Adopting a good nutritional program is an important aspect of prenatal care. It is a myth that you need to “eat for two”. You need to eat for one adult and one growing infant. The average woman should gain between 25-35 pounds during her pregnancy. Eating for two “adults” can lead to excessive weight gain and leave you at risk for high blood pressure, increased joint pain, heartburn, and a potentially more challenging delivery. The more weight you gain, the more you have to lose after your pregnancy.
Maintaining adequate levels of the healthy essential fat DHA (from fish oil) for you and your growing baby is essential. Low levels of dietary intake will cause your body to take it from your brain to help with the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. This can lead to “brain fog” during pregnancy or “mommy brain” and lead to very serious postpartum depression. Unfortunately, most food sources, like fish, that contain DHA naturally have high levels of contaminants like heavy metals, as in fish and their consumption must be very limited.
It is very important to supplement both during and after pregnancy with a high quality DHA supplement that has been tested to be free of contaminants. This will help ensure that the baby has ready access to the the essential building blocks of their brain and nervous system and not steal it from yours.
A balanced diet is important to help you maintain energy levels and adequate nutritional levels for both you and your baby. Eating only “one thing” may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Organic food has very little or no harmful herbicides and pesticides. It will also be non-genetically modified. Grass fed meat and free-range poultry have a healthier fatty acid makeup and will actually have healthy CLA and Omega 3 fats in them. If you do eat fish make sure it is wild caught and not farm raised as only the wild caught has healthy fats in it and has not been fed grain or antibiotics. It is however, recommended to limit your fish intake due to heavy metal toxicity.
Each meal should contain a combination of healthy nutrient dense sources of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. By making nutrition a priority and planning ahead it will become a habit and a very healthy one at that. Remember, you are going to have a little one watching you very closely in the very near future. Your behavioral modeling will form the basis of the habits that they will develop.
Here are some healthy meal options:
This is the most important meal of the day for many reasons. Your body has been fasting for 8 or more hours. You need to “break” the “fast”. During the “fast” your baby has been taking the nutrition it needs to grow during that time from your body and you need to replenish your reserves for both you and the baby. Your blood sugar is at an all-time low which causes your brain to have to work harder to focus. You may get light-headed easily, and if your blood sugar gets too low, you could faint. This is one of the best times for your body to absorb nutrients so please feed it healthy, high-quality foods and begin to re-hydrate yourself with water.
Here are a list of high quality choices
Here is a list of poor choices
Snack: mid morning
Eating small portions consistently throughout the day will give your body and your baby the consistent supply of building blocks that it needs to flourish. It will also help with or prevent hearthburn/reflux.
Examples of healthy quality snacks
Eat a moderate size lunch with a mixture of healthy carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. This is a great time for a large fresh salad with nuts or olive, hemp or other nut or seed oil on it. Leftovers from dinner the night before are an easy option. A sandwich with meat and veggies can add variety. Veggies with hummus or hard boiled eggs and a salad also work.
What not to eat
Junk food: chips, pretzels, sugary foods, soda, fruit juice. These are empty calories and will cause you to gain excessive weight without providing any nutritional value.
Snack mid afternoon: same as mid morning
Dinner should consist of a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Try not to eat after 7pm. You want to give your body time to digest before bed. This will decrease the chance of reflux. Fresh vegetables are a great source of fiber and essential nutrients. You can mix in some superfoods like Goji berries and blueberries. This is a good time to mix in some organic coconut oil.
It is ok to splurge and have dessert but portion size is important. Do not eat the whole pint of ice cream. Pay attention to suggested portion sizes. Cravings are common and it is ok to indulge them but remember portion size and remember to try not to eat after 7pm or within 2 hours before you will go to bed.
We recommend that you plan ahead and make a menu for one month intervals. This gets you in a routine of eating healthy and lets you plan for shopping and preparation. This routine will also make it easier to stay on a good schedule once the baby arrives. Weekends are a great time to prepare for the rest of the week. Chop fruit and veggies on Sunday night. Have bread, veggies and meats ready to go during the work week. We have made a suggested two week menu and shopping list with some recipes for you at www.eathealthymommy.com and our Facebook page.
A great whole food prenatal vitamin with 600 to 800 mcg of folic acid
DHA choose a good clean supplement that provides you with 450mg DHA per serving. This is best taken with a meal or food that also has fat in it. Many supplements now are deodorized. If you burp a fish flavor or get indigestion from it then try freezing them and taking one with dinner or right before bed.
D3 ask your healthcare professional to have blood testing to measure your vitamin D levels and then supplement with a natural D3 to raise your levels to the high end of the normal range and then take a maintenance dose. Usually most people need 1000-4000 IUs of D3 per day for a maintenance dose.
Your body will be increasing its blood volume and additional water will be required. Hydration is key. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere and drink from it regularly. Try to drink at least 64 ounces of pure water a day. Set a goal of taking 4 gulps of water every hour. You can mix it up by adding a slice of lemon, lime or orange, or making your own or purchasing carbonated water. Make sure it does not have any artificial sweeteners in it.
Please do not underestimate how important hydration is – it’s important for you and your baby.