A lot of our clients notice that midwives spend a lot of time talking about food and nutrition. For myself, I spend quite a lot of personal time, preparing food, shopping for it, and seeking new foods to try. Sharing food is a cultural practice and ritual that goes back to the dawn of humanity. It is often at the center of celebration and tradition. Sharing meals even releases oxytocin, which is the feel good, bonding hormone central to making, growing, and pushing out a baby.
Good nutrition is the prenatal care that you give yourself daily. What you eat becomes the building blocks of the baby growing inside your womb. So… pretty important.
Let’s go over some basics. If you have a specific diet you are following or many food restrictions, let your midwife know so that she can help you troubleshoot and find foods that meet the nutritional requirements and meet your specific needs.
I usually recommend that my clients strive to get approximately 80 g of protein per day. This can be an animal protein or from a vegetarian source. Many people supplement protein using protein powders to achieve this goal. I recommend that you keep a diet diary for a few days to see where your protein count naturally lands when you eat your regular diet, then you can see how much you need to add on a daily basis. Protein is the main building block you need to grow a baby. Our bodies are made of it! Eating a high protein diet helps maintain an even blood sugar, and saves off cravings for sweets and other less nutritious foods.
Our bodies need about half your body weight in ounces of water, in order to be in a state of hydration ( so if you are 140 pounds your body requires 70 ounces of water daily ). This can be any clear liquid such as… tea or broth. Staying hydrated during pregnancy is very important, as being in a state of dehydration can cause headaches, contractions and other disturbances in the balance of your body such as poor blood volume expansion. If you are exercising or doing a lot of activity you need to increase this amount to replace any fluids lost by sweating. It is also helpful to add electrolytes to your fluid intake in order to help the fluids penetrate your body cells.
Veggies and Fruits
Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits is important in a healthy pregnancy. Vegetables and fruits provide micronutrients much like a multivitamin provides. Eating a variety of colors of vegetables ensures that you will get a little of everything, for example, dark leafy greens are high in iron, while orange vegetables are high in beta-carotene. I usually recommend eating the veggies that are in season as they are usually fresher and have the highest nutrient content.
Many people supplement micronutrients using a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin to ensure they are getting their needs met each day. Have your midwife look over the supplement(s) you are taking or recommend one if needed. I see supplements as an insurance policy to good nutrition but not a substitute for it.
A balanced diet contains A healthy amount of complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are an energy source that the that convert quickly in the body. Eating too many carbohydrates can lead to high blood sugar (gestational diabetes) and higher weight gain. Choosing carbs like quinoa, brown rice, and steel cut oats and eating them in conjunction with protein can help maintain a healthy blood sugar. People that struggle with maintaining a healthy blood sugar may have to limit the amount of carbohydrates they consume, in order to stay balanced. Pregnant people can sometimes crave carbohydrates, as the body craves energy to build the baby. My usual advice is to answer that craving with a protein-rich meal or snack first and then follow up with a bit of complex carbohydrates.
Eating healthy fats is a very important part of building a healthy baby. Fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds nourish the baby’s brain development and brown fat stores. Fats also are a nutrient, dense long burning form of energy that work well with the pregnant body, which has less room for bulky foods but also has a higher energy demand. High-quality fats do not necessarily add to that storage as once thought, so eating natural, high-quality foods with the full-fat content is a healthy choice.
Sugar and simple carbs
I grouped these two besties together because they actually act the same way inside of the body. Everyone knows what sugar is, but many do not realize how much of it is hiding in the prepared foods we eat. Pregnancy is a good time to start reading labels if you buy prepared foods or ready-made foods for convenience.
Simple carbohydrates are things like pasta, white rice, and white bread. These foods are easily converted to glucose and act almost exactly like sugar in the body. During pregnancy, it is normal to have a higher blood sugar already, in order to share energy with your baby. If your blood sugar gets too high, too often it could create complications such as gestational diabetes and growing a baby that is larger than you would normally biologically grow. I recommend limiting sweets and simple carbs and focusing on protein and nutrient dense fats and fruits and veggies. Of course treating yourself occasionally is an important part of self-care. So, there is no shame in that. Making sure that you are full of high-quality foods before your treat will ensure that you do not overindulge.
Pregnancy is a time when many folks become more nutritionally aware. If you are struggling to get enough high-quality food in your diet please let your Midwife know so that we can help you find solutions. There are plenty of resources out there, including books and phone apps to help you track your diet and create more awareness. There is even nutritional information that can be found in your client portal. Nutrition is something we talk about at every prenatal visit so don’t hesitate to bring up questions or concerns that you might have!
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