A Simple Strategy for Making Diet Changes


In last week’s National Nutrition Month® post, I described three changes you can make to your diet for optimal pregnancy nutrition:


This week, I am sharing some inspiration on HOW to go about making these changes.


A couple of years ago, I watched a program on PBS that highlighted a woman struggling with diet changes. She was being followed by researchers to try to figure out what was keeping her from success. For seven days, she did a diet recall and a video food diary. The diet recall took place at the end of the day, where she had to think back on her day and try to remember everything she ate and write it down. The video food diary was actual video footage of everything she prepared for herself and ate. She was not allowed to watch the video food diary to trigger her memory for the diet recall. When researchers compared the diet recall to the video food diary, they found that the woman grossly underestimated her total food intake, by almost half! If we put this story into context (for you “numbers people”), the diet recall estimated she ate about 1400 Calories while the video food diary showed she actually ate almost 2800 Calories!

The point of that story is not to tell you to start counting Calories (please don’t!). The point is that we have to take a good, hard, real look at what we are actually eating in order to figure out what we need to add to or replace in our diets. For the most part, I am not as concerned about HOW MUCH you are eating in pregnancy as I am concerned about how good of quality your meals are. It can be hard to overeat when pregnant simply because your stomach is getting a little bit squished by a certain someone (or someones) residing within.

Food diaries can help tell a very good story about our food intake (if you can remember to do it with every meal and every snack). You could do a food diary for 3-7 days, examine each meal, calculate your total intake of healthy fats, colorful carbs, and protein, and figure out where your diet might be lacking. You COULD do that…but I think I have an easier strategy.

MIND YOUR P’s and Q’s (or P’s, F’s, and C’s)

When I plan my own meals or pack my kids’ lunches, I do not think in terms of food groups (Grains, dairy, etc.). Rather, I think of the letters “P”, “F”, and “C”! Those letters should be pretty easy to remember:

P = Protein

F = Fat (healthy)

C = Carbs (as colorful as possible)

If you can remember those letters and plan your meals to include a good source of each of those foods, you are on the right track. Here are some breakfast examples:

Typical quick breakfast


Improved quick P, F, C Breakfast

Oatmeal (C)

Orange Juice (C)

Toast (C) with butter (F)

Heavy on the carbs, no protein Oatmeal (C) with almonds (F) and hemp seeds (F)

Orange (C)

Hard Boiled Eggs (P)

Cereal (C) with skim milk (C)

Banana (C)

All carbs, no protein or fat Savory Quinoa (P) and Veggie (C) Breakfast Bowl with Avocado (F) (this is only quick if you make it the day before and add the egg in the morning)
Berry smoothie (C) made with skim milk (C) All carbs, no protein or fat Smoothie made with greens (C), Coconut milk (F), banana or berries (C), and nut butter (P)


We want to make positive diet changes that will become habits and a part of our lifestyles. Healthy eating habits will not only benefit you and your baby in your pregnancy, they will also carry over to your baby’s first year and beyond, especially once you start to introduce your baby to solid foods.

It takes TIME and PRACTICE to start incorporating the P, F and C’s into your meals and snacks. Start small and don’t expect yourself to be able to change your eating habits immediately. I still eat meals that are not P, F, and C balanced, but as much as possible I look for ways to include protein, healthy fats, and colorful carbs into my and my kids’ meals and snacks.

Sarah R web

Sarah Rawitzer is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Prenatal Health Coach, Certified Doula (DONA) and works at Minnesota Birth Center.

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