If you are pregnant and reading this, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! What an amazing feeling you must have! And I am so happy you are having a read of this blog post, where I will offer some advice on optimum nutrition.
Keeping healthy is by far and away mostly down to good nutrition.
If you already eat a well-balanced diet then now is absolutely the time to keep that up, if you don’t, then, again, now is the time to START. You don’t need me to tell you now that your baby growing inside you is relying on you to feed it with all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to grow into a healthy foetus.
Nutrition is defined as:
“the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth”
So from this you can see that the way you nourish yourself really does matter: you want foods that HELP health and growth, not take away from it. There are certain foods that I would highly recommend you eliminate from your diet now: these are processed foods, refined sugars, nonorganic dairy and meats and artificial sweeteners. These foods not only give your body absolutely nothing, they actually deplete your body of vital vitamins and minerals as your body struggles to deal with processing them.
Foods that should be avoided all together during pregnancy include non-pasteurized dairy products, soft cheese, undercooked or processed meats and poultry, undercooked eggs.
So, how much should you eat?
Dr David Richmond, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:
“It is in fact a myth that you need extra calories for the first two-thirds of pregnancy. It is only in the last 12 weeks that women need an extra 200 calories a day. A healthy diet, vitamin supplementation and physical activity will benefit both you and your baby during pregnancy; it will also help you to maintain a healthy weight after you have had your baby.”
My advice is this: Focus on keeping it Green, Lean, Whole and Fresh!
Keep it Green
- Leafy green vegetables: eat loads of these, because they are loaded with folate, a B vitamin that studies have shown reduces the chance of your child being born with neural tube defects (folic acid is the synthetic form of this). Green leafy vegetable (turnip greens, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli), beans (lentils, mung beans, black beans) and animal liver represent the three groups’ of “natural” foods that contain the highest levels of folate
- Avocados! These are also loaded with folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 (which help baby’s tissue and brain growth as well as eases morning sickness); avocados are a delicious way to get your vitamins. Spread some ripe avocado on your whole grain toast as a healthy substitute for mayo, or eat it whole with a squeeze of lemon and pinch of black pepper – and smear the reminder on your face for a highly nourishing face mask 🙂
Keep it Lean
- Protein: the amino acids in protein are the building blocks of every cell in your and your baby’s bodies. High-protein foods also keep your hunger at bay by stabilizing your blood sugar, which is why you should aim for three servings (that’s about 75 grams) of protein per day. Lean meat is an excellent option, since it’s also high in iron, critical to help your baby develop red blood cell supply and support yours, too. Iron also helps build baby’s brain by strengthening nerve connections. Aim for organic as much as possible and try different things, Venison is an excellent source of lean protein.
- Wild Salmon, sardines, Herring and Oysters: Packed with protein AND omega-3 essential fatty acids, most importantly a type called DHA. Research has confirmed that adding Omega-3 fats to the diets of pregnant women has a positive effect on visual and cognitive development of the baby, and higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce your baby’s risk of allergies. These healthy fats may also help reduce the risk of parental depression. In addition, research has found that women who consumed greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during the third trimester were less likely to show signs of major depression during pregnancy, and for up to eight months after the birth.
- Vegetarian options for Omega-3 include eggs, walnuts, chia and flax seeds; For Iron, look to dark leafy greens, cooked dried beans, quinoa, lentils, dried fruit and tofu.
- In order to increase the amount of Iron you absorb from your food, pair it with Vitamin C rich food like red bell peppers, citrus, tomatoes, strawberries or kiwi).
Keep it Whole
- Wholefoods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or as unprocessed and unrefined as possible before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Fruit and vegetables are classified as wholefoods, as are things like oats, lentils, nuts, and kefir – you should be eating all of these things:
- Lentils: back to Folate we go! Lentils are packed with it. Lentils also boast protein, vitamin B6 and iron. Plus they’re very intestine friendly.
- Oats are full of fibre (helpful if you’re dealing with constipation), B vitamins, iron and a host of other minerals. Fill your breakfast bowl with them, but don’t stop there, think about making a truly nutrient dense breakfast bowl! I like to make a green smoothie, by blending spinach, kale, celery, and avocado, blended with coconut milk and then add oats, a chopped banana or peach, handful of chia, walnut and pumpkin seeds, and any superfoods I have, like Bee Pollen, Cinnamon, Raw Cacao Powder, powdered greens etc. Here is a link to one I made recently for my Blog:
- I absolutely love devouring these breakfast bowls – they are delicious and provide variety, which really is the key to ensure you fill your body with baby-building vitamins and minerals.
- If you do feel constipated, don’t worry, it is really normal and is because, as well as many other parts of your body, your digestive tract relaxes from very early on. There is more room in it meaning food does not get squeezed through as easily as possible. Fibre rich-foods will help so make sure you eat fibre rich foods daily:
- Oats – mentioned above
- Brown or wholegrain rice. White rice doesn’t offer as much fibre.
- Beans and Pulses: chickpeas and lentils are full of fibre, high protein and low fat.
- Nuts! In particular Almonds (the King of Nuts because they are so nutritious – high in healthy fats, protein, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin E), pecans, and walnuts have more fibre than other nuts.
- Sweet Potato (the skin is the important bit!)
- Dried fruit. If fresh fruit isn’t available, dried fruit offers a fibre-full snack. A 50g portion of dried figs is 4g fibre..
- Kefir is a fermented milk drink, cultured from kefir grains. It is a rich source of calcium, protein and B-vitamins, and also a great pro-biotic, which will help your digestive tract too! Calcium is important and there are many rich sources out there – I advise looking beyond cow’s milk and yogurt as our bodies actually absorb more calcium from foods like Almonds and Bok Choy. Below are some vegan sources of calcium, try to include daily:
- Chia seeds 300 mg per 1.5 ounces serving
- Collard greens 210 mg per ½ cup serving
- Kale 205 mg per ½ cup serving
- Bok Choy 190 mg per ½ cup serving
- Figs 135mg per 5 fig serving
- White Beans 120 mg per ½ cup serving
- Turnip Greens 104 mg per ½ cup serving
- Spinach 99 mg per ½ cup serving
- Almonds 93 mg per ¼ cup serving
- Sesame Seeds 51 mg per 1 tablespoon serving
Tips to get more into your diet include:
- Add legumes and beans to a chili or stew
- Make omelettes packed with green veg
- Add nuts to your oats in the morning,
- Chia seeds soaked overnight in plant-milk make a DELICIOUS and highly nutritious breakfast, similar in consistency to rice pudding
- Mix tofu as well as kale and other greens into soups
- Top salads with broccoli, seaweed, almonds and sunflower seeds
- Spread almond butter or hummus on whole grain or pita bread
Keep it Fresh
- Fresh Fruit, Fresh Vegetables, and as much as you can organic especially for the following “Dirty Dozen”, or so: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers, kale.
- The fruits and veggies I advise eating the most of are highly beneficial for 4 reasons:
- Antioxidant power: meaning they quench oxidative damage which underlies the whole ageing process
- Polyphenol Power: These often protect us from infection but also, in a highly intelligent way, seem to switch off disease processes and switch on healthy genetic switching that help us stay healthy and live long.
- Skinny Sirtuins: nicknamed the ‘skinny’ genes because they help you burn fat and build muscle. The first identified was resveratrol in the red skin of grapes and peanuts. Others include green tea, cocoa powder, turmeric, kale, onions, olives, parsley
- Contain Anti-cancer salvestrols: these are molecules found in common plants that have a strong anticancer effect.
- Get as many of these as possible onto your shopping list: Blueberries, Kale, Olives, blackcurrant, Broccoli, Cherries, Artichokes, Turmeric, Ginger, Cinnamon, Red Cabbage, Avocado, Asparagus, Apple, Onions, Watercress, Beetroot, Basil, Parsley, Watermelon, Aloe Vera, Cucumber, Spinach, Mint, Cauliflower and Oregano
- Focus mainly on the vegetables, 5 servings of veg and 2 of fruit per day is a good rule of thumb. A really simple way to increase the amounts of fruit and vegetables you get into your diet is with smoothies. They are nutritious, delicious, easy to digest, will increase your energy, stabilise your blood sugar levels and give you an instant burst of all the nutrients you need to nourish yourself and your baby. This smoothie below is FULL of pregnancy goodness:
- Half a ripe avocado
- Half a juicy mango
- Handful of spinach
- Handful of kale
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 cup almond milk
- 10 almonds
- 10 walnut halves
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon Maca (optional, if you have it – Maca is a fantastic superfood for women who are either trying to get pregnant, or are, as it balances the female hormones, It contains 31 different minerals and 60 phytonutrients and is nourishing for the endocrine system, aiding the pituitary, adrenal & thyroid glands – all involved in hormonal balance. It has been scientifically researched for the use of increasing fertility since 1961 and has been shown to contain specific compounds called glucosinolates which directly affect fertility for both men and women. In women, maca works by controlling oestrogen. Oestrogen levels that are too high or too low at the wrong time can keep a woman from becoming pregnant or keep her from carrying to term. Excess oestrogen levels can cause progesterone levels to become too low. Taking maca may help to increase the progesterone levels which are essential to carrying a healthy pregnancy)
- Add water if desired or needed (depending on size of blender)
What else can you do? Well, You may also want to consider supplementing your diet:
- Royal Jelly is AMAZING! It is one of nature’s richest health foods, containing a wide range of essential nutritional elements, including: Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B7, B8, B9 (folic acid), B12 and Vitamin C. it also contains 30 amino acids (essential for the building of proteins and each cells genetic structure) plus the elements of iron, potassium, sodium, chromium, manganese and nickel.
- Omega-3s (I have mentioned above). Taking a high quality, purified fish oil supplement, as well as eating foods that are rich in omega-3s.
- Maca Root Powder (which I mention above)
- Probiotics are also critical, especially during pregnancy. Babies are born with a completely sterile gut and they culture their beneficial gut bacteria from what they receive from their mother when passing through the birth canal and from nursing in the months afterward. A high quality probiotic will help ensure that your baby will get a good dose of beneficial bacteria, which can reduce risk of illness in the first few years.
- If you prefer a traditional Combination support: Zita West: Vital Essence is a great new pregnancy supplement, split by trimester, it contains all the vitamins and minerals you need in one go
Finally, and probably most important of all, STAY HYDRATED – this is more important now than ever, especially if you continue exercising. Don’t be tempted to drink less because you are weeing so much! Drink until your urine is a pale yellow or clear colour – anything darker than that is a sign you are dehydrated and so is your baby. Start the day off with a pint of water and a hot water with ginger and lemon, Get in the habit of carrying water with you everywhere and have a 2 litre bottle on your desk at work or at home.
I hope you find this useful and wish you a very healthy, happy pregnancy, as does this baby Llama 🙂