Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meal Planning in the First Trimester: A Survival Guide

Thank you to those of you who sent me kind words and well-wishes after my announcement last week! I feel very blessed!

For most women I know, the first trimester of pregnancy is THE. WORST. Most moms-to-be are exhausted, nauseated and/or puking almost all the time. This makes it really hard to even think about feeding your family, much less do any actual cooking.
Even though the thought of food may repulse you, the people in your home still expect to be fed. (I mean, what’s with that?) By having a meal plan, you can do some of the prep in those spare moments when you actually feel okay. And that way 6:00 won’t come around with a hungry, cranky family and nothing to put on the table.

Having just (mostly) graduated from this phase, and since I share a weekly meal plan here on the blog, this seemed like a perfect topic to write about.

When I was pregnant with Kiddo, I looked for advice on meals that would be nausea and heartburn-friendly, and there really wasn't much out there for me. So this time around, I decided to create my own resource based on my experience. I hope this will be a help to any of you expectant mommies out there who are struggling just to make it through meals!

Tips for Meal Planning in the First Trimester
(from a mom who's been there)

Disclaimer: I know everyone’s pregnancy experiences are different. However, these are the things I did (and a few I wish I had done) that helped me feed my family without completely blowing our budget on takeout.

  • Rely heavily on your other half:

    I’m fortunate to have married a man who knows his way around the kitchen, and I couldn’t have done this without him! He and Kiddo ate a lot of Hubby’s specialties: pretty much grilled anything, sausage & peppers, fajitas, fish, etc.
    Even if your other half isn’t particularly kitchen-savvy, he can probably boil pasta or at least grill (assuming it’s not freezing outside).

  • Figure out the meals you can comfortably eat, but don’t limit your family to those.

    My early pregnancy symptoms (for both kids) consisted of nausea and heartburn. I found I felt best when I ate very bland meals: baked potatoes, plain pasta, rice, mac & cheese, toast, plain meat, plain veggies, etc. No strong spices, tomatoes, garlic, onion, or anything acidic (unless, of course, I wanted to feel like clawing out my chest the rest of the night from the heartburn).
    So I ate very simply while the boys ate normal meals. Usually, that meant eating part of what they were eating – say, plain spaghetti (no sauce) with a little Parmesan cheese. And sometimes that meant eating something totally different. Either way, we were all fed and relatively happy even when I was too tired and sick to follow the plan.

  • "Publish" a weekly meal plan:

    I was pretty much forced to keep meal planning, even when the thought of eating was far less than appealing because I have a weekly feature called "Menu Plan Monday." I was actually thinking of taking a Menu Plan Monday break when I got some nice comments, especially one from a faithful fan saying how much she enjoys reading my meal plans each week. Thanks, Kelly!
    Even if you don't have a blog, you can still stick a list to the fridge or write it on a chalkboard or white board. Taking a few minutes to write up a list of meals for the week will really help - I promise!

  • Don’t use the crock pot:

    The beauty of a crock pot is that it cooks your dinner all day and fills your house with an appetizing aroma.
    Unless, of course, you’re in the first trimester. In that case, food smells = nausea. Just. Don’t. Do. It. (Learn from my mistake!)
    *Update: As of week 14 or so, I can use the crock pot again! Hooray!

  • Take advantage of the times you feel well.

    With Kiddo, lunch was usually my golden hour. I could often get away with smells and tastes that normally made me sick, and I usually found a small surge of energy. With this little peanut, things were a bit less predictable.
    When I was feeling pretty good, I would try to do some meal prep for future meals. One day when I was feeling decent (and had a friend over to visit who played with Kiddo), I made a huge batch of whole-wheat pancakes for lunch, freezing most of them. They were a great go-to meal when nothing else seemed appealing.

  • Hard candies.

    Seriously, friends, this was such a lifesaver (no pun intended – ha!). Smells really set me off this pregnancy, so cooking was extra-difficult. By sucking on a hard candy, my senses were filled with a fruity flavor, masking the scent of whatever I was working on. I don’t know how I missed this tip when I was pregnant the first time, but it almost always staved off the nausea. Since then, there is always a small stash of lemon drops or pomegranate candies (my fave) in my purse and kitchen.

  • Have a back-up plan.

    Keep something in your fridge, freezer, or pantry to pull out when dinner hour rolls around and you just can’t bring yourself to cook. For me, those go-to's were pasta, pancakes, and yogurt.

  • Give yourself grace.

    There will be days when dinner looks nothing like the meal plan. Let’s be honest – a meal plan is a plan, and certainly not written in stone. Some nights, takeout might be the best option. Or canned soup, boxed mac & cheese, grilled cheese, etc. That's ok. This is a survival guide, after all. :-)

The good news is that the first trimester yuckies should be temporary for most, and a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do. As long as everyone in your house is fed and relatively happy, that’s what matters.

Do you have any tips to add? I'd love to hear them in the comments below!

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