Many women experience some nausea or vomiting during pregnancy. If you have been personally affected, you know the term “morning sickness” is really a misnomer, since the feeling of queasiness (or the urgent need for a barf bag) can happen at just about any time of day. Are there foods we can eat to keep morning sickness at bay?
Manage Morning Sickness Through Diet
The tricky thing about morning sickness is that no one has pinpointed its exact cause. The general consensus is that it is related to the hormonal changes your body experiences throughout the various stages of pregnancy.
Eating Strategies to Avoid Morning Sickness
- Don’t go for long periods without eating: When you wake up in the morning, eat a few crackers before starting the rest of your day. Then, make sure you have something to eat every 2 to 3 hours.
- Spread out your fluid intake throughout the day: This avoids having to chug down a large amount at mealtime, which may contribute to feeling nauseated. Sip small amounts of fluids regularly – milk or non-dairy milk, 100% fruit juice, or water – to prevent dehydration.
- Watch the timing of your vitamins: Iron supplements or the amount of iron in prenatal vitamins may be high enough to induce nausea in some women. If you suspect this may be the case for you, try taking the vitamins with food, or before bedtime.
- Try ginger and lemon: Ginger is an alternative remedy that has been shown to help with upset stomach. Some also find the citrusy scent of lemon to be soothing.
- Try Vitamin B6: Some trials have looked at the effect of Vitamin B6 but have not found conclusive evidence that it works. Vitamin B6 is sometimes prescribed along with another medication to help manage nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
- Eat well in advance: Interestingly, there may be some association between a healthy pre-pregnancy diet and reduced likelihood of hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting serious enough to cause dehydration that may require hospitalization). A 2011 article in the British Journal of Nutrition outlined a study of Norwegian pregnant women that found those who consumed more seafood, allium vegetables (e.g., garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, chives), and water in the 12 months before pregnancy were less likely to develop severe nausea and vomiting than those who consumed less.
Food Ideas for Snacks
- Bland and dry: Crackers, popcorn (pair with a few cubes of cheese or a cheese stick for added protein and calcium)
- Tart: Lemon slices for tea, a citrusy vinaigrette for salad, or capers sprinkled on salad
- Crunchy/hearty: Nuts and seeds (bonus: healthy unsaturated fats and calorie-dense)
- Crunchy/zesty/salty: Pickles, potato chips (use sparingly to whet appetite for a meal)
- Cold/fruity: Cold pieces of cut-up apple or watermelon, popsicles made with 100% fruit juice
- Cold/crisp: Raw veggie sticks – carrot, celery, cucumber, jicama, bell pepper, snap peas, snow peas, radish
Food Ideas for Meals
- Cold noodle or pasta salad with a simple olive oil/balsamic vinegar (or olive oil/lemon juice) dressing. Add chopped nuts, crisp veggie slices, and, if it fits your palate, hard-boiled egg.
- Brown rice salad flecked with cut-up avocado, grated carrots, bean sprouts, and chicken.
- A sandwich made with a zesty filling of plain canned tuna, chopped capers, and a squeeze of lemon juice topped with cucumber.
- Plain vegetable soup made with pre-packaged broth with added frozen veggies, cut-up chicken, and some quick-to-cook whole grains such as amaranth, quinoa, or millet added in.
The Bottom Line
Managing morning sickness comes down to finding foods and taste combinations that agree with your changed palate so you can keep food and fluids down and stay nourished. If your case of nausea or vomiting is so severe that nothing stays down, be sure to seek medical intervention.
Tell Us: What works for you when it comes to managing morning sickness?