What to Eat

Food Strategies

The primary goal when feeling nauseous and/or vomiting is to eat and drink anything tolerable. That means eating foods that may not be especially healthy. The goal is avoiding weight loss and eating the most nutritional version of whatever food appeals. Cravings and aversions may be very strong and change often. She may only tolerate very specific sizes, flavors, and textures. Allow the woman to decide what she can tolerate without guilt or reminders of needed nutrition. 

If she is unable to eat any quality foods or only carbohydrates and sugars, it is important that she receive IV multivitamins along with Vitamin K and B vitamins, especially thiamin/B1 at least weekly. Oral vitamins like single tablets of B1 would also be ideal daily as B1 is essential for metabolism of sugar to avoid serious complications. 

Remember this will end.

  • Think simple foods - foods in their most natural and unprocessed state are most healthy, too. For example, apples dipped in peanut butter, whole milk (v. low-fat) cheese sticks, toast with 100% fruit jelly, fresh juice, blended frozen fruit, carrot sticks, baked potatoes, etc. Multi-ingredient foods are often difficult to digest and may trigger reactions.
  • Think about the characteristics of appealing foods, such as crunchy and sweet, soft and tart, etc. Try foods that meet that criteria. 
  • Try foods that do not disgust you. Carrots may not appeal, but try a sweet baby carrot and see if you can eat a few of them. That will help you get much needed vitamins and other nutrients.
  • Try taking vitamins at night with a snack. Don't take prenatal vitamins or vitamins containing iron if they make you more nauseous. A single vitamin like B1/thiamin, which is crucial, may be easier to tolerate than a multiple B (B complex) vitamin. Also try vitamins under the tongue in liquids or sprays.
  • Do not eat and drink at the same time if it nauseates you. Your digestive system is slower than normal and additional fluids make digestion more difficult.
  • Identify what foods trigger nausea and vomiting and ask those around you to avoid them. Common culprits are those that are pungent, such as fish, vinegar, garlic and onions. You may be able to smell them on other's skin or breath.
  • Try to eat foods in the healthiest form tolerated. If cereal sounds good, try whole grain cereal over a highly processed one to increase the vitamin and fiber content. Try whole grain bread over white. This may take a little experimentation, but it is well worth it.
  • Avoid fatty or fried foods as they tax the liver and gall bladder. Your body stores toxins in fat tissue and rapid fat loss means rapid elimination of toxins by the liver. Eating organic foods decreases the amount of chemicals needing detoxification by the liver.
  • Drink any fluid that appeals but avoid caffeine. Try carbonated drinks such as sparkling cider, electrolyte drinks, coconut water, sports drinks (without artificial sweeteners), pure and fresh juice (100% fruit juice v. those with corn sugar, water, etc.), and filtered water. Fluids keep you hydrated, decrease constipation, and improve mental function. Freezing water or juice then sipping it as it melts may be appealing. Filtering water often eliminates the aversive taste.
  • Try cold foods which have less odor. Ask those around you to avoid eating highly seasoned food near you, especially those that are heated.
  • Keep food close by or in a cooler for quick snacks. Motion and preparing food worsen nausea and thus may decrease your ability to eat. Ask someone to prepare snacks that appeal like diced fruit, cheese, crackers, carrot sticks, etc. and nibble on them over time. Be specific in what you can eat.
  • Eat and drink in small amounts. Distending the stomach triggers nausea and vomiting. Large bites also may stimulate gag reflex.
  • Try to eat some protein. Research shows protein decreases nausea better than carbohydrates.
  • Liquid meals if tolerated can be easier to digest and may decrease nausea. Try protein powders in a milk shake or smoothie. To make a smoothie, blend frozen fruit, milk, yogurt, nuts or whatever appeals as thick as you prefer. You can also freeze juice or smoothies in popsicle molds to make nutritious snacks. 
  • As much as possible, avoid hydrogenated oils, pesticides, nitrates (in smoked meats, lunch meat, hot dogs), growth hormones (dairy & poultry), sugar substitutes, and food dyes or additives.
  • Consider taking digestive enzymes when you eat to get the most from your food and speed digestion. This is especially helpful if you are on acid blocking drugs. Be careful of the enzyme Protease if you have gastric ulcerations or a very irritated stomach.
  • Collect menus from local take-out and delivery restaurants. If you have a craving, see what sounds good and call it in. Sometimes a craving only lasts a short time.

Nutrient Rich Foods for Pregnant Women


Essential Nutrients and Foods

  • Vitamin K – green leafy veggies, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage 
  • B Vitamins (critical) – brown rice, pork, seeds, nuts, eggs, enriched cereal, legumes, peas
  • Vitamin A - Winter Squash (Pumpkin, butternut), Yams, carrots (orange veggies)
  • Fatty Acids – Unrefined (cold/expeller pressed) olive or coconut oil, nuts, seeds (very important for baby's brain development)
  • Fiber - Whole grains, prunes, berries (esp. blackberry & raspberry), apples, dates
  • Water – filtered is best, as much as is tolerated
  • Smoothies & Juices - freshly prepared or juiced (any vegetable or fruit that can be tolerated is encouraged. Add protein powders or nut butters for protein if tolerated. Try a little fresh ginger if tolerated.)
Iron, Folic Acid and Zinc