Deciding what to eat for breakfast can be a daunting task for pregnant women, especially when just the thought of food can make you nauseous (thank you, hormones!).
In this article, you’ll find some suggestions for a hearty and filling breakfast. I’ll also answer some common questions about breakfast during pregnancy and suggest ways to get in all the vitamins and minerals you need.
You’ve probably heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you are feeling tired and nauseous and you still have tons of things to do, is it really that significant? Read on to find out!
Do You Have to Eat Breakfast During Pregnancy? Is it Important?
Usually, when women talk about skipping breakfast during pregnancy, it’s related to nausea. When just the thought of food makes you feel worse than you already do, it can be hard to convince yourself to eat a full meal.
Rest assured, you don’t have to force down a full breakfast as soon as you wake up. Instead, have some crackers ready at your nightstand and nibble on those until you feel better. Then you can start thinking about maybe grabbing a bite or two.
The idea that meals should be eaten based on a timetable has been drilled into a lot of us, but it can be misleading. Pregnancy is a great time to learn to listen to your body and eat your meals and snacks whenever you feel hungry.
Eating breakfast can lessen the effects of morning sickness, which is aggravated when your stomach is empty. On the other hand, if you feel extremely sick, just nibbling on a cracker and staying hydrated can be a good alternative until you feel better.
Pregnant women are in a state of “accelerated starvation.” This means they experience the adverse effects of starvation (or extended fasting) at a biochemical level faster than non-pregnant women. (source: HER, Science Direct).
Fasting for extended periods of time can lead to overeating and hormone spikes throughout the day, which can make you feel more nauseous.
Your caloric needs also change each trimester. Here’s a summary of those recommendations:
- First trimester: In the first trimester, your caloric needs stay the same. The suggestion for increasing daily calories actually starts in the second trimester.
- Second trimester: Once you hit the second trimester, you should have an additional 340 calories daily.
- Third trimester: In the third trimester, an additional 452 calories per day are recommended.
- Lactation: During lactation, these increase to 330 calories for the first 6 months postpartum, and 400 calories for the following 6 months (source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans).
Studies suggest that the best recommendation for pregnant women is to take three meals and two snacks per day. Skipping meals and snacks puts the body under unnecessary stress that can lead to preterm delivery (source: AJE).
If you are suffering from gestational diabetes (GD), this is a different discussion. If you have GD, your medical provider might advise you to keep your carbohydrate intake throughout the day consistent, as your body can no longer balance it on its own.
If you have really bad nausea in the morning and cannot eat breakfast consistently, raise this concern with your care provider.
3 Simple Breakfast Ideas for Pregnancy
Here are some simple breakfast ideas for those mornings when you just want something quick and easy:
Just mash a ripe banana and beat in an egg. If you are feeling a little adventurous and would like to up your protein and fiber even more, you may add some seeds like flax seeds or some rolled oats, Pan fry with a little butter until cooked throughout.
Toast with Avocado or Nut Butter
Another lifesaver in the kitchen. This recipe is rich in simple carbohydrates that are easily digestible and help with nausea (source: Healthline), as well as good fat from avocados or nut butter, which can help you feel satiated.
Simply toast your choice of bread (whole grain is best), add ¼ or 2 tablespoons of avocado, and season however you like. You can substitute the avocado with any nut butter of your choosing.
English Muffins with Scrambled Eggs
Eggs are a great source of protein and fat to help you reach your increased daily caloric intake. Scramble them up with your favorite vegetables like onions, tomatoes, spinach, or even pasteurized cheese to add more flavor. Toast some English muffins to serve with it and you have a complete meal that is healthy and done within minutes.
Can Pregnant Women Drink Carnation Breakfast Essentials?
Carnation Breakfast Essentials is a good substitute for breakfast as it contains lots of nutrients in a small and convenient serving.
Carnation Breakfast Essentials is often recommended as a grab-and-go breakfast option, due to its high protein, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C content. (source: Carnation Breakfast Essentials).
It can also be served cold, which might ease symptoms of morning sickness. A side note: it is quite high in added sugars, so keep that in mind, especially if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Carnation Breakfast Essentials comes in four different flavors: Rich Milk Chocolate, Classic French Vanilla, Creamy Strawberry, and Cookies ‘n’ Creme. The nutrition profiles of all the flavors are comparable.
Carnation Breakfast Essentials is also rich in other nutrients important for pregnancy. Here are some of those nutrients and their benefits during pregnancy:
- Folic acid: Lowers risks of spina bifida
- Iron: Plays an important role in avoiding anemia
- Iodine: Aids in the formation of thyroid hormones
- Vitamin A: Helps eyesight and immune function
Another example of these ready-to-drink meal alternatives is the Ensure shake. You can read all about that option here.
Read on for some other suggestions for grab-and-go breakfast solutions without added sugar.
4 Grab-and-Go Breakfast Ideas
Chocolate Milk-Based Smoothie
This recipe is perfect if you are having a slow morning. It is also a great example that you don’t have to give up on things you love when you get pregnant. You can still indulge once in a while without sacrificing your and your baby’s health.
Add the desired amount of your favorite unsweetened/semi-sweet, low-caffeine chocolate drink. Not sure how much caffeine it contains? Read more in this article here. Load it up with ice to help with nausea, and blend it all up.
Again, you can customize this drink however much you like. Here are some suggestions:
- Soaked chia seeds for some added fiber
- Bananas for a boost of nutrients and freshness
- Coconut to satisfy your tropical fruity craving – also a good source of fat and antioxidants, which can promote blood sugar control (source: Healthline).
For this one, we are going for a fresh, wake-me-up beverage that’s a great choice for pregnant women with gestational diabetes.
- Wash a bunch of spinach or kale leaves and put them in a blender. These vegetables are high in folate, which is important to avoid neural tube defects (source: NIH).
- Add an orange or any citrus fruit you want, peeled and seeds removed. Leave the pulp, which is a good source of fiber.
- Add your favorite berries for a source of antioxidants to fight free radicals and avoid the onset of degenerative diseases (source: Harvard).
- Add in your ice or some ice-cold coconut water for that boost of freshness, blend it all up and you have yourself a refreshing super healthy, nutrient-rich green smoothie!
DIY Granola Bars or Energy Bites
These are great if you want something easy and can be made the night prior. You can also stock these up in your fridge and they hold for up to three days.
Simply heat up some nut butter (any kind you like), some honey (or maple syrup, if you like), and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Add in some rolled oats, seeds like flax seeds or sunflower seeds, and any type of mix-in you like (nuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips).
Shape them into your desired shape (bar or bite-sized balls) and put them in the fridge until firm. This recipe is packed with fiber that can help you with digestive issues and make you feel fuller for longer (source: Mayo Clinic).
Another easy option that you can do the night before.
Mix some rolled oats with your choice of milk. Add chia seeds for additional protein and fiber. Let this soak overnight. That’s it! You can eat this as is, since it is already filled with nutrients, or to level it up, you can add fresh or dried fruits as toppings.
Are Belvita Breakfast Biscuits Good During Pregnancy?
I’m sure you have heard of these breakfast biscuits, which promise to release four hours of steady energy when consumed.
According to the nutrition facts, a serving of four biscuits (any flavor) has 230 calories, and about 30% of that is from fat. The biscuits are enriched with vitamins such as folate, Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and fiber, but since they’re processed, they also contain sodium and sugar (source: Belvita Breakfast).
As discussed above, these vitamins and minerals have their own important functions and benefits. B vitamins have a positive effect on stress and moods, and fiber aids digestion (source: Healthline).
Overall, Belvita breakfast biscuits are convenient and fortified with vitamins and minerals, but shouldn’t be substituted for breakfast habitually, since they are also high in fat and sugar.
These biscuits are also good to keep on your nightstand as an easy go-to biscuit to nibble on when you are experiencing symptoms of morning sickness (source: Proquest).
If Belvita biscuits aren’t fixing your nausea, give these ideas a try.
4 Breakfast Ideas for Morning Sickness
A fresh fruit bowl makes a healthy, quick breakfast that can reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. The APA suggests cold foods such as plain salads and fruits for alleviating nausea (source: APA).
Another meal to put a great start to your day, rice porridge is easy to prepare and very satisfying.
Just put ½ cup sticky rice in a pot with water with a 0.5:2 rice-to-water ratio. Let this boil until the rice is mushy and the desired texture is achieved, adjusting the amount of water accordingly. Add a few slices of ginger, salt, and pepper to taste. If this tastes too bland, try substituting water with chicken or vegetable stock.
Top your rice porridge with a hard-boiled egg for a nutritionally complete meal.
We can’t leave cereal off this list. It’s convenient, accessible, and rich in important vitamins and minerals. If you are wondering what the best cereal for you is, read this article here.
Choose a cereal with less sugar and more fiber. You can also mix and match cereals to increase fiber intake and still enjoy your favorite sugary treats.
As for milk, if you are under no dietary restrictions, cow’s milk is a good source of calcium, which is important for you and baby’s bone health (source: NIH).
It was also shown in the study that these women had a 65-95% risk reduction for nutrient inadequacies compared to non-cereal eaters (source: Cambridge).
Breakfast Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
Let’s take a look at some breakfast ingredients and foods you might want to limit during your pregnancy.
Caffeine is the first ingredient to avoid. Caffeine is not only found in coffee, but also in teas, sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and some over-the-counter medicines.
Excessive caffeine intake leads to decreased infant birth weight, which is detrimental for premature and low birth-weight infants (source: Oxford).
Some studies also suggest caffeine in utero can trigger cardiac problems for the baby and future generations (source: Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism). So it is best to avoid high-caffeine products. You can read more about decaf products in this article here.
Another food to be careful with is fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course you don’t need to avoid them, but you should be extra careful to wash them thoroughly to avoid listeria contamination. (source: FDA).
For the same reason, products such as uncooked meat, unpasteurized milk and cheeses, and deli meats should also be avoided during pregnancy. To read more about listeria during pregnancy, check out this article.
Breakfast can be the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be the most overwhelming. I hope this article has given you some simple ideas to liven up your morning meals!