Pregnancy Nutrition Concerns
If you are finding yourself unable to eat certain foods, you are not alone. Food aversions are as common as food cravings during pregnancy, and may be related to the nausea and vomiting many women experience. For most women, aversions seem to improve after the first trimester.
You do not have to sacrifice a good diet because of a food aversion. As long as you are eating a good balance and variety of food from all groups, your aversion is probably not a problem.
Why Aversions Happen
There are a few theories about why food aversions happen in pregnancy, though none have enough evidence to be considered the "winner." One theory is the food aversions, along with nausea and vomiting, help protect the vulnerable fetus from potential illness. Supporters of this theory point out the most common food aversion is to meat products, which are also most likely to contain a pathogen.
Other theories point to the woman's changing body. For example, pregnant women report an increased sensitivity to smells even though they do not score differently on the ability to smell. Supporters of this theory point out that something is happening to make the woman more sensitive to the things in her environment, even though she is not exposed to the things in any greater amount.
Still other theories point to the soil changes that occur when a woman begins to experience nausea, vomiting and aversions. For example, a woman in her first trimester does not "look" pregnant, but her inability to cook or consume normal foods draws attention to her as needing special care. Supporters of this theory point out that women receiving special attention are likely to remain well supported and therefore healthier throughout the pregnancy.
What to do about aversions
Whatever the reasons they happen, some women need to find a way to maintain a healthy diet despite food aversions. For some women, aversions only make it difficult to prepare a food. Other women are not able to eat a specific food. Here are some suggestions that may help overcome a nutritional deficit due to food aversions.
You will probably get enough of any specific nutrient if your aversion is only to one type of meat or one vegetable. It may get more tricky if you begin to have an aversion to most foods in a group. Eggs and dairy are good sources of proteins for women who can no longer eat meat. Protein is not only in animal products. You can get protein from nuts, seeds, legumes and small amounts from some vegetables. Calcium is not only found in dairy,but also in soy products, some greens, and nuts. If you have trouble eating one green vegetable, try another.
Alter your meal preparations if necessary
Some women find they are better able to tolerate cooking food if they are not preparing food on an empty stomach. They may choose to prepare one or two large pots of soup or casseroles after eating, and use those as meals for the next couple days.
If you feel queasy when you look at raw meat, but have no trouble eating cooked meat, have someone else cook the meat for you. Some women have aversions only to the smell of cooking food and can eat it if it is prepared by someone else. Some women are able to prepare the food if they purchase it ready to cook and have to do minimal touching.
If preparing meals is completely out of the question on some days, consider using a few commercially packaged meals when necessary. Some women find using meal replacement bars and a piece of fruit for lunch helps keep them well nourished and away from smells that kill their appetite. Other women do well eating foods that do not nauseate for a day or two, and then supplementing with a take-out meal from a quality restaurant.
If your aversions are preventing you from eating a variety of foods in your diet, ask for help from family and friends. Most would be willing to provide a meal that will last for a day or two, giving you good nutrition without having to smell foods cooking.
Relax your Expectations
If the thought of relying on others for your meals or using commercially prepared meals is frustrating, remember most women have improvement with aversions after the first trimester. What you are experiencing is most likely temporary. You only need help to get through the worst part and then you should be able to be in charge of your own cooking again.
Cameron, L. (2013). Pregnancy changes subjective but not objective measures of olfaction. Journal of Women's Health, 22(3):10.
Patil, C.L., Abrams, E.T., Steinmetx, A.R., and Young, S.L. (2012). Appetite sensations and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: An overview of the explanations. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 51(5):394-417.
Stadtlander, L. (2013). Memory and perceptual changes during pregnancy. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 28(2):49-53.