What a Mom-to-Be Eats: The Food Diaries

Pregnancy means crazy cravings for olive-topped ice cream, right? Not for this diarist. Now in her eighth month, she’s having trouble craving anything. Dietician Elana Natker, who just had a baby last week (congrats!), weighs in with tips.

The Stats
Age: 32.
Height: Five-foot-three.
Weight: 120 pounds (pre-pregnancy weight: 93 pounds).
Location: Silver Spring.
Profession: Office manager.
Self-described activity level: “I used to go the gym three times a week to yoga and weights with my trainer. Then I got pregnant, and due to the first trimester morning sickness, I stopped going. When I started my fourth month of pregnancy, I did something (still don’t know what, possibly pulled a tendon) that caused pain just below my ribs on the right side. I’m 34 weeks pregnant now, and it still bothers me. I try not aggravate it, so I don’t do weights or yoga anymore. I do manage to squeeze in a 30-minute walk every weekday, though. And we’re moving at the end of May—does packing count as exercise? Aside from trying to eat well for being pregnant, there was concern about my gaining enough weight (I’ve always had trouble keeping weight on), but I’ve gained 27 pounds so far. Yay me.”

Day One
9:15 AM: Up. I remember when I slept in on the weekends. Nine-fifteen is too early for me.
9:30: Breakfast time: Irish oatmeal with cinnamon, ginger, and gold raisins, plus Irish Breakfast decaf tea with a little 2-percent milk.
12:30 PM: On to lunch. I made a toasted cheese sandwich (Colby on rye with brown mustard), grapefruit, the last bits of a bag of Trader Joe’s Honey Wheat Pretzel sticks, and the last bits of a bag of Terra Chips. I’m not really a snack person, so snacky foods tend to linger in the cabinets. I always have water with me. They say dehydration can bring on contractions, so I have a 28-ounce water bottle that I carry around. If I were at work, I’d have had a morning snack but I don’t usually snack on the weekends.
2:50: Snack time! I just spent 40 minutes helping my husband scrape paint off our front door, so some refueling is in order. I have six celery sticks and peanut butter. Water, too.
6:30 PM: Dinner of reheated roasted lemon chicken and risotto, plus some frozen green beans with lemon juice and salt. Oh, and water, of course. We eat on the couch while watching something on TV. We don’t have cable, so we usually go with something off the Netflix Instant Queue. I manage to eat all my food while staving off the cat. I really didn’t think animals were supposed to like citrus.
10:30: Reading in bed. Handful of Annie’s Chocolate Chip Graham Bunnies and then sleep.

Day Two
10:30 AM: Wake up. I guess my husband let me sleep in.
10:45: I have a cottage cheese cup (4 percent fat), two lemon muffins (homemade), and water. This is what I would normally have for breakfast on weekdays as I run out the door. While I eat, I make up the week’s menu and grocery list. I usually have oatmeal on the weekends, but today is going to be one of those run-out-the-door times.
Noon: Done grocery shopping. I eat a lemon Luna bar on the way home. More water once we get home.
1 PM: We have to get prices on carpet, but first lunch. Panera Bread is nearby, and I feel like a salad. I get a Fuji Chicken Salad. I thought the apples would be fresh, but they’re chips. I pick out all the pecans and don’t use the dressing. I end up eating only half the salad and drinking a cup of water. I think I should have gotten the Asian Chicken Salad, but the Fuji technically had more calories (or at least it did before I picked out all the nuts and only ate half of it). The more pregnant I get, the less hungry I am. I suppose it’s because all my organs are getting squished (there’s a pleasant thought).
3:30: More water and an apple. Now is when I do food prep for the week: Bake muffins for breakfast (orange-apricot—I use honey instead of sugar), cook bags of baby spinach (I like to take it for lunch), cut up fruit and veggies, and make yogurt (I got myself a yogurt machine for my birthday and I make organic, whole-milk yogurt every week, because I need the calories). All the prep work is tedious, yes, but I find if I don’t do it, I end up not eating as well as I should and spending money I shouldn’t spend to make up for not having food ready to go. And look at that—my baking powder has expired. No muffins for me. I could say I’ll bake them during the week, but I know I won’t.
7 PM: Dinner. Hamburger without a bun, a potato knish (that’s mashed potatoes baked in dough) with brown mustard from a deli, and salad with grape tomatoes and orange-peel-stuffed olives. Water to drink. When I was growing up, we got mostly milk and water to drink. Juice was occasional, and I never really liked the fizziness of soda. I still stick to water and tea for the most part.
10 PM: Spend the evening packing and now off to sleep.

Day Three
9 AM: Up and at ’em for work.
9:30: My typical weekday breakfast: two lemon muffins on the way to the car and some OJ. I do not handle breakfast well, especially during the week when I’m usually running late. But if I don’t eat something I will get sick, pregnancy or no pregnancy. Luckily for me, my husband and I work at the same office, so I can eat something in the car while he drives and then have some more to eat once I get to work.
10 AM: At work. Four-percent milkfat cottage cheese for protein and calcium, plus some water. I keep a 20-ounce bottle at the office and usually manage to fill it three times a day. Did I mention dehydration can cause contractions? Of course, drinking lots of water when you’re pregnant has its own hazards . . . .
12:45: Snack of celery sticks and peanut butter. I admit it: I’m one of those people who like vegetables, and it’s not hard for me to eat them. I probably still don’t eat as many vegetable servings a day as I should. I find it’s a lot easier to eat fruit. I refill my water bottle.
1 PM: Walk down to Safeway with my friend. I’m not good at getting in exercise on the weekends, but my office building is near a strip mall and it’s about a 30-minute round-trip walk, so I make it a point to go for a walk (or two) every day.
2:30: Still not hungry, but it’s getting late, so lunchtime! I have a cheese sandwich (cheddar on rye with brown mustard) and some of my cooked spinach. I meant to pack an apple but forgot. I’ll try to squeeze it in later.
3:40: My back hurts. Decide to go bother my husband and get a box of Nerds from his candy basket. Plus, I have to file some things, which is as good an excuse as any to get up and walk around. I’d go for a walk outside, but it looks like it’s going to rain any minute.
4:30: We end up leaving earlier than usual because we have to get price quotes on carpet. I guess I will have my yogurt and fruit tomorrow.
6 PM: Carpet selected! On the way home, I eat an Odwalla strawberry-pomegranate bar. Not hungry, but I should eat.
8 PM: Still not hungry. I eat some reheated coconut curry (potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, edamame, and white beans) anyway. Water.
9 PM: Have some strawberries and mango while doing some more packing to make up for not having my afternoon fruit and yo
10 PM: Sleep!

See Also:

A Financial Planner’s Food Diary

A “Flexitarian” Writes a Food Diary

Day Four
9 AM: Up and out of bed. We have three cats, and they always just seem to know when I’ve finally worked up the will to get out of bed. It’s so much harder to get out of a nice cozy bed when there are puddles of purring fur that want to be scratched and cuddled. Evil creatures.
9:30: Bagel in the car. Bonus: I can’t fall back asleep while I’m chewing. It’s only a half-hour commute, though.
10 AM: Get to work. It’s rainy and yucky today, so I have some decaf tea with whole milk and water. Tea tastes good, and the milk has calcium. (Side note: I’m technically lactose-intolerant, but I have found that pregnancy has its own digestive issues, so in for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.) I have some water and cottage cheese, too.
11 AM: Morning snack of celery and peanut butter. I really get why people eat when they’re bored, but I’m pregnant, so I can blame it on that.
Noon: Walk to Safeway with colleagues.
2 PM: Again, not really hungry, but it’s getting late. My usual lunch of a cheese sandwich and some of my cooked spinach. It occurs to me that while vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, which is why I put lemon juice on the spinach, calcium interferes with the absorption of iron. Nuts. I did pack the apple, but I’m full, so maybe I’ll get to it later.
4:30: We leave early because the carpet guy is coming to measure. I take my yogurt and fruit home with me.
5 PM: Late afternoon snack: Oikos honey yogurt, strawberries, and mangoes. My homemade yogurt did not set properly this week, so I had to buy some.
5:30: The plan is to make chicken stir-fry with one of those frozen bags of stir-fry vegetables. Stick some chicken in a bowl of water to defrost; was going to make rice to go with it, but we have only Arborio and I don’t want to make risotto. While you can make rice in a rice cooker while lying on a couch, you can’t make risotto while lying on the couch. I get out the soba noodles instead.
7:15: After an unplanned mile walk with husband, elect to reheat some meat sauce I made on Sunday and have that over pasta with salad (mine has tomatoes and olives). Oh, and water.
9:45: I’ve been going through my books to see what I should give away. We’ll be getting rid of probably close to 200 books. The movers (we’ve used this company before) know us as “the people with a lot of bookshelves.” I decide to have a chocolate-chip cookie. I make them every week for my husband, who could also stand to gain some weight. Does the fact that I use white whole-wheat flour make up for the two sticks of butter?

Day Five
9 AM: Up. Bleh. I could sleep at least another three hours. I am a champion sleeper. My husband says if they had a sleeping event at the Olympics, I’d get a gold medal. He’s just jealous that he’s incapable of sleeping past 9.
9:30: OJ and bagel in the car. I really wanted muffins.
10 AM: At work. I get my morning drinks—decaf tea with whole milk and water—and some cottage cheese. As I’m looking over this diary, I realize I don’t have a whole lot of variety. On the other hand, I think the routine lets me get the nutrients I need (hello, calcium) without having to worry too much about whether I’m doing it right. I also find I eat more on the weekdays, partly because I’m not running around but also because of my routine: get to work, have snack, put food in fridge, have midmorning snack, and so forth.
Noon: Another walk down to Safeway. Thankfully, we don’t get rained on.
1 PM: I realize I skipped my celery and peanut butter. I just did not feel like eating for some reason. Maybe the bagel filled me up? Anyway, time for lunch. The Perfect Pita moved in downstairs, so I grab a container of tabouli salad, pita, and some baklava. I brought an apple this time and actually eat it with my lunch. Side note number two: I like to salt my fruit.
4:15: Afternoon snack: homemade yogurt with honey and cinnamon, Grape Nuts, and mango.
5:30: We’re home a little early to go to a breastfeeding class (it’s pretty amazing how many different prenatal classes you can take these days. We’ve done birth and infant care, and we still have infant CPR class next month). Dinner is what would normally be my lunch: cheese sandwich, strawberries, grape tomatoes, some everything-bagel crisps, and water.
9:30: On the way out of class, I grab an individual pack of shortbread cookies. Yum.
10 PM: Time for sleeping, so I can do it all again tomorrow.

From the Expert
Elana Natker, a Hernon-based dietician who specializes in nutrition for moms-to-be, says: “First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! I just had a baby myself on May 19, so I’m quite familiar with balancing the need to get in extra calories while dealing with a shrinking appetite in the third trimester.

“It sounds like this diarist is very knowledgeable about eating well, even down to the iron/vitamin C connection and the effect of calcium on iron absorption. She’s eating balanced meals and seems to be getting a lot of the nutrients she needs and avoiding no-no foods during pregnancy. Generally speaking, I’m not too worried about her diet, but there are certainly some tweaks she can make.

“Let’s start with her concern about weight gain during pregnancy. While she started her pregnancy underweight, her weight gain appears to be right on target. For normal-weight women, weight gain during pregnancy should be between 25 and 35 pounds. Underweight women should gain more—about 30 to 40 pounds—and overweight or obese women should gain less, if much at all. This diarist’s gain should probably be the subject of a conversation with her physician, but from the information we have here she seems to be on a good path. For people who like to track their weight gain each week, a chart I like to use can be accessed here.

“This diarist is doing a good job choosing nutritious foods that also provide a lot of calories, such as whole milk, whole cottage cheese, and regular cheese. However, a safer way to add calories without adding too much artery-clogging saturated fat is to eat more plant-based sources of fat, like the peanut butter she eats. Other foods she could explore—and incorporate into snacks—are nuts, olives, and avocados; she may also try cooking her vegetables in oil or using an oil-based dressing on salads and having some fatty fish such as salmon. It’s safe—and even encouraged—for pregnant women to eat fish twice a week, so long as they avoid high-mercury fish such as albacore tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, and shark. She may also want to incorporate eggs a bit more; they’re relatively low in saturated fat, and they also provide choline, which is great for baby’s brain development.

“Also, she could improve her breakfast by incorporating more whole grains. I’m all in support of homemade foods—they’re a great way to control fat, sugar, and calories (and, by the way, honey is a form of sugar)—but if those muffins are made with some whole-wheat flour, that would be a bonus. The Irish oatmeal
and rye bread at lunch are also terrific sources of whole grains that she’s already getting. According to the government’s latest dietary guidelines, we should aim for at least half our grains to be whole grains, so I’m not too concerned with the few times she does have refined grains. However, eating more whole grains at breakfast can help start her day off right and keep her satisfied.

“If iron is a concern, she may want to try eating iron-fortified cereal for breakfast, or even in a baggie for a quick snack. The veggies and lean meats she’s eating are also great sources of iron, as are beans (great for protein and fiber, too!), nuts, and eggs.

“Also, if she plans to breastfeed, her calorie needs will increase even more than when she was pregnant (up to 500 extra calories per day, versus the 300 or so extra she needs right now).

“Good luck with the rest of the pregnancy—you’re in the home stretch!”

Are you brave enough to keep a food diary? We dare you. Send an e-mail to with your contact information and a paragraph or two about why you'd make a good diarist.

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