Showing Signs of Pregnancy? Here’s a Food Guide for the First Trimester

Showing Signs of Pregnancy? Here’s a Food Guide for the First Trimester

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Some say the first trimester of pregnancy is the hardest. You might be dealing with morning sickness, food aversions, strange food cravings, and bloating. Changes in your hormones can cause these discomforts, and every expecting mother has her ups and downs.


In your first trimester, healthy eating is essential, as it can help ensure a healthy birth weight and reduce the risk of congenital disorders. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that the health of pregnant mothers and the foods they eat during pregnancy directly affect their congenital jing (congenital essence).


Planning a pregnancy diet is easier than you’d think, especially if you already have a plan. Senior TCM physician Lin Jia Yi – a featured expert at All Things Health Malaysia – shares her go-to food guide for the first trimester of pregnancy. You may be surprised that some foods you’ve considered healthy aren’t suitable for pregnant women.



1. Leafy greens

Savoy cabbage half and chopped in wooden bowl isolated on white background with clipping path and full depth of field

Green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and lettuce are high in vitamins and minerals. Some of the vital nutrients include fibre, beta-carotene, folate, and vitamins C and K. These nutrients ensure healthy foetal development, regulate the expectant mother’s blood pressure, maintain fluid balance, and produce red blood cells. Eating leafy green vegetables can also help you fight nausea since they’re odourless.


When preparing your meals, wash all fruits and vegetables to limit contamination. Physician Lin also advises pregnant women to cook vegetables before eating them. “Many vegetables are cooling in nature. To lessen the cooling effects, cook instead of eating them raw.” If you’re fond of salad bowls, try grilling your greens!


2. Well-done steak

Barbecue steak with spicy over backyard background


Red meat is an excellent source of protein, iron, and zinc. Eating red meat is beneficial for a stronger body and adequate blood supply – as long as the meat is thoroughly cooked. According to Physician Lin, edible bird’s nest is also a great alternative for women who get easily triggered by the smell of cooked beef. It’s a warm-natured food, but it also nourishes yin (cool) energy, sustains the Spleen and stomach, and replenishes Lung qi.


Additionally, she advises pregnant women to avoid organ meats as they contain highly concentrated vitamin A. Eating these can harm your baby’s development, including their nervous system, eyes, face, kidneys, heart, thyroid, and skeletal development – especially when you’re still showing early signs of pregnancy.



3. Whole-grain bread

Grain bread with seeds and crunchy fragrant crust is on a towel.


Pregnancy isn’t the time to go on a low-carb diet. Your body needs energy to grow a human. Balance is key, so for example, opt for wholegrain bread that contains vitamins and fibres to boost digestion. This type is a much healthier option than refined white bread, which can spike your blood sugar levels.


If white rice has been a part of your daily meals, don’t worry. You can still enjoy your warm bowl of rice as it tonifies qi and potentially increases your appetite. However, eat in moderation and stay away from processed rice products.


4. Fatty fish

Uncooked steaks of rainbow trout on dish on white background

Tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon are types of fish that contain a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes healthy baby brain development. Similarly, an intake of omega-3 fatty acids during the early signs of pregnancy can influence the length of gestation and prevent the onset of postpartum depression.


However, not all fish are healthy. Keep an eye on mercury-rich seafood such as swordfish and Southern bluefin tuna. An intake of mercury is hazardous for pregnant women.


On the days when you can’t stomach foods with a strong smell, Physician Lin recommends health supplements like an oat and flaxseed drink. It’s high in fibre, protein, and plant-sourced omega-3.


5. Yoghurt

Plain yougurt with granola on side


Pregnancy constipation is a real issue many women go through during the early signs of pregnancy. Aside from fibre-rich foods, yoghurt is another healthy snack you should consume regularly. Yoghurt made from pasteurised milk can provide several pregnancy health benefits, including better digestion, stronger immunity, and a sufficient calcium intake.


Before buying dairy products, check the ingredient label to ensure it’s pasteurised. Products containing unpasteurised milk may harbour Listeria bacteria that causes Listeriosis. This bacterial infection can put a pregnant woman at risk of miscarriage, premature labour, delivering an underweight infant or even infant death.



6. Ginger

Ginger root on stone background


Based on TCM belief, ginger is predominantly yang (warm). Specifically, ginger can disperse Wind-Cold Syndrome, warming the stomach and Spleen, draining Dampness, and supporting a healthy flow of qi. Physician Lin states that ginger can suppress morning sickness as it has a warming effect on Spleen qi. You can make an easy concoction by steeping fresh or dried ginger in hot water and drinking it to alleviate nausea and vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy.


A pregnancy diet doesn’t differ much from a regular healthy diet, only with a few extra precautions. As a rule of thumb, Physician Lin advises against foods that are yin in nature, such as bananas, raw salad, and sashimi. If you are unsure whether a food or drink is safe for consumption during the early signs of pregnancy, always consult a professional obstetrician and a registered TCM physician. For more pregnancy and postpartum tips sourced by experts, visit All Things Health Malaysia to learn more about natural health solutions.


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