Mothers-to-be are often clear on the foods to avoid during pregnancy, but foods and nutrients that should be added to a pregnant woman’s diet are often overlooked. Much can be done nutritionally to help optimize pregnancy, delivery, baby’s immediate and long-term health, and help with postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) symptoms. Here are my Top 5 nutrition tips that you can implement today to support you and your baby’s overall health during pregnancy.
Eat nutrient dense real whole foods: Think fruits, vegetables and animal-based products in their whole forms – foods with the least amount of processing possible. Many foods have something called nutrient synergy, which helps support micronutrient absorption and utilization. A great example is bone-in, skin-on chicken instead of boneless skinless chicken. The healthy fats in the skin not only contain beneficial collagen but also help with the absorption of nutrients found in chicken meat. Another important consideration when choosing whole foods is that they can help stabilize blood sugar and don’t contain any additives, natural flavors, gums, sweeteners or preservatives. Try eating an apple instead of dried apple rings, or eating green beans instead of veggie sticks.
Increase your protein– The CDC currently recommends 60g of protien per day. But there are current research studies that say the protein needs of pregnant mothers is much higher: around 80g per day for the first 20 weeks and around 100g of protein for the second 20 weeks! Protein is key to providing important amino acids which are quite literally the building blocks to everything in our body, therefore helping to build baby’s skin, muscles, and connective tissues. Protein-rich foods are a great source of many important micronutrients that our bodies need in higher amounts during pregnancy. Increased protein has also been shown to help prevent and treat preeclampsia and can help to reduce the swelling that may occur in late pregnancy.
Reduce toxin exposure– We are surrounded by toxins on a daily basis from those on/in our food, skincare and beauty products, cooking and storage products, household cleaning products, the bottoms of our shoes, unfiltered water, etc. Research studies that have shown that these environmental toxins can (and do) pass through the umbilical cord to baby. It can seem overwhelming at first but remember: the goal is not to eliminate every toxin from our environment because honestly that is impossible! Instead, we should do the best we can, one step at a time. A great place to start is to follow the EWG Clean-15 and Dirty Dozen, take your shoes off at your front door and start to replace some of your skin/beauty and cleaning products once you finish your current ones. Minor changes can have a substantial impact!
Blood sugar stabilization- Due to hormone changes during pregnancy, insulin resistance increases as our pregnancy progresses. Whether or not you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, maintaining stabilized blood sugar levels daily during your pregnancy can help avoid many pregnancy complications. A few great ways to do this include hitting protein goals from above, eating protein and fat before something sweet or high in carbs, eating a fat/protein along with higher sugar/carb foods, and sticking to lower glycemic foods. For example, you might eat an apple with almond butter instead of an apple by itself. Or have something sweet following a dinner that was rich in protein and fat, like chicken thighs and roasted vegetables. Eating strategically when it comes to higher sugar/carb foods can really help to blunt your body’s insulin spike and help levels to remain steady all day.
Animal products are critical- Many nutrients that are important during pregnancy are found in animal products such as dairy, eggs, seafood, and meat. Prioritizing these foods during pregnancy can help to make sure your getting the nutrients that you and baby need. Some of the most important nutrients that you can’t get on a vegetarian diet are B12, Choline, Glycine, Vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin K2, DHA, Iron, and Zinc. If you decide not to consume animal products during pregnancy, you will want to supplement those gaps in your diet.
*Written for Mainline Family Education