Tips for managing nausea and vomiting in pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy can be a challenging time for many women and difficult to manage, especially when working full-time or when you have other children to care for. It is important you get rest when you are able, stay well hydrated and eat a well-rounded healthy diet.
One of the most difficult things to do is to make yourself eat when you feel so unwell, however, if you are able to eat small amounts frequently and regularly, it will make a difference.
Due to the fact your baby is growing and developing rapidly, your blood sugar stores drop suddenly, and this is the reason you feel so unwell. By managing your food intake a little more carefully, you will be able to keep your blood sugar levels more level – therefore, reducing the severity of your nausea.
Grazing throughout the day or trying to eat small amounts every two hours is much better for your body than trying to eat 3 regular meals. You may be finding the afternoons particularly difficult to manage, so if this is the case, try not to leave it too long after lunch before you have another snack or another small meal.
You will need to be well prepared and have food available at home ready to eat. Women who work shift work or varying hours/days often struggle because they can’t snack or drink during a busy shift. It is important to have little snacks such as nuts and a drink bottle close by at all times. Below, you will find some further information regarding low GI foods and a sample menu.
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The glycaemic index (GI)
Carbohydrate-containing foods can be rated on a scale called the glycaemic index (GI). This scale ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels over a period of time – usually two hours.
Carbohydrate-containing foods are compared with glucose or white bread as a reference food, which is given a GI score of 100. The GI compares foods that have the same amount of carbohydrate, gram for gram. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have a higher glycaemic index (GI more than 70). These high GI carbohydrates, such as a baked potato, release their glucose into the blood quickly.
Carbohydrates that break down slowly, such as oats, release glucose gradually into the bloodstream. They have low glycaemic indexes (GI less than 55). The blood glucose response is slower and flatter. Low GI foods prolong digestion due to their slow break down and may help with satiety (feeling full).
GI scale examples
Some examples of the GI rating of various carbohydrates include:
- low GI (less than 55) – soy products, beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge and lentils
- medium GI (55 to 70) – orange juice, honey, basmati rice and wholemeal bread
- high GI (greater than 70) – potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice.
Using the GI as a guide to healthy eating
The GI can be used as a consideration when selecting foods and drinks consistent with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, as long as you are aware of the limitations. For example, the GI of some everyday foods such as fruits, vegetables and cereals can be higher than discretionary (occasional) foods like biscuits and cakes.
This does not mean we should replace fruit, vegetables and cereals with discretionary choices, because the first are rich in important nutrients and antioxidants and the discretionary foods are not. GI can be a useful concept in making good food substitution choices, such as having oats instead of cornflakes, or eating grainy bread instead of white bread. In many cases, choosing the wholegrain or higher fibre option will also mean you are choosing the lower GI option.
It is not always possible or necessary to choose all low GI foods. There is room in a healthy diet for moderate to high GI foods, and many of these foods can provide important sources of nutrients. If you mix a low GI food with a high GI food, you will get an intermediate GI for that meal.
Tips for healthy eating
Some practical suggestions include:
- Use a breakfast cereal based on oats, barley or bran.
- Use grainy breads or breads with soy.
- Enjoy a range of fruit and vegetables.
- Eat plenty of salad vegetables with vinaigrette dressing.
- Eat a variety of carbohydrate-containing foods. If the main sources of carbohydrates in your diet are bread and potatoes, then try lentils, legumes, pasta, basmati rice and pita breads.
- Focus more on the serving size of foods, rather than just their GI rating.
Foods to Eat on a Low-GI Diet
There’s no need to count calories or track your protein, fat or carbs on the low-GI diet.
Instead, a low-GI diet involves swapping high-GI foods for low-GI alternatives.
There are plenty of healthy and nutritious foods to choose from. You should base your diet on the following low-GI foods:
- Bread: Whole grain, multigrain, rye and sourdough varieties
- Breakfast cereals: Porridge made with rolled oats, bircher muesli and All-Bran
- Fruit: Such as apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears and kiwi
- Vegetables: Such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes and zucchini
- Starchy vegetables: Carisma and Nicola potato varieties, sweet potatoes with an orange flesh, corn, yams
- Legumes: Examples include lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, butter beans, kidney beans
- Pasta and noodles: Pasta, soba noodles, vermicelli noodles, rice noodles
- Rice: Basmati, Doongara, long-grain and brown rice
- Grains: Quinoa, barley, pearl couscous, buckwheat, freekeh, semolina
- Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, custard, soy milk, almond milk
The following foods contain few or no carbohydrates and therefore do not have a GI value. These foods can be included as part of a low-GI diet:
- Meat: Including beef, chicken, pork, lamb and eggs
- Fish and seafood: Examples include cooked salmon, trout, tuna, sardines and prawns
- Nuts: Such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and macadamia nuts
- Fats and oils: Including olive oil, rice bran oil, butter and margarine
- Herbs and spices: Such as salt, pepper, garlic, basil and dill
If you find yourself hungry between meals, here are a few healthy low-GI snack ideas:
- A handful of unsalted nuts
- A piece of fruit
- Carrot sticks with hummus
- A cup of berries or grapes (not too many grapes, as they are quite high in sugar)
- Greek yogurt
- Apple slices with almond butter or peanut butter
- A hard-boiled egg
- Leftovers from the night before
This sample menu shows what a week on a low-GI diet might look like. Feel free to adjust this based on your own needs and preferences.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal made with rolled oats, milk and chopped fresh fruit
- Lunch: Chicken sandwich on whole grain bread, served with a salad
- Dinner: Beef stir-fry with vegetables, served with long-grain rice
- Breakfast: Whole grain toast with avocado, tomato and smoked salmon
- Lunch: Minestrone soup with a slice of whole grain bread
- Dinner: Grilled fish served with steamed broccoli and green beans
- Breakfast: Omelet with mushrooms, spinach, tomato and cheese
- Lunch: Salmon, ricotta and quinoa cups with a salad
- Dinner: Homemade pizzas made with whole wheat Lebanese bread
- Breakfast: A smoothie with berries, milk, Greek yogurt and cinnamon
- Lunch: Chicken pasta salad made with whole wheat pasta
- Dinner: Homemade burgers with beef patties and vegetables on whole wheat rolls
- Breakfast: Quinoa porridge with apple and cinnamon
- Lunch: Toasted tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Dinner: Chicken and chickpea curry with basmati rice
- Breakfast: Eggs with smoked salmon and tomatoes on whole grain toast
- Lunch: Egg and lettuce whole grain wrap
- Dinner: Grilled lamb chops with greens and mashed pumpkin
- Breakfast: Buckwheat pancakes with berries
- Lunch: Brown rice and tuna salad
- Dinner: Beef meatballs served with vegetables and brown rice