as I prepared for my pregnancy I felt it was my duty to research, in depth, the subject of nutrition.
Usually, advice to pregnant women begins with what we can’t have. From there, we’re advised on what is recommended and finally what is really important for us to eat. The Ministry of Health website features lots of up-to-date information about dietary recommendations and food safety during pregnancy, and even Google has an answer to almost any "is .... allowed in pregnancy?" search you could think of – you just need to make sure that the source is reliable...
Just as I was feeling satisfied with the research I‘d done and the information I’d gathered, happy and confident as I was that I had a pregnancy nutrition plan – bang! I was hit by nausea and extreme fatigue. After I got over the shock pf these pregnancy side effects, I realized it was time to move on to Plan B: making the best of the situation by doing the best I can, at any given moment.
And yes, there are situations where my ‘best’ would be pizza or a hamburger 😊 – and when that is the case, I let myself enjoy it, without an ounce of guilt! After all, in my professional life as a dietitian, I advocate the philosophy that the majority of what we eat should be ‘good’ – which is totally compatible with my pregnancy Plan B.
Here are some tips that have helped me – and which I hope will also help you – to make better choices, based on how I’m feeling, giving me the sense that I am doing the best I can for our unborn child and for my health and body 😊
Ugh! It's hard for me to eat protein! It’s still a wonder to me that I, as someone who advocates the importance of protein and emphasizes it in nutritional counseling - especially for athletes - am not getting enough protein myself! Absurd, but true... Given my unexpected new aversions to certain foods, I’ve been seeking out alternative protein sources to the norm. I’ve found that yogurts with a higher protein content are a relatively easy and convenient solution. Most of them also contain a fair amount of calcium, which is important in pregnancy too. Nutritionally speaking, yogurt with a natural flavor and no added sugar is preferable. If you are looking for something sweet, you can mix in some fruit/ homemade granola and/ or a little honey or date honey.
Another solution is to make crustless pies. I’ve been finding it easier to eat cooked, hot food, and it’s simple to combine protein with carbohydrates and vegetables in a balanced, varied and easy-to-prepare meal - for example, cheese and vegetable pie. you can also upgrade the carbohydrate component of the dish with a range of legumes (e.g. rice with lentils/ beans) to give you a healthy dose of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals all in one shot. Bulgur wheat with lentils has become one of my new favorites in pregnancy.
The most recent recommendation I have seen for caffeine intake for pregnant women is up to 200 mg a day (some advice also talks about the consequences of consuming over 150 mg of caffeine a day). Considering that a cup of Nescafe contains about 65 mg of caffeine, it would probably be ok for me to indulge in two cups a day, but I’d rather err on the side of caution; and since I already detoxed – I’m sticking to just the one cup!
Bear in mind that caffeine is found not only in coffee but in other foods and beverages such as chocolate, cola, tea, etc ... and in varying doses. So, do check how much you’re having overall, according to everything you eat and drink.
There is no doubt that pregnancy is a challenging period in terms of nutrition. My advice is to strive for a nutritious diet overall, while at the same time dealing with cravings, nausea and an emotional state that can change without warning. It is important to remember that in nutrition as in life, nothing is perfect. It's not black and white; one less ‘successful’ choice will usually not undo all those good choices you’ve made. Just do the best you can at any given moment. Planning can help, but it’s also important to learn to adapt and make adjustments in real time - what's more it’s good practice for real life, especially when you have a baby on the way 😊
Yael Yellin Sedbon, Clinical Dietitian and Sports M.Sc
Israeli champion and former player on the Israel national beach volleyball team
Written in the second trimester of pregnancy
All information, recommendations and content presented in this article is general and does not constitute personal advice. This information should not be construed as a personal recommendation. Use of the information and recommendations is the sole responsibility of the user.