Why real food matters during pregnancy


If there was one phrase I heard a lot during my pregnancies, it was “you’re eating for two”. It was usually from a well-meaning  by-stander who saw me thinking about food. And it was like they thought they were doing me a favor by giving me permission to go back for seconds, or reach for the last donut.

And while there were times I did go back for seconds, or have that donut, I do think that the mindset “eating for two” is a social norm that needs to be challenged.

Don’t get me wrong, pregnancy hunger is real. But the focus should shift from how much we eat to what we eat.

If we eat real food we’re getting the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals our baby needs for optimal development. And we’re getting the macronutrients like protein and healthy fats to keep us feeling full for longer, so we’re less likely to overeat crap that isn’t doing our bodies (or our babies) any favors. 

What is real food?

Real food doesn’t have a long list of ingredients. It often doesn’t come out of a box or packet. And when it does come out of a packet, it has as few ingredients as possible.

Real food includes fruits and veggies, meat and seafood, whole milk dairy, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.

Real food has the nutrients you and your baby need.

On the other hand, processed food contains less of the stuff you and your baby need, and more of the stuff you don’t need. Like empty calories.

What are empty calories?

Empty calories come from refined sugars and grains (aka “white carbs”). During processing, nutrients have been stripped from the sugars and grains, and what we’re left with are calories that quickly turn into fat if they’re not burned up for energy.

Yes, just like your non-pregnancy body, excessive weight can be avoided by eating more protein and healthy fats – and limiting “white” carbs. 

So let’s change the rhetoric:

Nourishment for two, not eating for two. 

What’s one processed meal or snack you can swap out for real food?

Can a bag of salty pretzels be swapped out for roasted almonds or cashews? Can your 3pm snack be replaced by a cup of whole milk yoghurt, berries, and almonds?

Can a microwave mac ‘n’ cheese be replaced by a home-made version using whole grain pasta? Think of a processed meal or snack that can be swapped out for real food or real food ingredients. Email me if you need ideas! 

What about morning sickness?

What if you’re too sick to eat “real food”?

I know from personal experience that nausea and vomiting in those first few weeks can prevent you from eating what you would like. During my second pregnancy, I had hyperemesis gravidarum. I was vomiting up to 20 times a day in my first trimester. Some days, all I could stomach was some rice or bread. On better days, I could have some soup or fruit. So I get it. It’s frustrating when all you can eat are white carbs. But this phase will pass. You’ll get opportunities to make healthier choices later in your pregnancy. For now, be kind to yourself. 

Eat what you can, when you can. 

You’ve got this, mama!