Ensuring optimal nutrition during pregnancy is one of the best gifts you can give your baby. Doctors warn of the foods to avoid (cold cuts, excess caffeine, soft cheeses, alcohol, etc.) but few give detailed advice on what optimal pregnancy nutrition should look like. Pregnancy is that wonderful time when everyone offers unwanted advice and your body changes in ways you didn’t know possible. Since I’m now in the third trimester of pregnancy myself, and starting to really “feel” pregnant I am focusing on what I should be putting in my body so I can nourish my baby. So lets narrow a few things down on what you should be concentrating on during your pregnancy. Ideally the best time to begin a healthy pregnancy regimen is before you conceive. Having a strong nutritional system in place not only increases your odds of healthy conception, but will also help your body handle the transitions of early pregnancy without all the discomfort.
- Foods to focus on during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding
Protein: Most women need 80+ grams of protein every day for healthy pregnancy. Some research shows lower risk of preclampsia (a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure) and other complications with adequate protein, and some women report less morning sickness when they consume this much protein.
Fats: This is often the biggest hurdle for many women, but consuming adequate fats is absolutely vital to baby’s organ and brain development. Women should focus on healthy sources like meat (including red meat), butter or ghee, avocados, eggs and especially egg yolks, olive/oil, coconut/oil, nuts, limited dairy, etc.
Vegetables and Fruits: Vegetables and fruits have a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber that are helpful during pregnancy. Eating a varied diet including a lot of green leafy vegetables can also help raise Vitamin K levels.
Water: A woman’s blood volume actually increases during pregnancy and her body has to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid the baby is in. Drinking enough water (usually around a gallon a day which is about 15 cups) can help fight off morning sickness and also helps prevent constipation and make sure mom and baby are properly hydrated.
- Foods to avoid during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding
Caffeine: There are a lot of conflicting opinions on if caffeine is safe during pregnancy and if so, how much. It certainly isn’t necessary, and is best avoided. If you do consume caffeine, limit to one cup a day and not from soda.
Processed Foods: With up to 200 chemicals found in the umbilical cord blood of some babies, there is certainly good reason to avoid any unnecessary chemicals in foods or environment. Processed foods also offer little nutrition and can lead to constipation and blood sugar instability (which can cause morning sickness).
Vegetable Oils and Fats: As I’ve explained before, vegetable oils and other omega-6 fats are foreign to the body and there is no need for them. They have even been linked to cell mutation and cancers, and should especially be avoided by pregnant women due to the rapid cell development of the unborn baby.
Grains and Sugars: Grains and sugars are certainly not the most nutrient dense food choices, and in some people, they can even cause health problems. Pregnant women should focus on the most bioavailable and dense sources of nutrition, which means choosing meats, fats, and vegetables/fruits over grains, sugars and baked goods.
Supplements For Healthy Pregnancy
Supplement needs can vary by woman, and all supplements should be approved by a doctor or midwife to ensure safety during pregnancy. In general, pregnant women have higher nutrient needs and often supplements are the only way to get adequate nutrients.
These basic supplements are ones that are often beneficial during pregnancy:
Probiotics: Best obtained from high quality supplements, fermented foods, and beverages like water kefir and kombucha. Since a baby is born with a sterile gut and then has his or her gut bacteria begin to develop based on the beneficial (or not) gut flora of the mother this is an important factor! Adequate probiotics can also help reduce the risk of Group B strep, and have even helped get rid of Group B strep before delivery when probiotic supplements or organic plain yogurt are used vaginally.
Omega-3s, DHA, RHA– Adequate good fats are absolutely essential for baby’s development and it is difficult to get enough from diet. Supplementing high quality sources of these fats can help reduce risk of complications and give baby the necessary nutrients for good development. I get mine from Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
Vitamin D– This article reports that “Compared to women who took 400 IU of vitamin D daily, those who took 4,000 IU were half as likely to develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or preeclampsia, Wagner says. They were also less likely to give birth prematurely.” Vitamin D needs vary, but many doctors are now suggesting at least 4,000 IU and up to 10,000 IU a day. This can also be obtained from Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
Folate– Well known for its preventative effects against spina bifida and other developmental struggles, folate is another important supplement. The current recommendation is 400 micrograms, though many doctors recommend 2,000 micrograms or more for optimal development, and folate is water soluble and difficult to overdose.
Iron– Anemia can cause serious complications during delivery, and is easy to prevent. If blood tests show that iron levels are low, iron supplements may be necessary, but things like cooking with cast iron pans, eating red meat/grass fed liver and eating a variety of fats and vegetables can help optimize iron levels. I personally much prefer to get this from food rather than supplements.
Healthy mama=Healthy Baby