Active Moms’ Club is thrilled to introduce a new guest blogger and AMC partner – welcome, Registered Nutritionist Heather Sullivan! Heather is passionate about wellness, food, and raising a healthy family. Our pregnant mamas are always asking about nutrition and weight gain, so we asked Heather to share some tips about what to eat during pregnancy.
Researchers are discovering more and more that you are what your mother ate. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian with a holistic focus, and mother of two (with one on the way), I can help guide you on how to nourish yourself and your baby to have the healthiest possible pregnancy and baby.
Here are some of the most important nutrients in pregnancy, and how to get the most out of your diet:
Carbohydrates provide the main source of energy for the fetus and your body needs them when you’re pregnant. Cravings for these types of quick energy foods likely mean you need calories now because your blood sugar is low. Insulin levels increase in early pregnancy as a means of ensuring that mom (aka you) stores fat for later. This means your glucose or blood sugar can get low quickly making you not just want, but need calories. Aim for the least processed carbs you can find: beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, fruit, oats, rice etc. and combined with a protein and fat.
Protein is incredibly important in pregnancy and can be obtained from animal or vegetarian sources.
- Aim for 70-100 grams of quality protein per day (here’s a good resource on the protein content of many foods)
- 100% grass-fed beef, wild caught salmon and pastured chicken and eggs are great choices (I order meat, fish, and chicken from Wallace Farms. They service Chicago and other surrounding areas).
- Properly soaked beans and lentils (a favorite recipe here), nuts and seeds are also good sources of vegetarian protein.
- All of these foods contain various important pregnancy vitamins and minerals like choline, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin b12 and methionine and many others. These nutrients are being studied more recently, especially in their role in turning certain genes on and off in utero (known as epigenetics). To keep it simple, eating foods with these beneficial nutrients can be the positive influence on what genes (maybe those for cancer, asthma, autism etc.) our babies (and even grand babies) do or do not express one day.
A good balance of healthy fat is important in every diet, and especially when pregnant. Some of my favorite ways to achieve this balance is by eating a variety of the following:
- Avocado. Try this super simple honey-avocado butter for a snack or breakfast.
- Wild-caught fish, like salmon may have more nutrients than farm-raised fish. (I aim for about 8oz of wild-caught salmon per week plus take an omega 3 supplement). Avoid fish, such as swordfish or some types of tuna which have high levels of mercury, and can affect brain development of a fetus.
- Grass-fed beef also contains more omega-3 fats than grain fed beef as well as other quality saturated fats, grass-fed dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese) is also the best choice for the higher quality fats.
- Coconut oil (look for unrefined/virgin oil) is a great source of lauric acid which is antiviral, anti fungal and antibacterial and thus helps support you and your baby’s immune system. It’s also present in breast milk, consuming it now will help build your stores of this fat and increase the concentration in your milk if you breastfeed. This tropical oil may also help balance blood sugar and prevent gestational diabetes. Finally, coconut oil can also help with constipation. A little in hot water, coffee will help get things moving.
- Cooking oils should be heat stable when cooking at high temps, olive oil and canola oil isn’t recommended as it tends to oxidize and can cause damage to cells. Try switching to coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter) or grass-fed butter for cooking.
Fruits and Vegetables
People have asked me “what’s the best thing to eat during pregnancy”, while I don’t believe there is just one “best” food, one important food that most people don’t get enough of is leafy greens.
- I tried to include at least one hearty serving of leafy greens per day. This is accomplished with a green smoothie most days (this is my favorite recipe lately), and/or a big green salad. Kale chips are also a great healthy sub for potato chip cravings. Leafy greens are a good source of folate, calcium and a variety of other nutrients.
- Keep color in mind. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables means you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Here are two great recipes to help you “eat a rainbow”: sweet potato nacho bowls and veggie spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce
Craving pickles? Go for it! Just make sure you’re choosing lacto-fermented vegetables (as opposed to vinegar soaked) like Bubbies which contain billions of live and active healthy bacteria to keep your immune system strong and your gut healthy. A healthy gut and immune system is crucial as you’re passing this healthy bacteria on to your baby and giving her the best shot at a strong immune system. A healthy gut in babies and children is associated with fewer allergies (food, skin and environmental), less reflux, and possibly better behavior.
It’s vital to stay hydrated while pregnant, especially if you’re exercising. See the symptoms of dehydration and the benefits of staying hydrated here. Water is obviously great, water with lemon has tasted really good to me and coconut water is also very hydrating and full of electrolytes. These coconut water and fruit pops are the perfect hydration treat and these stainless steel popsicle molds are my favorite.
Do the best you can everyday to eat well, but most of all, try to relax, enjoy your growing baby (and body) and treat yourself and baby like the amazing miracles that you are right now!
Check out Green & Plenty for more information about healthy pregnancy (including great pregnancy fashion inspiration), raising healthy families, wellness and finding balance. Follow Green & Plenty on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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