Eating Well Before and During Pregnancy
Things you need to know:
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the health of our bodies. This is especially so for both potential parents when planning to have a baby and for women during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Taking specific vitamins or multivitamin supplements has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, we can generally obtain adequate amounts of all our required vitamins and minerals through a varied and whole food well-balanced diet. Therefore, supplementing is rarely required.
There are some circumstances in which supplementing may be recommended (for example, folic acid is recommended for at least one month before conception and the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) and supplementing may be beneficial for people who are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. This can be the case if you smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol regularly, have eating disorders (such as anorexia or bulimia) or have an inadequate or restrictive diet.
What is not as well known is that care must be taken when supplementing with high doses of vitamins and minerals because it is possible to ‘overdose’ on them. This can lead to health conditions and/or unwanted side affects, because the excess vitamins and minerals have become toxic to the body.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to be especially careful.
NOTE: Excess levels of certain vitamins (especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) have been shown to cause birth defects. They may also pose health concerns for newborn babies while breastfeeding. Therefore it is important to be guided by your caregiver’s (or health practitioner’s) recommendations if considering supplementing with ANY minerals and vitamins during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Be aware that most components of low dose multivitamins are generally regarded as safe, but may contain one or more vitamins that provide too much (or in the case of folic acid, too little) than necessary. ALWAYS check the labels.
Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins
Vitamins can be classified as either ‘fat-soluble’ or ‘water-soluble’. This is explained as follows:
These are vitamins A, D, E and K. Foods with fat-soluble vitamins are regarded as being ‘stable’ because ordinary cooking does not usually damage their vitamin content. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in body fat and can be stored in your liver and fat tissue. The vitamins are stored whenever there is extra in the body that is not immediately needed. This allows a person to draw on these body stores weeks or months later, at times when their diet does not include them. However, being able to store fat-soluble vitamins also means they can more readily accumulate to toxic levels in the body, particularly if supplements are taken. It is important to be careful about overdosing on fat-soluble vitamins, especially when pregnant.
These are vitamins C and the B group vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins do just as they say, ‘dissolve in water’. Therefore, foods containing them can be leached of their vitamin content by normal cooking and soaking in water.
Most water-soluble vitamins do not tend to accumulate in the body like fat-soluble vitamins. Any excess amounts of vitamins are usually excreted by the kidneys through the urine and we generally need to eat foods daily that contain water-soluble vitamins. However, there are some water-soluble vitamins that can be stored in the body and excessively high daily supplements of water-soluble vitamins can stay in the body long enough to be harmful and care should be taken when taking mega-doses, especially during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Vitamins are organic. Therefore many are unstable when heated, meaning their content in foods can be depleted when cooked in certain ways.
Major and trace minerals
Minerals can be classified as either ‘major’ or ‘trace’. Major minerals are not necessarily more important to the body than trace minerals; however they are needed by the body in much larger quantities. The major minerals include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Some trace minerals include iodine, iron, selenium and zinc.
Minerals are not organic. Therefore they are chemically stable and are not destroyed by heating (like vitamins are). However, minerals can be lost if foods are cooked in water and the minerals leach into the water that is then poured down the drain.
An excellent pregnancy diet gives your baby the best start in life. Many cultures the world over feed pregnant women a special diet. They even feed women planning to conceive a special diet!
Many midwives and doctors teach good nutrition which gives you and your baby a solid foundation. They know good prenatal nutrition is a way to prevent many pregnancy complications. Traditional societies with excellent nutrition produced strong, vigorous babies – and mothers had good pregnancies and births.
It’s smart to be proactive about your prenatal nutrition. It’s the easiest and most vital step you can take to have a naturally healthy baby!
If you have a pre-existing medical condition it’s prudent to structure your diet with the help of a nutritionist who specializes in pregnancy nutrition. A nutritionist may be more knowledgeable about pregnancy nutrition than an obstetrician (whose training doesn’t include much on nutrition).
The Basics of Pregnancy Diet
Pregnancy diet is a cornerstone of good prenatal care – and it’s almost entirely up to you. A good pregnancy diet helps you feel better and builds up your body – giving you an excellent chance at a natural birth. Pregnancy is not a time to loose weight or to go on restrictive diets that may compromise the health of you or your child! Trends have leaned more and more towards pregnant women restricting their intake (and fats). This is dangerous for you and for your baby. Instead of restricting your intake use this strategy – remove processed, refined foods full of sugars and empty calories. Replace them with nourishing whole foods.
Pregnancy creates nutritional stress for every woman – you are building another human being – from scratch! Even if you eat well pre-pregnancy you’ll want to make some changes to create a good pregnancy diet.
A whole foods selection is the basis of a good pregnancy diet. So many special factors come into consideration with pregnancy. Protein forms the building blocks of your baby and is a solid foundation to build your pregnancy diet on. Get plenty of protein! Meats and beans (and legumes) are excellent sources of protein. Milk and eggs are packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats – enjoy them daily.
Animal Products and Fats
Yes – you and your baby need these. I firmly believe that humans need animal products – especially for reproduction and as growing children. A vegetarian diet should include plenty of dairy and eggs, and fish would be great. An omnivore diet is best. It will give you and your child the very best health – and the health of your child lies squarely in your hands.
Plenty of good meats will benefit you and your baby. Fish and shellfish are especially good for you. Eggs are also excellent. Try and obtain grass fed meats and wild-caught fish. Meat that has been fed on pasture without any growth hormones or antibiotics is best for you. Wild-caught fish have been eating a normal fish diet and living a normal fish life. Fish, cows, chickens, pigs, etc. all do better when they eat their natural diet – and in turn their meat is better for you.
Dairy products are excellent for you. Milk, cheese and yogurt – these are all nourishing to you and your baby. Look for a source of good organic full cream milk. It should come from clean, happy cows living on grass. Look for a dairy producing low-temperature pasteurized and unhomogenised milk coming from cows fed on pasture. Always, always, always drink organic milk (and always feed your children organic milk). Skim milk can be used to make cheeses and fed to pigs and chickens – it’s not for feeding to growing humans (or mothers growing baby humans!) Stay clear of all low fat or light products always, not just when you are pregnant.
Making bone broths – stocks – from bones will give you and your baby lots of important minerals. Bone broths also give you gelatine which helps enhance digestion. And they add flavour! Chicken and beef/lamb stocks are very easy to make, and creating soups from them is also very easy.
Fats are good for you – traditional fats. Avoid “industrial fats and oils” such as margarines, corn oil, soybean oil and shortening. Use olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. Use butter. Eat your veggies with butter. Traditional fats are vital for your body and for your baby. It is good fat that builds your baby’s brain. To skimp on good fat is to deprive your child nourishment he or she vitally needs for brain development. Industrial “fats” wreak havoc on your system – they’ve been designed by an industry looking for money and efficiency. Remove them from your diet and use the fats nature designed so you can have a healthy pregnancy and grow a strong, vibrant child.
Fresh Fruits, Veggies, and Good Grains
Getting an ample selection of fresh vegetables and fruits will nourish you and help your baby to grow strong. Antioxidants and nutrients in fresh produce are excellent. A wide selection of colours is a good choice in fruits.
Leafy green vegetables and deep orange/red produce are especially important. These help regulate your digestive system and provide rich antioxidants from a natural, food based source. In addition, fresh produce can provide folic acid – a nutrient vitally important to your growing baby. Try our Supreme Green Blend sprinkled on your salads these green super foods are nature’s way of supplying plant based vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and amino acids in a convenient manner, which are easily digested, absorbed and utilised. The body has evolved to eat plant based nutrients bound within a food not a pill.
Fermented vegetables, like Sauerkraut or our All Natural Probiotic will improve your digestion and fill your gut with good bacteria – this is important because your baby will get his or her gut flora directly from you!
You’ll also want to be sure that you’re getting good whole grains into your diet but in minimal quantity (one serving per day is sufficient). Whole grains help regulate your digestive system and may ease pregnancy related constipation. You can choose from whole grain breads, rice, oats, barely, and many other grains. Soak or sprout your grains to make them more easily digestible. Be sure to eat your veggies with good fats – these help your body to absorb all the vital nutrients fruits and vegetables offer.
A good iron level is important for pregnancy. Try to get good, iron rich foods instead of simply relying on an iron pill. Some women find iron pills are constipating, and they’re not as well absorbed as foods would be.
Food based iron sources are egg yolks, meats, molasses, and raisins. Enjoying a vitamin C rich food with your iron rich food is a great idea. The vitamin C boosts the absorption of iron in your blood. Have your eggs with a glass of freshly squeezed OJ at breakfast!
If you’re having trouble with your iron levels do consider a supplement – a natural, food-based prenatal or a herbal iron supplement will be absorbed better than most iron pills. You can also try animal foods rich in iron. Another great option is our Colloidal Minerals. These are a plant based colloidal, derived from ancient vegetation (peat), cold-extracted and suspended in ultra-pure de-ionised water, this product is rich in trace elements and major minerals essential for the body to achieve and maintain great health and vitality.
Good hydration is extremely important for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period. Water flushes waste products from the cells and aids in liver and kidney function for both you and the baby. During pregnancy, water is also needed for the body’s expansion as your blood volume increases significantly. Insufficient water intake can be a factor in constipation, preterm labour, and miscarriage, and even slight dehydration can cause or contribute to fatigue. Proper hydration is also important for adequate breast milk production and flow.
Most women know about the need for proper hydration during pregnancy, but many do not get adequate fluid intake. Some women do not like drinking water; others say they are not generally thirsty. Additionally, women are often unaware that some beverages are actually dehydrating.
Pregnant women typically need between 8-12 glasses per day, even higher if the weather is warm or you are exercising. Most people think that if they need to drink more they would feel thirsty and while thirst does signal a need for hydration, not everyone feels thirsty when they need to drink. Often we don’t get thirsty until after we are already dehydrated. Better to be proactive.
Dehydration can lead to complications during pregnancy, including nausea, headaches and dizziness. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by 40 percent to accommodate your growing baby. Proper hydration also helps your body maintain a healthy level of amniotic fluid and may help reduce swelling in the extremities that may occur during the third trimester. Staying hydrated also helps prevent or relieve constipation and Hemorrhoids, which are common ailments during pregnancy.
Do I Need to Eat That Much!?
If you feel overwhelmed about eating “so much food” every day the first thing to do is to examine what you already eat. Cut out any empty calories and junk food. Eliminate white foods, i.e. Pastries, pasta, white breads, sugars, soft drinks, processed foods. Treat yourself on Dark Chocolate at least 70% cocoa. Not only will you satisfy your sweet craving but you will be receiving nutrient filled antioxidants.
A bowl of ice cream occasionally is OK (especially if it’s homemade from pure cream and egg yolks!), but you’ll want to focus on eating what you and your baby need. Think of it this way – after your baby is born you’ll feed him or her the very best, you wouldn’t dream of not feeding your hungry baby! So feed yourself and your baby the very best now, and eat enough!
Eat three meals a day and a morning and afternoon snack. Then eat a small snack just before bed. You’ll find that you are able to eat everything you need to have a great pregnancy diet!
An important note: you need to have a good caloric intake every day. If you eat plenty of protein, but skimp on overall calories, you body ends up using the protein to make up for the calorie deficit. As you can imagine, this doesn’t allow you and your baby to fill your high protein needs.
Your pregnancy diet should include plenty of protein, healthy fat, fresh fruit and vegetables to create the necessary nutrient based calories you and your baby need. You are feeding yourself and your baby! The saying “you’re eating for two” is correct, but this is not necessarily in the quantity. Remember quality over quantity. All you should do is increase your calorie intake up around 300 calories per day. The key to remember is to get nutrition packed calories, instead of empty calories.