Morning Sickness: What to eat when nothing sounds good
Written by Yuchen He, BS degree in biology and public health, MS candidate in nutrition at Tufts University
Medically Reviewed by Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT
Morning sickness, nausea, vomiting of pregnancy, you name it, we’ve heard it. And, we get the question all the time – what are the best foods for morning sickness? The quick answer is, there isn’t a one size fits all answer. But there is hope! Thankfully, there are some tried and true remedies that have helped countless pregnant people make it through this challenging time.
The first thing to consider is making some simple lifestyle changes, such as adjusting mealtimes - eating smaller, more frequent meals – and eating food low in fat. More specifically, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has a range of recommendations, including:
- Eating neutral, bland tasting foods including “BRATT foods” – bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea – and neutral flavored protein
- Consuming supplements and/or food containing ginger
- Trying supplements and/or foods with vitamin B6
- Drinking 8-12 cups of water throughout the day
Let’s take a look at this food list one by one.
Some of the best foods for morning sickness: Bland foods
Ever heard the term “BRATT Diet”? When thinking about foods to eat with morning sickness, this is an easy acronym we like to remember the five bland, neutral tasting foods that may help:
When pregnant people ask what to eat when nothing sounds good, BRATT foods are usually a top recommendation. BRATT foods are high in carbohydrates and low in fat, making them easy to digest and may avoid triggering nausea or vomiting (one of many nausea/vomit triggers are foods with a strong taste/smell, and these foods don’t have that).
Note that some teas are not safe during pregnancy. As such, make sure to get the green light from your health care provider before you include any tea in your diet.
Foods to eat with morning sickness: Ginger
In addition to BRATT foods, we think ginger is one of the best foods for morning sickness, and clinical trials support this!
- Randomized controlled trials showed that a dosage of 450mg/day-1.8g/day of ginger supplements improved nausea or vomiting.
- A Cochrane review evaluated 4 studies with a total of 624 women – all studies reported symptom relief and that both ginger and vitamin B6 are equally effective in improving morning sickness symptoms.
Takeaways: The most common ginger dosage among the clinical trials is 250 mg of powdered ginger, equivalent to ~1 gram of fresh ginger, every 6 hours. There are ample options for integrating ginger into your diet, but here are a few we like:
- Beverages – ginger/lemon-infused ice cubes with water or ginger/basil tonic
- Soups – chicken soup with ginger or carrot/ginger soup
- Ginger + BRATT food combinations – like a coconut ginger rice, banana/ginger smoothie, or lemon/ginger tea
When looking for ginger food options, we keep our eye out for solutions with no added sugar. Additionally, if ginger is not already part of your diet, you might want to start at a low dose, due to some mild reported side effects:
- A study reported one case of heartburn, although not significant, at a daily dose of 1 gram ginger powder.
- Two other studies with heartburn as the primary outcomes found no significant association between ginger and heartburn.
In addition, researchers (Smith et al., Vutyavanich et al.) reported no significant adverse outcomes resulting from ginger supplementation. And, an ACOG review on nausea and vomiting of pregnancy concluded that treating nausea and vomiting with ginger is safe and effective.
Vitamin B6 for morning sickness
Another option to explore – vitamin B6. Based upon the previously mentioned Cochrane review, B6 was shown to reduce nausea starting day 3. However B6 can be a little tricky:
- Talk to your physician first before supplementing B6
- ≥80-100mg B6 per day may cause harm
- Be informed by clinical data
- The most common vitamin B6 dosage used among the clinical trials is 10-25mg every 8 hours.
- One study favored high (10mg) over low (1.28mg) doses of a vitamin B6 supplement, although both dosages showed significant symptom relief at week 2.
- Consider your symptoms
- The Cochrane review showed that B6 may reduce nausea, but is unlikely to reduce vomiting.
If you’re looking for a few great foods for morning sickness with vitamin B6, checkout these options that are some of the richest sources of B6:
- Fish (0.6-0.9/3oz)
- Potatoes (0.6mg/1 medium with skin!)
- Banana (0.25mg/1 medium) – which is also a BRATT food!
Comparing Ginger v. Vitamin B6 for morning sickness
Two studies have compared ginger capsules to vitamin B6, and both showed greater improvements in women taking ginger. However, four studies evaluated by the Cochrane review reported that ginger and vitamin B6 are equally effective in improving morning sickness symptoms.
What does this mean? There is no one magic bullet that will offer morning sickness relief for everybody. Ginger or vitamin B6 are both great options and both can be explored with the guidance of your health care provider.
Safety of vitamin B6 or Ginger for morning sickness
Additionally, we are very encouraged by the safety data. The ACOG review concluded that treating nausea and vomiting with vitamin B6 or ginger is safe and may be effective. Researchers have also reported that supplementing ginger or vitamin B6 is unlikely to cause adverse outcomes, including the following findings:
- One clinical trial studying ginger did not experience elevated rates of spontaneous abortions, c-sections, or congenital abnormalities.
- In another clinical trial evaluating ginger, participants did not experience elevated rates of antepartum hemorrhage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or preterm birth.
- Additionally, another clinical trial comparing vitamin B6 and ginger showed no elevation of arrhythmia or headache.
Smoothies with bananas for morning sickness
One thing we’ve had success with? Smoothies for morning sickness – and we are huge fans of adding in bananas for morning sickness. Bananas are a BRATT food, and a food that has a high source of vitamin B6. When developing smoothies good for morning sickness, look to mix and match ingredients (fresh or frozen); we look for a combination of the following:
- Foods that are low in fat, which makes them easier to digest
- Neutral tasting BRATT foods – bananas, applesauce
- Foods with vitamin B6, like bananas
- Neutral-tasting proteins – we like pea protein. Based on the Institute of Medicine's dietary reference intakes, protein needs increase from 46g/day to 71g/day during pregnancy
What else do I need to know?
Last but not least, don’t forget to stay hydrated when you’re experiencing morning sickness (even when nothing sounds good!). The ACOG recommends drinking 8-12 cups of water throughout the day.
Just remember, you aren’t alone. Globally, 70% have reported nausea and vomiting during pregnancy on average, and the nausea and vomiting can occur at any time of the day (the term ‘morning sickness’ is somewhat of a misnomer). It may get better, too. Morning sickness is most common in early pregnancy, in the first trimester, though up to 20% of pregnant people do experience it after 20 weeks.
We hope that our roundup and our thoughts on the best foods for morning sickness provide you with data-driven options to try as you combat nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness. However, as always, be sure consult your obstetrician-gynecologist before you take any supplements or make any changes to your diet during pregnancy.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or health care provider related to medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.
Yuchen He is a current student working towards her MS degree in nutrition at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and dietetic certificate at Simmons University. She graduated from Brandeis with a BS in biology and public health.
Medically Reviewed By Lauren Manaker
Lauren Manaker is the Leto Foods Nutrition Advisor. She is an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist, certified lactation educator-counselor, and book author. She specializes in women's health and holds a position on the executive committee of the Women's Health DPG of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lauren earned nutrition degrees from the University of Florida, Rush University, and University of California, San Diego. Follow her at @LaurenLovesNutrition on Instagram.