Eating Well in Pregnancy, Part One: Eating Variety through Cravings and Aversions

Today’s post is the first of three guest posts by Laurie K. Meher. She is a Holistic Nutritionist and Mom specializing in family nutrition.   She shares recipes and information on baby and toddler food on her blog:  http://lkmnutrition.wordpress.com.

pregnancy-and-exhaustion

When you are pregnant it is important to remember that your baby will take all of its nutrients from you, Mom.   While it is comforting to know that your baby will always get what it needs, you need to take care of yourself.  Otherwise you will find that once baby arrives you will not have the basics of healthy nutrition to get you through some long nights, a few emotional days and many exciting times.

Eat a variety of whole foods

You need a lot more of many nutrients while you are pregnant.  Eating a variety of food will help you avoid boredom and enjoy the extra meals you need to consume now that you are eating for two (or three or more!)

This is not the time to diet.  Eat a diet that has plenty of fresh, real food.  Stay away from packaged convenience foods, refined carbohydrates, processed meats and fried, fatty food.  If you were overweight or underweight before your pregnancy it is important not to follow a diet, but to eat healthy whole foods.  Getting proper proportions of healthy food will ensure that you are getting the nutrition you need and in the correct amounts.  Eat throughout the day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner.  Depending on when you eat dinner, you may want to have a snack as you are leaving work, so that you are not ravenous when you get home. Your weight is best monitored by your doctor or midwife.  They know how much you are gaining and if it is occurring too quickly or slowly.

Choose Lean Protein – you need double the protein now that you are pregnant.  Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy are traditional sources for protein.  Don’t forget to also include nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes.  If you are a vegetarian, pair a legume with a grain (rice and beans) to get a complete protein and to feel more satisfied after a meal.

Select Whole Carbohydrates – stay away from ‘white’.  White bread, white rice, pastries and commercial muffins, crackers and cookies are refined and the nutrients have been removed.  Choose whole wheat and try grains like spelt, quinoa, rye and millet for variety and nutrition.

Pick Good Fats – Fat is essential to build your baby’s brain, but not the fat from french-fries!  The fat found naturally in food is recognized and assimilated by your body.  Avocado, nuts, seeds and coconut all have good healthy fat!  Olive oil, sunflower oil and other monosaturated fats are great.  The saturated fat found in organic meat and dairy are going to help you and your baby be strong and healthy.  Trans-fat, found in processed food, is very damaging to your health and should be avoided when you can.

In addition to the basics, there are vital vitamins and minerals you need to include in your diet.

Iron – Iron builds blood cells and you are building hundreds of blood cells for you and your baby throughout pregnancy.  Iron needs double in pregnant women, and it is difficult to get all of the iron you need.  To ensure you get good absorption, pair iron foods with citrus by squeezing fresh lemon juice over broccoli or spinach.  Do not take your iron supplement with milk or any other dairy product as calcium blocks iron absorption, so avoid putting cheese sauce on your broccoli and stay away from creamed spinach.

Fiber – Everyone needs lots of fiber in their diet, but in pregnancy digestion slows, so it is even more important.  If you already have a low-fiber diet, you may find that you become constipated, which may lead to hemorrhoids in later pregnancy.  Avoid refined grains, like white bread, white rice, commercial muffins and packaged crackers and cookies.  Whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, homemade muffins and cookies are best.  Of course fresh fruit and vegetables are great sources of fiber; eat them raw as much as possible.

Folic Acid – Required for nervous system development and cell production, most women have heard that folic acid is important and pre-natal supplements are high in this essential pregnancy nutrient.  To make sure that you are also getting folic acid in your diet, choose dark leafy greens, fish, and dairy, asparagus, barley, brown rice, dates, salmon and whole grains.

Hands Holding Vegetables

Calcium – Calcium builds bones and muscles.  Once you are pregnant, you need 50% more calcium!  To absorb calcium, fat is required, so choose higher fat yogurt and do not drink skim milk; 2% is best.  Remember that there are plenty of calcium-rich foods besides dairy.  Salmon (with bones), almonds, sesame seeds, yogurt, broccoli, blackstrap molasses and oats.

Probiotics – To keep your digestion healthy and to avoid yeast infections and illness, take a probiotic supplement.  Probiotics are available in food, but not to a level you require in pregnancy.  Look in the refrigerator at your health food store.

Managing Cravings and Aversions – In pregnancy cravings and aversions can be indicators of what your body needs or cannot handle.  There are ways of managing your cravings with healthy wholesome food.

Salty foods (Pickles, olives, sauerkraut, chips, etc) – You need some sodium.  Try to avoid the salt shaker, all food contains natural amounts of sodium.  Change all of the salt in your home to Sea Salt.  Sea salt is made from evaporated salt water, while table salt is from underground salt deposits.  Table salt is processed to remove trace elements, also iodine and anti-clumping materials are added.   Iodine is also naturally present in sea salt, in lower, but natural amounts.

Sweets – You need more energy.  Get it from whole raw fruit, not juice or whole grain homemade baked goods.

Meat – You are craving protein.  Add beans, nuts and seeds to your diet to avoid eating too much meat.

Chocolate – You need some magnesium, try dark organic chocolate if you must, but I’d rather see you get your magnesium from apricots, avocados, apples, and bananas.

If you have an aversion to food, no matter what I tell you, you will not eat it anyway.  But think beyond the aversion.  For example if you have a very strong aversion to raw vegetables, eat them cooked or steamed.  If you cannot eat a traditional salad, can you eat a salad with chopped carrots, cucumber, sweet peppers and fresh tomatoes?

Check back this Thursday for part two of this series: Anti-nutrition and Empty Calorie Food.

Comments

  1. I’m a nursing mom, and while I’ve always tried to eat healthy, I really do need constant reminders! I always like learning something new. Why is sea salt better than Morton’s style table salt? I know it tastes better, I assume it is easier on the environment, but is it healthier too? I look forward to hearing more from Laurie Meher.

  2. Andie, thanks for your question! I wrote more about sodium on my blog. you can check out the salt post at: http://lkmnutrition.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/thats-salty-a-k-a-labels-101-b/

    I hope it helps answer your question! If you need further information, feel free to send me a note via my blog.

    Enjoy your time with your little one!
    Laurie

  3. Great post! I just wanted to add that getting an adequate amount of Omega-3s (and not too much Omega-6s) is very important. There is a growing body of research about the benefits for the baby’s development, as well as for the mama’s health. I don’t know as much as I’d like, but my sister is doing her thesis on this topic and I am finding it very fascinating!

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