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How to Cook When You Can’t Stomach Anything

Pregnancy Cooking draft

I’ve always thought that even though the blessing of meals after childbirth is such a wonderful gift, women really need them more during first trimester. Unfortunately those first twelve weeks are typically when not enough people even realize the poor tired mama needs help.

Many women experience food aversions or nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy, may be extremely fatigued to the point of lying on the couch for hours, and may even be throwing up nearly everything she eats, especially if she has to smell it cooking.

Ironically, the first trimester is a critical time for the development of the new baby, a time when the expectant mother really should be focusing on good nutrition, healthy fats, protein, and calories enough to sustain the new life within her.

What’s the deal with that?

How is a mom in the first trimester supposed to function on a real food diet, even better than her norm perhaps, when she can’t stand the sight or smell of food (and might not be able to stand long enough to cut a few vegetables)?

Helpful husbands and close family who are “in the know” might try to ease the load by grabbing some fast food or convenience fast food, but the real food mama knows those aren’t what she wants to feed her family, thus increasing her stress and not really helping anything in the long run.

Some husbands go above and beyond and work to make real food, but unless they’ve been very active in the kitchen previously, I’m guessing their repertoire runs out after about three days. Three days does not a full trimester make! Winking smile

What’s a sick, run-down pregnant mama to do? image

TriLight Health generously sponsored this post to help share advice and tips from the KS community with those blessed expectant women, and I’m happy to spotlight their pregnancy line of herbal supplements. They’re midwife approved for safety and cover everything from fertility support to easing morning sickness, from mineral supplements that replace the OTC don’t-work-anyway prenatal vitamins (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) to a number of products to support mom and baby after the birth.

Keep Eating Real Food Even When You Can’t Stand It

Ginger Tea 13 2nd Edit

If you truly can’t keep food down or are totally nauseated when you eat during pregnancy, here are a few tips to quell those nasty urges:

  • Keep water by your bed and perhaps a cracker or something small. Drink and/or eat before you even get upright in the morning.
  • Stay hydrated all day long.
  • Eat something high in fat and protein before going to bed – a handful of almonds (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) with some cheese is just about perfect, or a glass of raw milk.
  • Try ginger tea (pictured above), hot or iced. Can also chew dried ginger. TLH’s “Morning imageSoothe” employs ginger as the first ingredient (and they acknowledge that many women have “all day” sickness, so true!).
  • Eat a small amount of probiotic food or drink a few minutes before beginning a meal (sauerkraut, kimchi, water kefir, etc.). This can settle your stomach and get it ready for a bit more food.
  • Supplement with magnesium in a spray bottle or as part of a liquid prenatal vitamin.
  • B6 and B12 can be helpful for energy and nausea too, typically sublingual supplements (found on Amazon) are the best delivery system for those.
  • Diffuse peppermint essential oils or drink peppermint tea (although peppermint can decrease milk supply, so not at the end of the pregnancy). While pregnant, don’t risk taking EOs internally and consult a naturopath or someone who is trained in oils before applying topically.
  • Eat cheese outside (especially if it’s cold out).

I’m fortunate that I have pretty easy pregnancies, and although I did spend a lot of time sleeping on the couch during the first trimester of this current pregnancy, that may be as much KS’s fault as Baby’s… Winking smile

Keep Cooking Real Food When it Makes You Sick

Homemade Whole Wheat crackers and cheese

Cheese and almonds don’t take much work to have available, which is your first lesson here – maybe cold meals are a good thing! Salads (although I abhor chewing too much in first trimester so salads just fatigue me…anyone else?), cheese and crackers, cold well-sourced sausages, peanut butter and apples, hard-boiled eggs, cheese…I really like cheese when I’m pregnant. Smile

How else can tired mamas get food on the table, since hungry husbands and often children can’t do almonds and cheese at every meal for all of the pregnancy? Some tips:

  • Use the slow cooker as much as possible. First, many slow cooker meals are easy for husbands and helpers to put together so you don’t have to get a visual on the raw meat. (Throw in a roast, some scrubbed potatoes and carrots, and turn it on. Done.) Second, you don’t have to stir it and see anything cooking. Third, if you can’t handle the smell of food in the house all day, try plugging it in in the garage, back deck (secure it from any curious animals), or the basement…or maybe even a friendly neighbor’s house! Here are some recipes that have all been tested directly from freezer to crockpot, so you don’t even have to look at the food in the morning. For example: Slow Cooker Ginger Beef, packed with iron and protein from the beef plus ginger for the tummy, served over simple rice. Definitely make a triple batch…
Slow Cooker Ginger Beef 2 WM
  • Freeze ahead. I know that sounds like advice come far too late for the mama who already feels icky, but it’s two-fold advice:
    1. Make sure you always have some meals in the freezer, at least for a few days. Start now.
    2. When husband is home on the weekends, ask for his help in making some double meals and easy freezer meals, or if you have a good day, capture it and make a double or quadruple meal “for later.”
    3. Here’s how to freeze in glass jars if you’re trying to move away from plastic.
    4. Here’s a whole foods freezer meal plan if you don’t wan to have to think at all. Smile
  • Non-meat options can be a welcome break and often cook quickly, too.
  • Simple stuff: soups, yogurt, cheese, sandwiches, salads, cottage cheese, raw fruits and veggies…no strong smells! Baked potatoes are also very easy, good for pregnancy with LOTS of butter, and not too aromatic (sweet potatoes too). Rice doesn’t smell much either. Hubs can maybe do some grilling if it’s the right season or stir fry veggies and meat for you if you can manage to cut them up (or just buy frozen pre-cut in this stage!).
yogurt with gluten free buckwheaties
  • Avocados, cold canned refried beans (you can find them without bad fats if you look hard enough) and organic corn chips
  • Ask someone else to bake up a bunch of chicken breasts while you take a walk (or nap on the porch) and then chill them for easy lunches all week. (Bonus: packing healthy lunches for your kids becomes easier too!)
Homemade Meat and Cheese Lunchable
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have some real foodie friends in the area…
  • Don’t afraid to let perfection go a little too – find “better” convenience foods and fast food places (Chipotle comes to mind) and allow yourself some grace.

What are your best strategies for allowing others to cook for you or getting through the ickies and sticking with real food?

Other Resources and Ideas

Healthy babies come from healthy mamas, and there’s a lot you can do in those nine months leading up to seeing those eyes for the first time. This collection of pregnancy and labor posts can help both mama and baby be healthy from the start.

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Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

35 thoughts on “How to Cook When You Can’t Stomach Anything”

  1. It’s so unsafe for a pregnant woman to have anything unpasteurized since there is a chance of getting listeria which would kill the fetus. http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections-listeria.html
    It’s really easy to pasteurize your own and still get the benefits of raw milk. http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home.aspx (I’m not saying raw milk is bad, it’s delicious!) A bonus is that pasteurizing on your own keeps your milk fresh longer.

    Please promote this with your website as many ladies may not have access to this information and using this as a helpful resource. Some may think that unpasteurized milk is not a problem when it’s actually quite dangerous for pregnant women.

    1. Raw milk from a reputable source that regularly tests its milk is safer than a lot commercially produced pasteurised milk. Research beyond the CDC ?. My healthiest pregnancy of all (I’ve had four kids), was the one during which I drank quality organic raw milk regularly. It’s a super food!

  2. Carrie Willard

    Oh goodness yes. I thought I invented the slow cooker on the back porch trick. LOL!

    It’s crazy nuts how I am eating every TWO HOURS (currently 7 weeks prego with baby #7). Nothing sounds good but I’m ravenous.

    YES to cold meat, cold crunchy veggies (esp sour stuff like cukes in vinegar), raw milk, STEAK, cheese, yogurt, hard-boiled or deviled eggs.

  3. via Facebook

    That is so true Beth Zapf, when they’re tearing the house apart faster than you can put books back on bookshelves… 😉

  4. Jodi via Facebook

    I think 1st trimester meals are more of a blessing to the rest of the family…Kids/husband get a good meal and mom can get a nap in another room so she doesn’t have to see/smell it! Perhaps bring some fresh fruit or something just for mom. I told my husband that I want a prep chef and house cleaner for my birthday. Secretly, I would like both until about a month or so after the baby comes! (Or forever. …)

  5. via Facebook

    God bless that lovely friend Faith Lohr! I was able to do that for an acquaintance recently and was so glad to be “in the know” enough to even think of it. 🙂

  6. Mae via Facebook

    I made about 20 freezer meals in the two weeks between my positive pregnancy test and the nausea setting in this last time. First time around I didn’t worry so much as my husband is competent in the kitchen (not to mention a grown adult with a driver’s license and a bank
    Account) but this time we had a picky 5 year old. I was more interested in him looking after her so I could lie down in the evenings than I was in making him responsible for feeding us all 🙂 I made another big batch in the third trimester for after the birth.

  7. Jamie via Facebook

    I always wished that they would have come during the 3rd trimester. I have always had help the month after my babies are born, but I’m desperate for help during the 3rd trimester.

  8. Faith via Facebook

    I had such severe morning sickness this pregnancy Zofran nor Reglan touched my sickness and I was becoming dehydrated. I cooked quick meals from a box, ordered, pizza, and bought fast food (all things I haven’t eaten for awhile due to eating healthier) but I had four children and a husband to feed and no stomach or energy to cook. A friend from church made us a homemade meal and it was such a blessing for my kids! They loved it!!

  9. Angela via Facebook

    Last trimester meals would have been great with my first pregnancy. Good Lord, I almost fell in the chest freezer trying to get some steak out. And I was home alone. I can look back and laugh now, but back then, I freaked out!

  10. Sarah via Facebook

    I think first trimester meals would be great. Especially for moms who get sick. Also at the very end of pregnancy when my belly is to big to stand at the stove and cook around. (And chop and prep and do dishes) I always wish for meals then.

  11. Amen to that Laura Jewell! Blessings for a safe delivery for you!! And for sure, Kimberly Cross Baggett, I love having a baby holder and cooking for myself, too. 🙂

  12. Laura via Facebook

    Disagree, I ate all of the freezer meals I’d made during the last three weeks or so. 39 weeks and 95 degrees outside was not a time I felt like cooking.

  13. Laura via Facebook

    My vote is the last trimester, or last 2 weeks! Even though I’m sick the first 18 weeks, the last few are the hardest for me 🙂

  14. Julia via Facebook

    If I got meals in the first (and second) tri, I wouldn’t be able to eat them or stomach the smell of them even being in the house. 🙁

  15. Kristen via Facebook

    Mmm, I’d disagree, but only because I don’t get that sick in the 1st trimester, and because I just enjoyed 2 weeks of amazing postpartum gift-meals! 🙂

  16. Tress via Facebook

    I was sick the entire 42 weeks. Yep. Threw up everyday. Terrible terrible terrible. After the baby was born I could eat again! Except I was too busy with baby! Haha!

  17. I love cheese while I’m pregnant too! For me the hardest part is when I’m hungry and know I need to eat but absolutely nothing sounds appetizing. Forcing myself to cook or pull something out and eat it is rough.

  18. Black tea works for my daughter’s nausea, maybe it would be a help for pregnancy sickness. (Details here)-http://familyhomehealth.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-daughter-woke-up-last-night-with.html

    1. I thought of one more thing-I have heard that peppermint essential oil applied to the bottom of the feet is helpful also.

  19. Perfect timing! I have a great husband that is willing and able to cook, but I know that what suits me isn’t always his idea of a good meal. And I totally agree with the cheese! I feel like I’m adding cheese to everything, if I’m not just eating it straight. It is like a super power snack that helps me go from dead on the couch to semi functioning.
    I’ve also found that eating more frequently (meaning even though I want to stay in bed until noon, it is better to get up and eat breakfast) and rubbing behind my ears are really helpful. For an added boost, I put ginger oil behind my ears while I rub. It has helped keep me from vomiting on multiple occasions. I look forward to exploring your other posts in the natural pregnancy archives!

  20. Thanks for this post – perfect timing. I’m due around the same time you. This will be our 10th baby – yes, 10th. So, I’m quite busy with the other 9 children, and my nausea and fatigue kick in the most after 3pm . . . and continue through the evening.

    And, yes – potatoes! Each pregnancy, I’m always craving potatoes! They’re so easy to bake at any point in the day and have on hand for days to come. Same thing with hard-boiled eggs.

    Thanks for reminding me of some tips – and reminding me that it’s okay to take it easy during these icky times of pregnancy!

    I’ve also been making many crockpot meals. I make casseroles early in the morning between breakfast and lunch, and then I have it in the fridge to pop in the oven later in the day when I’m starting to feel . . . well . . . blech. With summer, I’ve also been relying on salads, pasta salads, pita/hummus, raw veggies, fruits, etc. – cold things that I can prepare very quickly and set on the table.

  21. Then there are some of us who throw up at the slightest whiff of any food, including crackers and throw up every thirty minutes of every waking moment. My family lived off sandwiches while I struggled to sip water. Ended up with severe dehydration and I’m afraid this time I caved and went on zofran. Could not cope another day. There was literally NO food that would stay down and I knew I had weeks ahead of this. I still threw up a few times a day but could drink water and managed a tiny bit of food. Severe morning sickness is no joke.

    I’m kind of up to the stage you are describing above – simple foods and very light cooking. It is like a dream to eat a meal and know it will (should) stay down.

    1. Valerie,
      Oh, girl, I’ve known folks who had it that bad or nearly that bad…just awful. A current friend who is in the midst of pregnancy and always throws up all day, every day recently found that although magnesium didn’t work (might be worth a try though, you can spray it on and don’t have to swallow!!), a bite of probiotic food or drink first helped immensely. Fourth pregnancy, finally some relief. She says don’t wait too long to eat after those few bites/sips though, or it’ll all come up too! 🙁

      God bless you! Katie

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