I recently met with Samantha Gunn and Ellen Turchini – both wonderful Doulas based on Sydney’s North Shore, offering Pregnancy, Birth and Postnatal Support Services. While we were chatting, they were telling me that a lot of mums-to-be would like a little extra guidance around what to eat to properly nourish their growing babies. As a result, I wrote this blog post to break it down and give you six easy foods to think about.
Nutrition Basics for Pregnancy
The saying “eating for two” implies that increasing our serving sizes is all it takes to support a pregnancy. In reality, building a new life requires an incredible amount of nutrients! This doesn’t just include energy, it includes physical “building blocks”. Every structure and every function in ours and our baby’s body is built on nutrients that you’ve eaten and absorbed. During pregnancy, your body will channel a large volume of nutrients into the creation of your baby’s body and brain. If the nutrients needed for this process are not abundant, the process will either: leave the mother very depleted; create a child who starts life nutritionally deficient; or both.
But there’s hope! By adjusting diet and supporting your body in the absorption of the nutrients you’re eating, you can assist yourself and your baby, no matter what stage you’re both at. There is so much that can be done with Nutritional Support.
Below are 6 Basic food suggestions to get your started on the right path to success!
1. Probiotic Foods
Probiotic foods offer such a wide range of health benefits to both you and your baby. Your stomach, and reproductive organs have a whole community of bacteria that are essential to our survival. Did you know that humans have more bacterial cells in them that human cells? How amazing! Having a healthy microbiome can help to pass on many advantages to your child for example: a healthier genetic profile, immune support, detoxification pathway support, decreased tendency towards anxiety and depression and a decreased likelihood of developing food allergies, autism, autoimmune disease and a laundry list of other issues.
Some examples of fermented food options include sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir, kimchi, sourdough starter, natto, kombucha, yogurt, fermented vegetables, or a fermented food of your choosing. Try to diversify as much as possible. A good target would be to include at least one or two servings of fermented food per day. Remember to always choose fermented foods that are still living. For example, sauerkraut sold on shelves at supermarkets is pasteurised before sale so be sure to choose something from the refrigerator that advertises live cultures – or ideally make it yourself at home.
2. Meats, fish and poultry
Animal foods nourish and build while plant foods cleanse. Pregnancy is a time where your body’s primary focus is to build that baby, so meats and animal fats are going to be incredibly important in balancing hormones and giving you’re the necessary building blocks to create a new life and keep your body nourished along the way. Meats and animal fats contain some of the most important vitamins and minerals for supporting a pregnancy (such as Vitamins A, D & K), your body uses cholesterol to produce the hormones required to support pregnancy and the fats and proteins that come from animal products are exactly what your body needs to manufacture the fats and proteins that will become your healthy baby.
Wherever your circumstances will permit, you should always be choosing fresh, organic, pasture-raised or wild-caught animal products.
Liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods we have and it’s full of the nutrients you need during pregnancy. It contains vitamins and minerals that protect and nourish, such as Vitamin A, B-Vitamins, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Chromium and Folate. You can prepare liver as a specific dish such as pâté, foie gras, liver bhuna, or something you enjoy. You can also very finely chop/grate a small amount into a minced-meat dish to hide it away.
Some lists of foods-to-avoid during pregnancy include liver because of it’s high Vitamin A content. Excessive doses of Vitamin A have been associated with birth defects, however including a moderaate amount of liver in your diet, has not been shown to be associated with birth defects and can arm you with a long list of health benefits.
A good amount of liver to include in your diet is one 100-gram serving of chicken, lamb or duck liver once or twice a week, (providing about 50,000 IU vitamin A per serving). Chicken liver is a good place to start as it is lower in vitamin A and has a mider flavour. If you experience headaches or joint pains at this level, cut back until the symptoms go away.
4. Egg Yolks
Egg yolks contain the cholesterol required to produce the sex hormones that are in abundance during pregnancy and it’s necessary for the healthy development of your baby’s brain. Egg yolks are also one of the best sources of choline which is also vitally important for your baby’s brain and neural development.
Have you ever tried eggs that didn’t come from a chicken? It’s a great idea to rotate through different types of eggs. This will give you a slightly different nutritional profile each time, as well as prevent the development of any intolerances to chicken eggs. You could try duck, quail, emu, or any other types you have access to.
5. Fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits
Pregnancy can be a very oxidative process on your body. Fresh vegetables and fruits provide the body with antioxidants to counteract those effects. Opting for non-starchy, fibre-rich vegetables can also help with issues commonly seen during pregnancy such as constipation. Green leafy vegetables are also a great source for folate which is vital to your baby’s development. If you can, it’s always best to opt for local, seasonal, organic vegetables. Farmers markets can be a great place to source beautiful fresh vegetables.
6. Bone Broth
Last but not least – bone broth! Bone broth is one of the most nourishing and restorative foods we have access to. It is absolutely packed with minerals and raw materials your body needs to build your baby’s bones, joints and connective tissue. It also works to heal and restore our intestinal lining which, again, can help yours and your baby’s immunity and a whole host of other benefits. Pregnancy is a time to nurture and support your body and bone broth is a perfect food to just that.
Need More Guidance?
Prenatal multivitamins and detoxification pathways can also be tested on you during one-on-one Nutritional Therapy Consultations. Alternatively, you could call or email me, and I’d be happy to talk through an action plan with you.