Nutrition during pregnancy is potentially the single most critical factors to the 9-month creation of life.
Just as food fuels our own bodies to grow, develop, ward off disease, get stronger and thrive throughout our own lives—how much more important food is for the little life growing inside you during pregnancy!
Lately, something must be in the water—it’s spring and the buns are in the oven—as I have been receiving quite a few inquiries about “What to eat during pregnancy?!”
There is perhaps no other time in many women’s lives, like pregnancy, either that makes them stop and consider what exactly they are putting in their bodies.
For some, prior to pregnancy, perhaps they didn’t think much about how what they ate impacted their health:
- Chips and queso in abundance;
- Happy hour cocktails;
- “Substantial” dinners of bagels and peanut butter, Chinese takeout or cereal;
- Sweet tooth indulgences whenever they felt like it;
- Frequently skipping breakfast;
- Building their nutrition around convenient bars, frozen dinners and shakes;
- Green salads for lunch—with nothing on them…
In short: dietary choices were based around taste, convenience, socializing, cravings and, lastly, health and nourishment.
For others, prior to pregnancy, nutrition and dietary choices were solely based around the diet mentality—what they “should” and “shouldn’t” eat (according to the Women’s Diet Bible):
- The fewer calories, the better;
- Juices for mealtimes;
- Lean Cuisines and Diet Cokes;
- “Eating too much fat…or carbs…will make me fat”;
- Constantly trying to lose “about 5 lbs.”;
- Hopping from diet to diet—looking for the quick hack to their body fat woes;
- 100-Calorie Snack Packs; fat-free yogurt cups; sugar-free pudding; Crystal Light; and other “healthy” diet foods;
- Egg-whites-only, chicken and broccoli (for every meal), and carefully-calculated and counted almonds (9 to be exact) for a snack
And then…the miracle of life happened—and suddenly, knighted the responsibility of literally “growing” a developing child within their womb, they woke up—
Whoa…what I eat actually impacts my (and my baby’s) health!!!
While this revelation does not apply to ALL women (after all, there are many who falsely believe that pregnancy means a ‘free for all’ card to indulge in an ‘Eat whatever, eating-for-two’ mentality)…ALL pregnant women CAN benefit from taking their nutrition seriously.
So what do you eat to BEST nourish your body throughout pregnancy? And moreover, what deficiencies or symptoms should you be aware of throughout your pregnancy?
Here is a basic guide to get you started:
What NOT to Do.
Before addressing what “to do”, let’s clear the air of what not to do—especially when it comes to the conventional wisdom we’ve ever been told about healthy eating, including:
- Lots of hearty, whole grains
- Low-fat dairy for plenty of calcium and to whittle your waist
- A heart-healthy, low-fat diet
- Frequent small meals throughout the day
- Protein with each meal, BUT avoid red meat, egg yolks—stick to poultry, fish and egg whites
If you’ve been heeding to this dietary advice to date, or believing that these guidelines define health, it’s time to erase these conceptions from your head. Food is more simple than all the diets of this world make it out to be—and this applies particularly during pregnancy. Practice the KISS (keep it simple sister!) philosophy and you can’t go wrong with these foods:
Basic Nutrition for Healthy Pregnancy.
Water. “I don’t drink enough,” said…most people. An often overlooked nutrient, water is essential to supporting the little human life growing in you. The human body alone needs half your bodyweight in ounces to support the basic needs and processes of life (metabolism, digestion, temperature regulation, etc.). Couple this with your baby’s needs as well, and you need to consume even more water—particularly to supply and replenish replenish the amniotic fluid the baby is in. In addition, dehydration is often associated with morning sickness. Want to avoid or diminish the nausea come the AM? Drink enough water—at least half your bodyweight in ounces + additional as tolerated—to keep the little one happy.
Protein. Supports the tissue growth of both the fetus and the new tissues made by the mom. As a baseline, at least 70-100 grams per day (approximately 3-4 ounces at breakfast, lunch and dinner).
- Grass-fed beef and bison;
- Pasture-raised chicken and eggs (Note: if not buying organic chicken, opt for leaner chicken breast over fattier cuts of chicken to avoid funky hormones);
- Wild caught seafood;
- ‘Clean’ protein powders if you do protein (No artificial sweeteners except maybe Stevia; hemp; hydrolyzed whey isolate; beef/egg protein);
Fats. Crucial for your little one’s brain development and organ growth (as well as your own brain health! Don’t let ‘mom brain’ happen to you). Healthy sources include:
- Raw nuts/seeds
- Olives; Cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconut oil; Coconut butter; Unsweetened coconut flakes
- Avocado oil, hempseed oil, sesame oil
- Lard, ghee, tallow, duck-fat
- Grass-fed butter
- Organic fattier cuts of beef/chicken
- Egg yolks
- Organic, full-fat plain dairy, if you do dairy (Moderation)
Fruits & Veggies. LOTS of different color means lots of different vitamins and minerals—and you KNOW those are a good thing)! Leafy greens, in particular, give you an extra booster of folic acid—a big-time vitamin player during pregnancy (explained a bit later).
By focusing MORE on these foods, and LESS on:
- Processed and convenience foods;
- Hydrogenated oils and fats (like canola oil and vegetable oils found in baked or packaged foods),
- And grains (Gut irritants and not as nutrient-dense as real whole foods; Use moderation if opting for properly prepared sources—such as gluten-free steel-cut oats, rice or beans soaked overnight on occasion)
…You are already light-years ahead of the 9-month game.
Cool…I get it: Eat real food. But how much food do I really need then?
Layman’s terms here, please!!
It takes approximately 75,000 additional calories to make a baby over the course of that 9-months. Roughly speaking then: That’s about 350-400 extra calories then you consume on a daily basis to maintain your weight. While you don’t have to be a calorie counter here, this could look something like:
- Adding some sautéed greens in 2 tsp ghee or coconut oil to one of your meals
- Amping up your morning green-berry-and-protein smoothie with a tablespoon of nutbutter or some avocado to your chicken sausage or eggs and bacon;
- Eating a sweet potato with your evening meal of salmon and broccoli;
Boom. Just being mindful of adding in a little bit more nutrition throughout the day.
With solid nutrition as the cornerstone of your pregnancy, the following nutrients will only enhance, not only your health, but the health of the little one on his or her way:
Supplements & Vitamin Needs During Pregnancy.
Liver. Your own liver is responsible for detoxing your body of toxins, as well as processing your incoming nutrients in the process of digestion. During pregnancy, like every organ and system in your own body, the liver has to work a little extra hard—to also support all the change and development going on inside of you.
In fact, did you know morning sickness is likely a result of increased bilary or liver activity? During the night, the liver works to eliminate toxins—and in the case of morning sickness, these toxins your liver is working extra hard to eliminate can make you feel nauseas. To support your liver, your healthy baseline diet (above), as well as avoiding liver-irritating drugs (like NSAIDs) and plenty of water is helpful in minimizing morning sickness. Taking a liver capsule supplement, or of course eating grass-fed beef liver a couple times per week, is also a great way to supply your body (and liver itself) with the triple whammy of Vitamin A, D and K it needs for the health of your baby. Liver also contains Choline—a nutrient that helps brain cells develop properly. In addition to eating liver or taking a liver support, Vitamin B6 fosters healthy liver function as well. (1.)
Vitamin B6. Aids in liver metabolism (helping your liver work and detoxify), and is essential for the proper development of the central nervous system. Taking 25-50 mg of B6 three times daily may also help reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. [Other supplements helpful in alleviating morning sickness include Vitamins B12, C and E, as well as extra magnesium and potassium (2.)]
Fat Soluble Vitamins. We know healthy fats are important for brain health, digestion, and organ development—but in order to absorb these fats, we need the pre-cursors (our fat soluble vitamins) in place. Vitamins D, A, K and E are the primary fat-soluble vitamins (see the liver point above). Ideal sources include:
- Liver OR Liver Capsule (mentioned above),
- Sardines (Vitamin D),
- Grass-fed butter,
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil (A, D),
- Pasture-raised egg yolks (A, D, K),
- Leafy greens (A, K, E), raw nuts/seeds (E),
- Sauerkraut and other fermented foods—like kombucha and yogurt with live cultures (K)
Probiotic. Supply your bod with GOOD bacteria to ward off bad bacteria, and promote a sterile gut—not just for you, but baby as well. Help your baby start out in this world on the right foot with a healthy gut! Probiotic rich foods include sauerkraut and fermented vegetables, kombucha, fermented yogurt with live cultures and supplements like one of these by Thorne , Perque, or Transformation Enzymes.
Pre-natal. More than likely, you are on a pre-natal vitamin—the “mamma jamma” of vitamins during pregnancy. And while pre-natals DO have vitamins and minerals, it’s important to note: If you are NOT feeding yourself appropriately, you will only get so far. It’s like assuming if you take a muscle gainer or fat burner you will instantly gain muscle, or lose fat. NOPE, think again. If not feeding yourself appropriately, then only get so far. As far as prenatal vitamins go, here is one of my faves.
Folic Acid. You’ve probably heard it’s good for you or ‘necessary’, but why?! Folic acid is needed to help form red blood cells, aid in the growth and reproduction of other cells and support the development of the nervous system in your little babe. Deficiency of folic acid is also linked to neurological defects in babies, and your personal body’s needs increase by 50% during pregnancy (approximately 600 mcg daily is the baseline during pregnancy, to upwards of 1000 mcg).
Sodium. Yup. Salt—especially sea salt (I love Himalayan Sea Salt!). We’ve been conditioned to believe salt is bad for us, however, it is a basic human need to help regulate your sodium levels in your blood, supply electrolytes to your body and promote BALANCE for your adrenal glands (i.e. promoting less stress for your body). particularly during pregnancy. Sprinkle sea salt on your sautéed greens, or on your chicken or ground beef at dinnertime. Even starting your day off with warm lemon water with a pinch or sprinkle of sea salt is another morning sickness combative and helps set the tone for improved digestion and body-balance during the day.
I wish I could sit down with each and every woman who has a question about “what to eat” or “what she needs” to support her pregnancy. This is an overall general overview of some of the basic, fundamental nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.
For a more individualized approach, schedule a Nutrition Consult today. I take into consideration your personal diet history, hormone balance, food intolerances and preferences, and overall personal health to determine the best dietary plan for your body during this season.