Nutrition Tips for the First Trimester From a Registered Dietitian

Brittany Jones Nutrition Group

Hi everyone 👋 Christie here, and I’ve got some exciting news to share with you…I’m pregnant!

Staring down at the pregnancy test, and realizing what it meant, was such an exciting and also overwhelming moment for me. I had experienced an ectopic pregnancy earlier in the year that required emergency surgery, and ultimately the removal of my right Fallopian tube. Needless to say 2019 had been an emotional year for my husband and I. This second pregnancy stirred up strong feelings of needing to protect this baby.

As a registered dietitian, one of my first instincts was to make sure I was eating as healthful as possible. I was doing all the “right” things –  taking my prenatal vitamins everyday and continuing to exercise regularly. I was feeling really good and was convinced that I would be able to eat “by the book” throughout my pregnancy. Then week 9 rolled around, and I felt like I was hit by a bus. All of a sudden, I was beyond exhausted, and the eggs and whole grain sprouted toast that I had eaten the day before made my stomach churn.

The term morning sickness can be really misleading because mine generally peaked right after lunchtime, and carried through until I went to bed. Everyone kept telling me that come week 12 I would feel better, almost overnight. However, I really didn’t feel completely over the hump until about week 16. First trimester fatigue, nausea, and vomiting are extremely common, and can make it hard to fuel for your day and your baby. Below are some things that I found tremendously helpful through my first trimester and into my second. I hope you find these tips helpful as well!

Nutrition Tips for the First Trimester of Pregnancy

1 – Eat smaller, more frequent meals/snacks.

I found that the few times I did feel better and tried to eat a larger meal, it usually led to me feeling very nauseated afterwards. Eating carbohydrate and protein combinations more frequently made me feel much better (see next tip for more). I tried to eat something every 3-4 hours if possible.

2 – Eat carbohydrates followed by a protein or fat.

The only foods that genuinely sounded good to me were carbohydrates like bread, fruit, crackers, cereal, or smoothies. There was one week where all I could stomach was potatoes and bagels. Eating yogurt, eggs, or meat just did not sound appealing to me. However, getting some protein throughout the day is extremely important and can actually help regulate blood sugar and prevent worsening nausea. For me I would eat some crackers first followed by a cheese stick, or a piece of fruit first and then seeing if I could add a handful of nuts after. Dinner was a bowl of plain whole wheat pasta and veggies to start, and then I would try to add some chicken or  cheese.

3 – Vitamin B6 can help with morning sickness.

I found that taking about 25-50 mg of a vitamin B6 supplement helped me the most with evening nausea when I was trying to sleep. However, during the day I focused on vitamin B6 rich foods like bananas, nuts, and potatoes. 

4 – Saved by citrus!

Far and away the best cure for my in the moment nausea was citrus fruits or citrus flavor. The height of my 1st trimester was in the winter so clementine oranges were in season. I would eat 3-4 of these a day! They were ALWAYS in my bag. The smell alone helped to make me feel better. Grapefruit sparkling water was also a lifesaver, especially in the afternoon/evening when the nausea would be the worst. Lemon ginger tea was also helpful and enjoyable on cold nights.

5 – Strive for Daily Movement.

Prior to pregnancy I was working out 3-4 days a week at Orangetheory, but once the nausea got pretty bad I had to take a step back for about 6 weeks. However, just going for about a 15 minute walk most days helped my nausea and overall mental state. Now I am back at Orangetheory a couple of days a week and walking other days!

The biggest thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself during this time.

Your body is going through A LOT of change during pregnancy, and some days you might be able to handle an egg and spinach omelet with avocado toast, and other days it might be all you can do to keep a banana and crackers down. Give yourself some grace and know that (for most) this is temporary. I know from experience this is easier said than done, but you are not alone! 

Want to know more about prenatal nutrition? This is one of my specialties, and I would love to work with you! Contact me here.