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Balancing a healthy diet before, during and after pregnancy

pregnant woman prepping meal

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, nutrition might not be at the top of your priority list. However, it should be! A nutrient-rich diet is one of the critical building blocks of conception and pregnancy, and an essential part of postpartum health.

It can feel overwhelming to know where to start, but our team of registered dietitians at Roper St. Francis Healthcare is here to help. From one-on-one meetings with a dietitian to expectant family nutrition classes and beyond, we offer multiple nutrition programs to fit your lifestyle and goals  Our goal is to help you determine what your body needs, giving you a healthy and enjoyable foundation to build on throughout pregnancy and beyond.

Pre-Conception Nutrition  

If you are in the early stages of thinking about conceiving, it’s the perfect time to take a full assessment of your health. It’s important to build a nutrition framework that fits your lifestyle and personality.

“Most women don’t know they’re pregnant right away, so starting early with a balanced diet is one of the best things you can do,” says Jillian Morgan, clinical dietitian at Roper St. Francis. “Food is fuel and recognizing that food affects how we feel and how our body operates is so important.”

Stress and food can both impact fertility – and so can your lifestyle. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, the Roper St. Francis team suggests:

  • Get started on a prenatal vitamin: these vitamins are specifically designed for growing and developing a baby. Prenatal vitamins can also help bridge the gap between your current diet and the nutrients and minerals that you need throughout pregnancy. There are many types of prenatal vitamins, so ask your doctor which vitamin is the best fit for your needs. 
  • Hit all the major food groups each day: working with a dietitian will help you evaluate which foods appeal to you in each category, helping you build a toolkit of nutritious foods to get you through pregnancy and postpartum.
  • Start practicing hydration: staying hydrated during pregnancy and postpartum is essential, so practice getting in enough fluids each day.


Many moms-to-be don’t realize nutrition can directly impact nausea, a familiar foe to many pregnant moms during their first and second trimesters. Being too hungry or too full can create nausea, and so can extreme blood sugar fluctuations. Balancing multiple food groups can help you avoid these dramatic shifts.

Cravings also play a central role in pregnancy. They are caused by hormones and the increased nutritional needs of pregnancy – but cravings can also indicate a lack of balance in your diet.

“Ask yourself – is there a time of day that I have the most cravings?” says Morgan. “Make sure you are spreading your nutrition throughout the day instead of concentrating your food intake just around mealtime.”

If you’re under-fueled from a nutritional standpoint, hormones and cravings will win every time. Make sure to eat balanced meals or snacks and look at the big picture. Our team recommends selecting between two and four food groups – including protein, fruit, vegetable, whole grains, fat and dairy – each time you eat a meal or snack. Choosing foods that fuel and nourish you will help you – and your baby – through each stage of pregnancy.

Postpartum Nutrition 

Postpartum is a time of recovery and adjustment for all new moms, whether it’s your first or fifth baby.

“The postpartum phase can feel out of control and overwhelming,” says Morgan. “Don’t forget that you’re recovering and healing – you just had a baby! Your body needs rest, nutrient-rich foods and lots of hydration to help you heal and feel like yourself again.”  

Hydration is a key piece of postpartum recovery. Drinking 100 ounces of fluids a day helps your body recover, boosts your breastmilk production and helps to circulate nutrients throughout your body. Not staying hydrated enough can cause fatigue, headaches and crankiness.

Our Roper St. Francis team also suggests the following tips for postpartum health:

  • ●Head out into the sunshine for the purest form of Vitamin D3
  • ●Go for a walk if your doctor has cleared you for mild activity
  • ●Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • ●Fuel your body with nourishing foods to help meet your postpartum body’s high-energy needs

And above all else, listen to your body. Our team is here to support you and help you feel your best every step of the way. Together, we’ll create an individualized nutrition plan to help you achieve balance and variety across the food spectrum.

Join our Expectant Family Healthy Nutrition Series 

The Roper St. Francis team offers two new mom-centric classes to help you feel your best, both during pregnancy and after baby arrives:

  • Baby & Me Nutrition: Join a Roper St. Francis dietitian to learn more about how to fuel your pregnancy. Topics include suggestions on combating nausea, the importance of proper hydration and nutritious and enjoyable meal planning ideas.
  • Postpartum Power Up: Our 12-week nutrition and wellness program is designed specifically for new moms. You’ll be joined by a dietitian, exercise specialist, physician and social worker to help you power up mentally and physically.

To schedule a consultation with a dietitian or to register for an expectant family health class, please call (843) 958-2590.

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