Is there such a thing as a pregnancy diet? YES! Learn about what and how much of each food group you should be consuming, the nutritional value of food versus pill vitamins, and the real story behind good fats and salt. If you don't have time to read this pregnancy blog, listen to this pregnancy podcast which is perfect for all women, who are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and want answers for the best information about pregnancy that there is to date.
What is Pregnancy Diet?
There is no such thing as a “pregnancy diet,” but being pregnant you should be eating “real food.” Nutritional foods are the best way of taking in nutrients, and if you are interested in learning more read "Real Food for Pregnancy" by Lily Nichols.
Healthy babies are the result of learning from historical cultures that had good eating habits. Groups from the 1900s like Swiss (who still have one of the most stringent food regulations to this day), Eskimos, Malay tribes, Maori of New Zealand, Native Pacific Islanders – Polynesians, Australian Aborigines, and South Americans of the Amazon basin where my family is from, Peru. They all have nutrient content of foods in comparison to imported foods. The difference was dramatic, and their children did not suffer health problems like tooth decay, narrow palate, crooked teeth, club foot, neural tube defects, poor immune health like tuberculosis, psychological problems as cultures who ate foods of modern commerce like sugar and refined grains.
Real foods maximize nutrient density, meaning the about of absorbed nutrients per item that you eat. Fresh in-season vegetables that are grown without pesticides, minimally processed foods, full-fat dairy from grass-fed cows, and foods that don’t have a label.
Before I start talking about what and how much you should be eating during your pregnancy, make sure you know the 5 foods you SHOULD NOT eat because they are detrimental to the health of your baby in Pregnancy Pukeology Podcast Episode 5 "Foods To Avoid While Pregnant Pregnancy Pukeology Podcast Episode 5" on Spreaker.
The meal breakdown looks like a pie cut into fourths, where vegetables take up half, carbs are ¼, and protein and fats are the other ¼.
2 cups+ adding some fat like butter or olive oil
Non-Starchy Vegetables have little effect on blood sugar and are great sources of fiber. Fiber is especially helpful for keeping you pooping by acting as fuel for your intestinal bacteria (probiotics), but it also slows down how quickly your body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar.
Vegetables are better absorbed when eaten with some fat. I know you’ve been told your whole life that fat is bad but think of good fat as your baby’s brain food since their tiny brain is 60% fat.
Get your baby use to healthy foods in utero, and YES your baby can “taste” what you’re eating via your amniotic fluid. Make non-picky eaters all in your belly.
0.5 to 1 cup of starchy or carbohydrate-rich foods
Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient or something that gives you energy, that significantly raises your blood sugar. If you eat too many of these carbs, your baby can grow unhealthily large (medically known as macrosomia), and on average pregnancy weight gain is 18 pounds heavier than women who ate mainly unprocessed carbs. It’s so sad that 49-52% of adults in the US have either diabetes or prediabetes and that it's on the rise at an alarming rate according to the Journal of American Medical Association.
A high carbohydrate diet during pregnancy is also linked to an increased chance of developing Gestational Diabetes, preeclampsia, gall bladder disease (gallstones), and babies having metabolic problems like heart disease later on in life. But ALL carbs aren’t bad! Great sources include carbs from starchy vegetables, legumes (like beans, lentils, split peas), fruits, milk, and yogurt too. Anything from grains like flour has a higher glycemic index than those that I just listed.
- Protein & Fat:
3-4 oz of protein, and go ahead and eat the fat on the skin of the chicken (it’s good for you).
Do you remember being a kid and hearing don’t eat the yoke? Well, the age-old debate is still going strong. I’m here to tell you to eat the yolk, especially while pregnant because it is an excellent source of choline, a relative of B-vitamins. 94% of women do not get the 450mg of choline needed per day. A low choline diet is a major risk factor for neural tube defects.
You also get a lot of Vitamin A in egg yolks, which is important for proper lung and liver development, and a lack of Vitamin A is highly associated with a low birth weight baby.
Omega 3 fat, also called DHA, is found in fatty fish, seafood, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised eggs and is important in developing the baby’s brain and vision. Too many oils like corn, soy, cottonseed, and safflower oil inhibit the synthesis or creation of DHA. Usually, in processed foods like salad dressing and fried foods, the amount of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is skewed 30:1, and infants of women with this high ratio are twice as likely to experience developmental delays.
So what fats are good with your protein? Chicken skin, steaks, and full-fat dairy. There is strong evidence showing eating high-fat dairy improves fertility, and those women pregnant thru IVF have the highest chances of a live birth who consumed dairy products with mostly dairy fat.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that all pregnant women should drink about 100z of fluids a day. It is over six water bottles! Now, remember that the milk in your cereal and decaffeinated tea also counts as your total. Your pee should be a pale yellow signifying you are well hydrated. If you are curious about how your bladder changes during the third trimester check out Episode 11 "Frequent Urination In Pregnancy from Early Signs Of Pregnancy to Third Trimester" on Spreaker.
Salt, sodium chloride, is the body's electrolyte. Redistributing itself by shifting water inside and outside of the cell. Pregnant women are well known for cramping because they are not getting enough of these two electrolytes plus potassium. Salt supports normal stomach acid levels by supplying chloride (it is the chloride in hydrochloric acid, and the hydrogen is the acidic portion causing the pH to be very low). Good stomach acid pH is needed to absorb minerals and vitamin B12, protein digestion, and pathogenic bacteria the food you eat leaves in your stomach. Now ladies with pre-eclampsia, please reduce your salt intake. Everyone else add a little salt to your kale (it makes it taste WAY better).
If you are experiencing any nausea, migraine or cannot fall asleep when it is bed time, try NoMo Bands. They provide natural relief within seconds and will become a part of your essentials.
Healthy pregnancy snacks
Conventional nutrition suggests that pregnant women eat fortified foods during pregnancy like cereal with fortified folic acid and iron while ignoring the foods that are sourced naturally. And low-fat diets are thought as favorable, but they lack the richest food sources of Vitamin A, choline, iron, and zinc.
Did you know that only 25% of accredited US medical schools require a nutrition course? (I did in traditional medicine, but I was required as a naturopath.) So if our doctors aren’t talking about nutrition, who else is?
It’s all about quality over quantity. Ladies, you are NOT eating for two. It is suggested that after your first trimester you need about 300 extra calories per day, which is about an extra snack.
Here’s a list of some great low-carb snacks.
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds
- Beef jerky without MSG (a preservative found in a lot of Chinese foods for flavor, but it is linked to headaches and migraines. Check out www.NoMoMigraine.com for natural relief for both.)
- Plain greek yogurt and some berries
- Guacamole with celery and bell peppers
- Small balsamic salad with pine nuts and goat cheese
- Hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper
- Deviled egg
- Caprese Salad (tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinegar)
- Olives and dill pickles (who doesn’t like the two when pregnant)
- Kale chips
- Grilled chicken breast with pesto and parmesan
Now let’s get into the meal breakdown. For your convenience we made it in a picture, so you could easily print it out and put on the fridge.
Vegetarian mommies head over to Chapter 3 of "Real Food for Pregnancy" by Lily Nichols to see what alternatives are necessary for healthy eating habits for herbivores.