Once you’re pregnant, everything changes. And while obvious dietary and lifestyle variations are in order for mothers-to-be, they also carry advantages for spouses and partners. Face it—you’re in this together, so why not eat and drink like it?
And that doesn’t mean, “We’re both eating for two!” In a survey of 5,000 males, the average man gained 14 pounds during his wife’s pregnancy. But that doesn’t have to be the case in your relationship. You both know that eating more fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich foods, lean meats and healthy fats will do your bodies good—no matter who’s carrying the baby.
Here’s a quick guide to developing healthier pre-natal habits that will help the both of you stay fit, energized and clear-eyed through your due date and beyond.
Double down on vitamins
The earlier that pregnant women start taking a prenatal vitamin, the better—nutrients like folic acid are essential to your baby’s developing spinal cord and nerves. If you are trying to conceive, start taking these pre-natal vitamins every day.
The multi-vitamin habit is a great one for both you and your partner to embrace. The supplemental nutrition that vitamins provide will keep you both physically healthy and invigorated as you care for your new baby. Check with your primary care physician or registered dietitian for what vitamins are best for you.
Bonus: Since prenatal vitamins are best absorbed on a full stomach, taking them in the morning gives you a great opportunity to think about a healthy breakfast.
Make breakfast matter
Early pregnancy affects your relationship with food. You may be experiencing morning sickness, or realizing that foods you used to love are now a complete turn-off. Either way, it can become harder to eat well. And if you don’t eat well, it’s harder to support your baby’s growth process or combat the fatigue that settles in during the first trimester.
Eating a healthy balanced breakfast can give you a great start, no matter what the rest of your day holds. Having your partner eat it with you gives you both better energy and nutrition, and also gets you a supportive starting-the-day routine that will benefit you both once the baby’s born.
The best breakfasts don’t have to be the biggest—they can simply be the first of many small, frequent meals you eat throughout the day. Since you need to eat and drink at least four servings of dairy products, at least three servings of iron-rich foods and at least one good source of vitamin C every day, you’ve got a lot of room to be creative while checking off your nutrition needs.
- Low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt with a vitamin C-rich fruit like oranges, honeydew, papaya or strawberries—whirl it into a shake if you prefer
- An egg omelet or scramble with spinach, broccoli, peppers, or tomatoes, topped with your favorite low-fat cheese
- A bowl of iron-rich breakfast cereal with low-fat milk and sliced fruit
- A slice of iron-rich whole-grain bread with low-fat cream cheese
Cut down the caffeine
The good news? Coffee during pregnancy is no longer the big no-go it used to be. Caffeine has been studied closely, and although there has been harm discovered with extreme consumption, moderate amounts have been proven to be fine.
According to Dr. Carl P. Weiner, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breast-feeding, “A cup of coffee or a cola product every 6 to 8 hours is probably safe.” And, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concludes that less than 200 milligrams daily of caffeine does not raise health risks in pregnancy.
Get your partner on board to trim his or her caffeine intake—the solidarity will go a long way.Here’s help breaking down some of your daily doses:
- One cup of brewed coffee has about 140 mg of caffeine
- One cup of black tea has about 75 mg of caffeine
- One can of cola or half a can of an energy drink has up to 40 mg of caffeine
Bonus: When you drink less caffeine, you tend to drink more of the next liquid close at hand…water.
Believe the hype on hydration
Hydration is huge for all individuals – but for pregnant women, it has incredible health benefits. Proper hydration can prevent preterm contractions and help relieve leg cramps that persistently plague women in their second and third trimesters. It also keeps you from getting constipated—a noted first-trimester symptom.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink 10 cups of water daily, non-pregnant women 12 cups, and men drink 13 cups—which can admittedly be a struggle. What are the best ways for both of you to keep your levels up?
- Keep it close—and nice. Buy a good-looking glass to keep at your desk and a new water bottle for your car or bag. Make sure it’s easy to clean.
- Eat your water. Many fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cucumbers and spinach are 90% or more water by weight.
- Fizz or steep it. Seltzers and teas (iced or hot) also count towards your daily draft. Just be sure to limit the total caffeine and added sugar in some of these beverages.
Bonus: If you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’ll need to get into the hydration habit now.
Say bye to booze—both of you
Genetic and other factors can influence how much damage alcohol can do to a developing fetus—which is why the official recommendation of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is, “avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy.”
If you’re a fan of the Triangle’s brew-conomy, this will be a bitter sip to swallow. And it’s where a supportive partner can really help. Showing the mom-to-be that you’re willing to make sacrifices that pay off in the long run.
Whatever you do, don’t skip the fun. Treat yourselves at a bar that serves mocktails on the menu—like Umstead Bar & Lounge, Garland or Mandolin—or simply ask your favorite bar if they can modify one of your favorite drinks. Or class up a Netflix night with some mocktails from the Raleigh Moms Blog.
Bonus Put the money you save on drinks towards the healthy eating during pregnancy instead.
Find smart shortcuts
When the baby comes, you’ll have less time to eat meals—forget planning and cooking them! But convenience foods don’t need to come from a fast-food window. Start looking now for healthy takeout, delivery and prepared food options that will help you fill in the gaps when you’d rather sleep than cook.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- The salad and soup bar and prepared foods at Whole Foods and Fresh Market
- Happy + Hale now delivers healthy foods and juices until 5pm
- The Sweet Tomatoes buffet chain has health-conscious from-scratch options at all their local locations—and you can get them to go
- Mexican take-out is a cheap and healthy option at Moe’s and Chipotle. They offer vegetarian dishes as well as gluten-, hormone-, steroid- and preservative-free options
- Take-and-bake pizzas have come a long way. Papa Murphy’s, Harris Teeter, Kroeger and Whole Foods all offer a range of fresh-made pies you can order in advance and cook at home
- See how many of your favorite restaurant options can come to your home via Durham Takeout, Raleigh Takeout of the 919Dine app
- Put a Costco membership on your baby registry, and dive into their fresh-prepared and healthy frozen food options. You’ll be getting diapers there soon enough as well
- If it’s grocery shopping, not cooking, that holds you up, now’s the time to check out Blue Apron’s meal-prep-in-a-box service
Bonus Nothing says “I love you” like “You don’t have to cook a thing.”
Make support a two-way street
Your nine months of pregnancy is not the time for you to try to diet or lose weight. Both you and your baby need all the proper nutrients and healthy fats in order to be healthy. A balanced diet that includes all the food groups—yes, even carbs—is what your body needs.
However, if your spouse or partner is taking the opportunity to drop some extra pounds and get in better shape before your child is born, by all means, be supportive! He or she is doing this so that they can better support you and your child with a strong, energetic body.
Think of all your partner is doing for you, and try not to tempt! If you’re craving something—starches, sweets, chocolates—that’s not on your partner’s diet, be considerate. Try not to eat it in front of him or her, if you can manage.
The healthier, more balanced habits you can create now, the better chance you’ll have of keeping them after your child is born. Keep that in mind, and enjoy yourselves together!