No matter what the nutritional advice, in the first trimester, there’s a clear discrepancy between what you should eat and what you can eat, without seeing it reappear later in the day.
It’s not easy.
70-80% of women experience some level of morning sickness during the first trimester and for an unlucky few, this lasts throughout their entire pregnancy (presumably this is where only children come in.)
The most important point to make about morning sickness is the
completely inappropriate use of the word ‘morning’. In reality, it will usually last for most of the day and is caused by a number of factors including reduced blood sugar, hormones, fatigue, stress, and traveling.
My own hangover lasted about eight weeks and was severely amplified by lack of sleep.
Add to this the additional complications of food aversions and cravings, and planning your nutrition during Trimester 1 is easier said than done.
As a PT, I had my pre-pregnancy nutrition pretty nailed. I followed an 80/20 approach (80% health/20% fun), enjoyed eating nutritious, high protein meals; and generally avoided junk (unless that junk was covered in chocolate).
Suddenly preggo, my usual protein-rich egg breakfast became Fruit & Fibre (at least three times the recommended serving size, to be consumed immediately upon waking). I could only consume protein with a substantial helping of carbs, typically bread. Ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches were life. Salad and vegetables were minimal.
Eating well is hard when you have the biggest, most unwarranted, permanent hangover of your life.
So, the best-case scenario is a healthy balanced diet made up of:
Protein (meat, fish, eggs, tofu, beans…);
Carbohydrates (the unrefined kind....fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes….);
Fats (healthy fats including nuts, seeds, avocados, nut butter, oily fish…).
However, in reality, not everything will go down well so focus on the healthy options that you can eat and give yourself a break from the rest if needed. Take some comfort from the fact that your baby only needs a very small amount from you at this stage and even women who lose weight due to sickness or spend their entire first trimester eating nothing but bread still have healthy babies.
How to eat well when you feel horrendous:
Smoothies - a simple and efficient way to get in all the vitamins and minerals you can. Experiment with fruits, vegetables, nut butter, and protein powders to make these into nutritious meals;
Carb it up - If necessary, add carbs to make other foods more appealing. There’s nothing wrong with a sandwich provided it contains lots of nutrient-rich filling. Adding chips to pizza not so much;
Protein supplements - Try protein powders and bars to increase protein intake if you can’t face meat and fish. (I say this although personally, I went off any form of protein powder initially but it's worth a try);
Go small - Eat little and often if you can’t face big meals;
Do what you can - Focus on the healthy things you can stomach. I found fruit went down well so had lots more of that in place of vegetables;
Back up plan - Even with the best diet in the world, you are unlikely to get the recommended dose of every nutrient in your diet every day. Take a decent multivitamin to ensure you are covering all bases as a backup.
Don’t beat yourself up if you're struggling. Focus on what you can do, food that makes you feel good (hopefully something), and try not to stress.
It gets better. I’m glad to say my own appetite was back with a vengeance around week 14.