We all know how critical eating healthy is, but now it’s more important than ever -- you are growing your family inside you! Think about this: every time you sit down to a meal, grab a snack or debate eating a slice (or five slices) of cake, you have a tiny, little dining companion who always says, “I’ll have what you’re having, Mommy!” It changes your perspective a little bit right?
Based on my own experiences with three pregnancies, along with what I’ve learned over the past seven years about healthy eating habits during pregnancy and the direct connection to your child’s eating habits, I’ve come up with a list of seven principles for eating well during pregnancy. Please be sure to run any dietary decisions past your doctor prior to making changes. You should feel good but be safe too!
1. Fine-tune your diet. Now, more than ever, it is important to think about every bite of food going into your body. Think about what you truly need and what you can do without. Remember to note that your baby can actually taste what you are eating because the amniotic fluid takes on the flavors of your diet. Take advantage of this! Try to “introduce” every food under the sun so when your baby is starting solids, he or she will truly be ready for these “new-ish” flavors! It is also important to think about organic produce and avoiding GMO’s during this time.
2. Start taking a prenatal vitamin and make efforts to purge toxins. Speak with your obstetrician about what vitamin would work best for you. Since most women experience either exhaustion or nausea during the first trimester, taking a prenatal vitamin will ensure you are ingesting the bare minimum nutrients for your growing baby. This is something you can do even before you are pregnant and when you are preparing your body to become pregnant. When a woman has her first baby, 90% of the toxins in her body are purged during childbirth by transferring to the baby.
One thing I wish I knew when I was pregnant with my first son is that you can actually purge toxins in advance of delivery. Strawberries are known to pull toxins out of the body – I highly recommend having a big bowl about an hour after having any seafood, to pull out potential toxins like mercury. Also, chlorella – a single-celled 1,000-year-old algae -- is one of the most effective detox options around. It is considered a near-perfect food. We all know that mercury is responsible for roughly 60,000 neurological defects every year. There have been extensive studies conducted on mice with and without up to 10% of their diets consisting of chlorella while pregnant – post-delivery, the babies of the mice who consumed chlorella did not even have a trace of mercury in their blood, while those who did not consume chlorella had a trace to serious levels of mercury in their babies.
3. Eat the rainbow. Don’t diet. Letting go of my waistline as my belly grew with my first pregnancy was a bit challenging, but I realized how important it was to grow a healthy and strong baby. Now is not a time to diet. Clue into your body’s cravings, as they are an indicator to what nutrients you need. In the first trimester, you only need an additional 150–300 calories a day. Just adding an apple to your diet is enough to satisfy this need. I always advise women to take a step back when thinking about their diet. Don’t look at your day’s consumption, or even the week’s consumption, but rather look at the month of food you are eating. If your diet resembles a rainbow, then you are doing well. Each color represents important nutrients and vitamins; for example the orange from a sweet potato is from beta-carotene. If you’re not a fan of sweet potatoes, you can try carrots or cantaloupe instead and benefit just the same.
4. Eat smaller amounts, more often. If you are napping a lot or are queasy from morning sickness, you may not feel like eating normal-sized meals. So mini-meals and snacks may fit the bill. Try to keep something in your stomach, like frozen fruit pops, coconut yogurt or carrots with hummus. Nothing too heavy or acidic should do the trick. If you are eating less overall, try to make every calorie count. Don’t splurge on a 600 calorie cupcake. Instead, have a bowl of fruit, lentil soup with kale and half a tomato to maximize the nutritional benefit of your calories.
5. Drink a LOT of water! This is a no-brainer, but life as an expecting mommy can be busy, and it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. As I previously mentioned, I suggest that you have 6 small meals throughout the day (rather than 3 large ones). If you drink a glass of water with each of your 6 meals that already covers 6 of your 8 recommended glasses of water for the day. You can also download an app for your phone to remind you when to drink water. You can even eat your water – think about fruits like watermelon, apples and pears. Almost 90% of the content is water so you satisfy your hunger and thirst at the same time. Lastly, you can breathe your water through humidifiers (in the winter months). They are incredibly effective and hydrating!
6. Skip alcohol, cigarettes & unpasteurized dairy products. I think most everyone knows how toxic alcohol, cigarettes and unpasteurized dairy products are during pregnancy, but it’s important to reiterate the risks. Unpasteurized dairy products can contain potentially harmful bacteria, so it is prudent to save the creamy cheeses like brie for post-pregnancy. There have been several studies lately talking about how careful we really need to be when it comes to alcohol and crossing the blood of our babies; however, the topic is still up for debate. I personally believe that until we know 100% about the potential risks, it is best to significantly limit or completely stop alcohol consumption. Cigarettes are not good for you with or without a growing baby in your body, so pregnant or not, I would highly encourage you to break the habit and seek medical help if necessary.
7. Indulge once in awhile. We can’t all be saints. If you’re walking past Magnolia Bakery and see that icebox cake in the window, go for it. In moderation. An indulgence once a week is perfectly fine, but try to keep it in check.
Pregnancy should not be a stressful time in life. Embrace your body’s changes and listen to what you need. Mother’s intuition starts now, so do your best to follow what works for you and your little (growing) family.