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Hot Topic: Foods to ease pregnancy symptoms

Joanne Van Zuidam • Jun 17, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Foods to ease pregnancy symptoms

By Joanne Van Zuidam



Yep, smart eating can make you feel better through all three trimesters. We look at common symptoms you may experience, from morning sickness to heartburn to insomnia, and come up with some foods to try.


What to eat: Ginger

When you’re feeling queasy, ginger’s your best friend. Brew ginger tea, chew candied ginger, snack on ginger snaps or sip ginger ale.

Hint: stirring the soda to get the bubbles out makes it easier on the stomach, says Suzanne Merrill-Nach, M.D., fellow at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and an OB-GYN in private practice in San Diego. Don’t like the taste of ginger? It’s also available in capsule form (if you can stomach the idea of swallowing something whole).

What else you can do:

Let your aversions be your guide. You might naturally want to avoid strong smells and spicy foods. You can also experiment with the temperature of your food, said Melinda Johnson, registered dietician, director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Arizona State University and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You may get relief from eating cold foods, such as gelatin or a smoothie. Other options that can be stomach settlers include raw veggies, cold sandwiches, lemon slices and, of course, crackers.

Know that nausea is more likely to happen on an empty stomach — hence the name morning sickness. If you tend to feel nauseous when you wake up, keep crackers by your bed to nibble on right away.

Also, eat sparingly but often. Consuming frequent, small meals is easier on your stomach than having three large ones a day. And don’t worry too much: whatever you can tolerate is the right thing to eat, said Merrill-Nach.

“If you’re throwing up, it doesn’t matter if it’s not the perfectly well-balanced diet,” she said.


What to eat: Beans

Beans, berries and broccoli will boost your fiber intake to keep things running smoothly. High-fiber breakfast cereals and oatmeal are also easy ways to ease this common pregnancy symptom.

What else you can do:

Keep a glass or bottle of water with you and drink from it as much as you can. Hydration is important to keep your digestive system moving.

Moreover, Merrill-Nach said the calcium in prenatal vitamins can, um, stop you up. Ask your doctor to recommend a vitamin that contains a stool softener, which could get things going again.


What to eat: Bananas

In general, acidic foods bring on the burn, making low-acidic fruit, such as bananas and melons, a good choice to lessen heartburn symptoms. Avoiding acidic foods can help, but in pregnancy, it’s not so much about trigger foods. In other words, you might sometimes be able to say that the chili you ate at lunch caused your heartburn, but in general, you can just chalk it up to being pregnant.

What else you can do:

Pay attention to what you eat and when you eat it. You might want to skip spicy foods and not munch too close to bedtime. Also, don’t lie down for at least an hour or so after eating a meal. If you do, Johnson recommends using lots of pillows to prop yourself up in a comfortable position and Merrill-Nach said to keep an antacid handy on your nightstand.


What to eat: Spinach

It’s common to become iron-deficient or anemic in pregnancy, making you even more tired (if that’s possible). If you’ve had pregnancies close together or if you follow a vegetarian diet, you can probably count yourself among that group, said Merrill-Nach. Vegetarians tend to have lower levels of vitamin B-12 and iron. Adding more iron-rich foods may help boost energy. That includes red meats, beans, leafy green vegetables like spinach and fortified breakfast cereals. Ask your doctor if you should also be taking an iron supplement.

What else you can do:

You might not realize it, but staying hydrated is key to keeping your energy level up.

“When you’re dehydrated, your blood becomes a bit sluggish moving through your body — making you sluggish too,” Johnson said.

Besides sipping water, you can eat soup, fruits and veggies to increase your fluid intake. But remember, you’re pregnant: feeling tired is a given in the first trimester, no matter what you do. Rest as much as you can for now, and know that in the second trimester, you’ll get back some of your energy.


What to drink: Warm milk

A cup of decaffeinated tea or warm milk (plain or flavored) before bed helps some moms-to-be drift off to dreamland, said Johnson. But skip the hot cocoa if you’re sensitive to caffeine — it has a small amount of it — so you’re better off sipping plain milk.

Caffeine, in general, should be limited in pregnancy to less than 200 milligrams (about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee) per day. And avoiding it may help you get the z’s you need.

If you can’t kick your caffeine habit completely, try not to drink it late in the day, when it’s more likely to interfere with sleep.

What else you can do:

Supporting yourself with extra pillows at night can make you more comfortable and help you snooze better. You can use a big pregnancy body pillow or place a cushion between your knees to alleviate any back pain that may be keeping you up.

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