As soon I announced that I was preggers, I began receiving emails, FB messages and smoke signals asking me how I’m going to adjust my nutrition and exercise. Over the past 9 months, I’ve worked very closely with a wonderful team that included midwifes, my OBGYN and a fantastic doula who happens to also be an exercise and yoga expert. I decided to test a few strategies and wait toward the end of my pregnancy to share the ones that worked for me. I didn’t want to speak too soon!!! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding posts to this series on nutrition, exercise, natural birth and basically anything I think can help another fellow mommy-to-be in need stay fit, healthy, avoid common pregnancy pitfalls and improve her odds of a great birth outcome.
So here we go….
Part 1: Prenatal Nutrition
Cover-My-Ass Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not your doctor. You should discuss you prenatal nutritional goals and plan with your midwife or OBGYN. And again, I am not your doctor.
Pregnancy is exciting, but quite frankly, it can also be confusing for women. Especially for those who are into fitness pre-pregnancy – there are a lot of nay-sayers out there who believe a pregnant women should just sit still, eat for two and cook that baby. You’ve gotta tune them out, and do what YOU FEEL is in your baby’s best interest. Let me say this again… all things relating pregnancy, birth, and how you raise your child need to be based on what YOU FEEL is right for you and your baby.
The following are my opinions, my experiences and the results of my research.
For the fit-gal… she has a choice to make. How does she want to spend the 9 (it’s really 10) months of her pregnancy? Some women quit exercise, take their prenatals and throw out any healthy eating guidelines, as they see this as their chance to “take a break and eat what they want”. Others take creating a new life inside them very seriously and maintain a healthy nutrition plan and exercise regime. And then there are all the shades between.
First let’s talk about the “throw everything out the window and eat approach”. That approach can have many negative consequences for you and for your baby. There are many common pregnancy symptoms like swelling, acid reflux, gestational diabetes, exhaustion, back aches, sleep issues etc.. that possibly can be alleviated or at at least reduced with proper nutrition and exercise. No, I’m not saying if you eat healthy and exercise that you are guaranteed to skip these symptoms throughout your pregnancy. I am saying that you are at least giving yourself a fighting chance, and will most likely reduce the intensity of many, if not eliminate some of them.
Overview of What To Eat: Let’s move into the common sense corner. If you are not pregnant and you eat processed sugar, processed carbs, pizza, burgers, fried foods etc… often – how do you feel? The answer is probably sluggish/tired, you probably have acid reflux/heart burn, your feet and hands may swell and you gain body fat quickly. And that pesky acid reflux can interrupt your sleep pattern or force you to take an over the counter antacid. Now, with pregnancy comes weird things like your baby takes up room pushing up your stomach which can increase acid reflux, you’re toting around more weight and your heart has to pump harder to circulate the extra blood volume you have. So, with those symptoms already there, if you eat those same processed, high fat acid-producing foods while pregnant you will most likely intensify those negative symptoms, making yourself really uncomfortable.
Now, when you eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, natural carbs and healthy fats, how do you feel? You probably feel great and have more energy. So, if you eat healthy foods during your pregnancy, you will reduce the symptoms that come from food alone and you will just be left with those brought on by the changes in your body. And when you’re pregnant, any relief in symptoms is appreciated! Trust me!
The Reality of “Eating for Two”: The reality of how much a women who is pregnant should be eating is much less than you think. The average pregnant woman needs only about 300 healthy calories more a day during the second and third trimester, than she ate before she was pregnant. This means an extra portion of a healthy whole grains and protein, extra salad or bowl of yogurt with fruit and granola. Many pregnant women have a hard time eating large meals later in pregnancy. Most healthcare professionals suggest many small snack/meals during the day to help get in the calories needed.
Craving Control: Can you still indulge a little extra? Of course. Many women have cravings, and some have food aversions. The key is to try to satisfy those unhealthy cravings with a SMALL PORTION of the not so great-for-you item or a healthier substitution. If I’m wanting something sweet like a cookie, I first try fruit. 9 out of 10 times, that cures the craving. But, when nothing but a cookie will do, I have a cookie, ONE cookie, not a bag of them. You can still practice portion and craving control even if you are pregnant.
What Should you drink while pregnant? Water, water everywhere. Water is probably one of the most important things you can drink during your pregnancy to stay healthy. Water will help keep you and your baby well-hydrated. Dehydration during pregnancy can lead to many complications such as headaches, nausea, cramps, edema and dizziness. The recommendation is 10 to 12 ounce glasses of water per day, and even more if you live in a hot or humid climate or are following an exercise program. Your urine should be pale yellow, if it’s not, drink more water. Also, you want to avoid drinking a lot of high-caffeine and high-sugar drinks as they have been linked to complications such as gestational diabetes, miscarriage and pre-term labor.
What Should You Eat?
The problem I personally found with prenatal nutrition advice is that there are TONS of articles and studies that tell you what NOT to eat. (If you want to read the “what not to eat” list, check out this Mayoclinic article).
However, few tell you what you SHOULD be eating! Well I’ve done the research for you.
Here’s my Top 10 Best Foods to Eat While Pregnant
1. Eggs: Eggs contain 12 vitamins and minerals, quality protein, they are rich in choline – all of which promote your baby’s overall growth and brain health, while helping prevent neural tube defects. Some eggs even contain omega-3 fats, important for both brain and vision development.
2. Salmon: Rich in omega-3s, quality protein and low-mercury levels make this the perfect fish to indulge on in moderation (no more than 12 ounces/wk). Not only does salmon help your baby’s growth, but it can boost your mood too!
3. Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3s that exist. In addition of healthy fats, they are rich in protein and fiber- both great additions to your prenatal diet.
4. Beans: Meet the vegetable with the most fiber! Yep, and fiber will go a long way to help avoid constipation and hemorrhoids when your gastrointestinal tract slows down as your pregnancy advances.
5. Dark Leafy Green Veggies: Folate, folate, folate!!! Yep, this is where you find tons of naturally occurring folate! In addition, you also get packed with vitamins A, C, and K!
6. Sweet Potatoes: This orange veggie is packed with carontenoids which convert to Vitamin A only as needed, so you’re not at risk of eating too much preformed Vitamin A like you can from animal sources. They are also a great source of vitamin C, folate, and fiber!
7. Greek Yogurt: Protein packed and filled with the calcium your baby needs to grow strong. Greek yogurt also offers the added bonus of helping you prevent GBS (Group B Strep), which you’ll be tested for around week 36. And passing the GBS test means no antibiotics when you get to the hospital to deliver your beautiful baby!
8. Whole Grains: Grains are filled with fiber and nutrients, including vitamin E, selenium, and phytonutrients.
9. Broccoli: Rich in calcium, folate, antioxidants and Vitamin C – all of which wll help you stay healthy during pregnancy. But broccoli also will help you absorb iron, which can prevent any deficiencies.
10. Healthy Fats: Healthy fats, which means basically non-animal fats, are extra important during pregnancy because they provide energy and help build many fetal organs and the placenta. Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil are all great choices of healthy fats! #
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Want more info? Check out the American Pregnancy Association Website for more tips!