Happy Monday everyone! I’d like to start off the week with another great guest post for you. Erin is a fantastic nutritional therapist and the founder of The Heyday Diaries. Erin has a sassy a smart approach to food, nutrition, and life in general! It was her energy and passion that really crept off the page (or rather, screen) and really inspired me to get in touch with her.
When I found out Erin was expecting (congrats Erin!), I instantly new I wanted her to write about pregnancy and how it affects your food and nutritional needs. There’s so much misconstrued evidence out there, and I was curious about her take on this. For all you moms or moms-to-be, this post is for you!
When Taji asked me to write a post on nutrition during pregnancy, I jumped at the opportunity! As a budding nutritional therapist, and pregnant with my own baby at the moment, it’s not only a subject near and dear to my heart, but one I quickly found to be all over the map in terms of available information. With one doctor admitting I could probably school her in nutrition (right before giving me a canned speech of nutritional advice), another recommending an over the counter antacid as a calcium supplement (not a good idea), and another’s first words of advice upon hearing of my pregnancy being “stay away from artificial sweeteners” (um, no kidding?!), I knew I would be on my own in terms of any nutritional wisdom during my pregnancy.
Because pregnancy is often a time when women really start paying attention to their health (as in, Yikes! I’m responsible for another life! Better get my sh*t together!), I thought it would be best to come up with my top five key things to remember first and foremost when considering your nutrition during pregnancy.
- Eat real food. Yes, this is advice I give to everyone, but it’s especially important for pregnant women to pay attention to the food they choose to fuel their own bodies and the development of their growing baby. Skip the denatured, processed junk foods and create a diet full of nutrient-dense, whole foods in the appropriate balance of proteins (30%), fats (30%), and carbohydrates (40%). But why is it so important to get adequate amounts of all three macronutrients? For one, proteins build organs, nerves, muscles, and flesh. Fats build cell membranes and create the protective lining for internal organs. And carbohydrates fuel brain development. Hmm… sounds like these three macronutrients could build a human, doesn’t it? 😉
As a side note: if you’re taking supplements (which you should be) just remember that supplements are just that, supplements to an already nutrient-dense, whole food diet – so don’t go thinking that your prenatal vitamin gets you off the hook after that pint of Ben & Jerry’s you had for dinner.
- Drink water. I recently wrote a post on the importance of hydration, but staying hydrated is even more important for pregnant women. Think about it: your body is increasing blood volume exponentially, creating amniotic fluid, and supporting the circulation of another human being! Adequate water supply is absolutely required to be able to do all that! In addition, a host of so-called “normal” pregnancy-related symptoms, including morning sickness, fatigue, headaches, irritability, heartburn and indigestion, constipation, joint pain, leg cramps, puffy eyes and swollen ankles, can actually be prevented and alleviated simply by staying properly hydrated! If you think you drink enough water (that’s right, water, not coffee, tea, soda, or juice) – let me put this in perspective for you: over 75% of the population suffers from chronic dehydration, so chances are you might, too. Feeling thirsty now?
- Pay attention to cravings and aversions – it’s likely your body is trying to tell you something. Our bodies are so smart! If the first trimester has you gagging at the sight of meat and/or leafy greens, rest assured, you’re not alone, as these aversions are among the most common. There’s an evolutionary theory that claims nausea during pregnancy evolved as a way to protect the developing embryo against toxins and environmental hazards. These aversions make sense then, when you think about ancestral times, when the foods likely to be carrying parasites and bacteria were meat and leafy greens. Crazy, huh? But what about the insatiable craving for carbs during the first trimester? There’s a reason for that, too. During those first few months, your body is hard at work building your baby’s brain… so is it any wonder you crave carbs when carbohydrates are the brain’s #1 choice of fuel for development? Just steer clear of processed carbs – it should go without saying that since you’re building a brain, why not pick the highest quality fuel to do so? Stick with starchy carbs like organic sweet potatoes, crunchy organic vegetables like carrots, jicama, and celery (which will probably be more appealing than lettuce), and, if you tolerate them, properly prepared whole grains, brown rice, and quinoa.
Of course, if you choose to give in to less-than-ideal food choices, be gentle on yourself, as long as you don’t make those weak moments a regular habit. My advice would be to find healthy alternatives for your favorite treats (like Taji’s banana ice cream!), but I’ll admit I’d be lying if I said my body wasn’t telling me I needed a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cup or a scoop of the-real-deal chocolate gelato from time to time. 😉
- Set a timer to eat. This little tip has really come in handy for me particularly during the first and second trimesters. In the first trimester, you will likely experience some form of nausea, a feeling which will be significantly worse if you allow your stomach to sit empty for too long. Setting a timer to eat, even if it’s something small, every two to three hours (along with staying hydrated) will help keep nausea at bay.
In the second trimester, assuming your morning sickness has subsided, you’re probably going to feel great – amazing, even. You’ll have more energy than you’ve had in three months, and aside from the beginnings of your bump, there may be days you don’t even feel pregnant! This was where my food-timer was especially important. I found myself running around and getting so busy that I would literally forget to eat… It wasn’t until I felt light-headed and suddenly starving that I’d realize it was 4:00pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast at 7:30am! NOT COOL. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your hunger is out of control and overeating becomes problematic, a timer can remind you to eat only every few hours – it will put your mind at ease that you’re getting the nutrition you need and put you at less risk of overeating. Setting a timer and being properly prepared with plenty of nutrient-dense foods will be key to keeping you and your baby fed and happy.
- And finally, don’t believe everything you hear (or read or are told) regarding what not to eat. Do your own research and make educated decisions for your health and the health of your baby. Search the web or ask a dozen different friends or medical professionals and you’ll find conflicting opinions on sushi, cold cuts, soft cheeses, and wine. My advice? Do what I did. Do your own research, and trust your gut. Might as well get used to it now, right? Chances are you’re going to be doing a lot more of those two things once your baby is born, too.