Spring isn’t the only thing that March brings – it’s National Nutrition Month! Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it started as National Nutrition Week in 1973, and became an official month in 1980. The aim is to spread awareness and information about healthy eating and exercise.
Eating a nutritious diet is part of a healthy lifestyle, which is especially important when you’re trying to conceive, or when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But it’s not always easy, especially when you want something not-so-healthy. As with anything, moderation is key – but here are some tips on maintaining healthy eating while still satisfying some of those pregnancy cravings!
Nutrition guidelines for the childbearing years
Stay hydrated. During pregnancy, you need even more water than usual – water helps deliver nutrients to your baby, and your body is working extra hard because of the increased blood volume. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink 12 to 13 8-ounce glasses of water daily – more if it’s a very hot day or you’re exercising. Water helps with feeling full, reduces constipation, and helps flush out any waste. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. A good rule of thumb to remember is this: if your urine is pale, pale yellow or clear, you’re drinking enough water.
Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Eating regular meals and snacks will help keep you from getting too hungry and overeating, as well as keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady. A healthy breakfast will also keep snacking at bay before lunch. Some whole-grain toast, an egg, and a piece of fruit can help start your day off right.
Get regular exercise. Not only will exercise help keep you fit during pregnancy, but it can also keep your hunger under control. Staying active can also help boost your mood during pregnancy – and it’s a great way to stay social, if you grab a friend for a walk or workout.
Moderation. No one’s saying to ditch the ice cream or chocolate altogether – why not have a small bowl or a scoop, instead of a big sundae? Or a few squares of chocolate, instead of an entire candy bar? A small treat will keep these things from being “forbidden,” making it less likely you’ll binge on them.
Keep healthy snacks on hand. Part of being pregnant is that sudden hunger that seems to come out of nowhere, demanding that you need food, now! To help reduce the likelihood of stopping for fast food or picking up junk food, it helps to keep little snack bags full of healthy food on hand – in your desk drawer at work, in the car, in your purse, in the pantry. Some suggestions include DIY trail mix of your favorite dried fruit and nuts, which provides protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins; cut up carrots and celery; frozen grapes and berries; low-fat string cheese; and peanut butter crackers.
Make substitutions. If you’re craving ice cream, try frozen yogurt, sherbet, or lower-fat ice cream. Swap out popcorn, pretzels, or tortilla chips when you crave potato chips (or choose the “baked” version). Need a chocolate fix? Have some hot cocoa with skim milk.