Congratulations, you are pregnant! Now what? After learning about your positive pregnancy test, you’ll probably start out with some common pregnancy symptoms, bloating, breast soreness, headaches, food aversions and the one that gets talked about the most, morning sickness.
Morning sickness occurs in approximately 44-89% of all pregnancies and is not limited to just the morning. Morning sickness usually begins in early pregnancy at 4-6 weeks gestation and stops at about 16-20 weeks (second trimester) for most pregnancies. A severe form of morning sickness is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum and happens in about 1.2% of pregnant women. This condition can negatively impact your nutrient intake during the first and beginning of the second trimester, commonly requiring hospitalization.
Morning sickness is thought to be related to the increased amount of HCG and Estrogen hormones as well as an increased sensitivity to odors.1 The goal for this time, when experiencing morning sickness, is to tolerate the food rather than focusing on the nutrient content.
For morning sickness, there is nothing to make the nausea disappear, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. There are benefits to foods that assist with other symptoms of pregnancy such as constipation, bloating and gas which in turn can help reduce morning sickness.
Strategies to manage nausea:
- Eat bland, dry, salty carbohydrates, easy to digest such as: saltines, crackers, pretzels, toast, dry cereal. Pairing your carbs with a protein or fat can help regulate your blood sugar and curb your nausea.
- Eat small meals frequently throughout the day (~6 small meals/day), especially something small in the morning like saltines. Avoid an empty stomach and consume liquids between meals.1
- Avoid strong odors, people tend to tolerate foods better cold with little odor than warm with a foul smell. Avoid triggering foods.
- Consume enough protein (~71g/day) to help balance your meals and reduce nausea.
- Avoid high fat or fried foods which could delay gastric emptying and slow digestion.
- Cold foods tend to be tolerated better such as popsicles and smoothies.
- Supplement with vitamin B6, pyridoxine, or increasing foods that include this vitamin in high amounts such as: fish, chicken, tofu, pork, beef, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, avocados, and pistachios (~50mg/daily), clinically shown to reduce morning sickness.5,6
- Supplement with peppermint and ginger (ginger recommendation 250mg 2 to 4 times/day). Mother Nature's, “Mama” Natures, non-pharmacological morning sickness remedy. Take as ginger tea, soft chews, hard candy, ginger snaps, ginger ale.
Now, let’s talk Pumpkin Spice Everything. You can definitely enjoy those fall favorites in the first trimester as there are benefits of fruits and vegetables to help with your not-so-favorite pregnancy symptoms. Not only does eating seasonally help you and your growing baby, but eating seasonally helps promote a healthy planet and reduces the miles from farm to table. By reducing the miles from farm to table, this also helps reduce the carbon footprint.
Sourcing seasonal food keeps our agriculture system sustainable by eating what is fresh in season and making room for the next season’s crops to grow. Optimal growing conditions and crop turnover helps soil rotate and assists with keeping our fresh fruits and vegetables nutrient dense and very, very flavorful, naturally becoming packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Increasing palatability during times when you are feeling queasy could help you tolerate food better and potentially assist with keeping everything down.
To find other local and seasonally grown vegetables, visit https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide.
Fall foods to help with morning sickness:
- Winter Squash - Pumpkin & Butternut Squash - Okay, let’s be serious for a moment, what is fall without a little pumpkin in everything? Turns out, this amazing seasonal vegetable is great for pregnant women too! Full of zinc which is essential for immune function, potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium, antioxidants. Enjoy this fall favorite baked, as a pasta or pasta sauce, as a soup, toasted pumpkin seeds for added protein, pumpkin bread-definitely my preferred option.
- Apples - Who doesn’t dream of going to an apple orchard in fall? Apples are one of the most popular seasonal fall fruits for a reason and hey mama, they’re packed with benefits for you too! Full of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K, antioxidants. The fiber in apples, pectin, acts as a prebiotic fiber feeding the healthy gut bacteria, also known as probiotics. This fiber in apples can be soothing when you’re dealing with bloating and constipation and help maintain regular GI tract movement.5 Made into applesauce- a very popular morning sickness fan fav, enjoyed sliced with peanut butter, as apple pie. The list goes on…
- Sweet potatoes - The finest root vegetable of them all, the sweet potato. Loaded with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, potassium, vitamin A, antioxidants, folic acid, calcium, this root vegetable is packed with nutrients. If sweet potato fries are the only food you can keep down at this time, it’s a great choice! Try sweet potato pie, sweet potato chips, mashed sweeties, or even baking a sweet potato and enjoy the natural caramelization.
- Spinach - The plant-based iron and protein powerhouse. Packed with protein, iron, folic acid, calcium, vitamin B6. Consuming protein can help reduce nausea and if you’re already feeling sick, you may not want animal meats such as chicken, beef or fish. Spinach is a good plant based protein source with 2.3g/protein per 100g spinach. The folic acid in spinach is very important during the first trimester and throughout the entire pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and keep you and your baby healthy.
- Pears - Pears are the under-the-radar fruit during fall. While apples take on the main stage, pears are in the background boasting with nutrients and flavor. Containing a lot of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium. Enjoy sliced, with cheese, as sauce, as a jam or spread. Just like apples the prebiotic fiber found in pears, mostly in the skin of the fruit, acts as food for your gut bacteria- so eat up! Consuming pears in the first trimester may put you at less risk of having nausea because of the vitamin B6 content.3
Including nutrient dense foods is important, however what is most important is to consume enough calories, in other words, whatever you’re able to get down and tolerate. Nutrition is individualized so what works for one person may not work for another and vice versa. It is important to maximize nutrients when possible by including a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens and berries. Try to adhere to prenatal vitamins during this time. Don’t forget to keep noshing throughout the day. You’re doing a great job mamas! Keep up the good work growing another human inside of you!
If you’re having severe morning sickness and can’t keep anything down it’s recommended to contact your health care provider, OB or a Registered Dietitian for more personalized information.
- Rachel Abers, MS, RDN, LDN
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrition Care Manual. http://www.nutritioncaremanual.org. Accessed [10/1/2021].
Cording, C. J. (n.d.). 4 fall foods for your family. EatRight. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://www.eatright.org/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/4-fall-foods-for-your-family.
- Liz Weinandy. (2018, April 4). The nutrition cheat sheet for morning sickness. Ohio State Medical Center. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/the-nutrition-cheat-sheet-for-morning-sickness.
- Morning sickness remedies. American Pregnancy Association. (2021, July 16). Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/morning-sickness-remedies/.
- Palmer , S. (2015, October). RDs' Favorite Fall Produce Recipes . Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1015p40.shtml.
- Width, M., & Reinhard, T. (2017). The Essential Pocket Guide for Clinical Nutrition (Second). Jones & Bartlett Learning.