What To Eat and Drink in Pregnancy and Beyond

Photo by Crystal Engel

Photo by Crystal Engel

IT'S THE PERFECT TIME!

It's the perfect time to wholly dedicate yourself to your health and well-being, and doing so will yield lifelong benefits not only for you, but also for your baby and for your family. The path is clear, but walking it is up to you; it takes commitment and self-discipline. It might be more expensive to live healthfully, but doing so begets prevention. It’s ultimately easier and cheaper than the cost of chronic diseases caused by harmful lifestyle habits. It’s also especially rewarding to really look and feel your best, and improve the quality of all areas of your life.

The decision to take charge of your health can be overwhelming; make change a little bit at a time rather than all at once. Consider living by the “80-20” rule - if you can achieve optimal habits 80% of the time, you’re doing beautifully! Don’t criticize yourself while you go through this transformation. We are all perfectly imperfect, doing our best with what we know and have each day. Instead, give yourself a hug for doing what you can right now; you just may surprise yourself later when you are able to accomplish more and more with time.

WHAT TO EAT: BREAKING IT DOWN

Eat mostly a wide variety of fresh, whole, unrefined plant-based foods. They should be the majority of your diet. Ideally, eat organic, locally-grown food, free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, chemical additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, food coloring and genetic modification. Most women feel their best on a Paleo type of diet, physically and emotionally, off sugar. cow dairy and gluten - just saying. This is how our ancestors ate for thousands of years. Mostly whole clean foods that grow, with fish, meat, poultry and eggs. Vegan and vegetarian diets are fine if you make sure to get all of what you need from plant based foods that are whole and unrefined, and supplement what you can not. I was a vegetarian until I became pregnant - for ethical and what I thought to be health reasons. I will never forget the shocking reactions from my family and friends, the look on my husband's face when he came home from work and I was insisting on meat. I needed meat! I had a craving for schwarma. It is what I once had while backpacking in the countries bordering the Mediterranean sea.  There was no internet then, but he looked in the yellow pages and found a place, that became his stop before coming home each evening at the time. Our bodies know what they need, we just need to listen. 

Read ingredients and know what you are eating. Your plate should be beautiful and colorful, reflecting an abundance and variety of fresh, unprocessed foods with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, some nuts and seeds, seasoned with fresh herbs and spices. Ditch the middle food aisles in supermarkets where the processed items are generally located. For the freshest, top-quality whole food products, shop at local organic farm stands, farmers’ markets, food co-ops and health food stores. Or better yet, grow your own!

The foods listed below should be proportioned according to your individual needs, but the following is an approximate breakdown:

A NATURALLY COLORFUL PLATE

The majority of your diet should consist of foods that grow. Each day, eat lots of fresh green, yellow, orange, red and purple vegetables prepared raw, lightly steamed, sautéed, baked, roasted or simmered in soup. Include root and sea veggies like radishes or turnips, kelp, dulse or sushi nori. Each day eat 4-5+ cups of cooked or raw, low carb veggies like zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, pepper, cucumber, tomatoes. Additionally eat 2+ cups uncooked, dark leafy greens like kale, romaine, Swiss chard and spinach, and a side of the high carb veggies like sweet potato, carrots, beets and winter squash.

Eat 2-4 servings of fruits daily. Sample serving sizes include one apple, pear or peach; one small banana; one avocado; one cup of berries. Also include a hand full of fresh raw or lightly dry roasted seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame, or nuts such as coconut, almond, pecan, cashew, hazel nut, pistachio, black walnut, peanut or 2 Tbsp of nut butters. Pregnant and nursing women need 75-100 grams of protein daily. I suggest one serving at each of your 3 main meals, and with every snack. Servings are approximately the size the of your hand.

If eating animal protein, it should ideally be organic, raised without hormones and antibiotics, free-range to eat their natural diet of grasses, and plants not sprayed with agricultural chemicals. Basically, this is how animals were traditionally raised before mass production and supermarkets! Today, we have the added benefit of testing animals and their products for infection to ensure they are safe for consumption. Examples include: beef, chicken, duck, Cornish hen, turkey, lamb, wild game like buffalo and venison, whole eggs (including the yellow and white), and wild-caught fish from non-polluted waters such as Alaskan or Norwegian salmon.

Many co-ops and health food stores sell wild caught fresh fish that has been tested free of many dangerous pollutants. These fish are safe to eat 4-5 times per week, but as the ideal animal protein, try to eat fish at least twice weekly. If you are eating milk products, use only those that are fresh and organic, and from goats or sheep. Examples: fresh raw goat/sheep milk, yogurt, feta, cheddar or buffalo mozzarella. These are often available at farmers markets, co-ops or health food stores. Minimize or avoid pork, shellfish, veal and cow dairy. If you eat dairy products from the supermarket, pasteurization is important to kill harmful bacteria and prolong shelf-life, but know that it also destroys key digestive enzymes and nutrients.

Sources of vegan protein: nuts, nut butters and milks without added sweetener like organic coconut, almond or hazelnut; seeds and products made from them like tehina, beans and products made from them like humus and other bean dips; and grains like quinoa. Minimize soy, unless its fermented, like tempeh or miso. Other good sources include vegan protein powder such as rice, pea and hemp as well as nutritional yeast. Add 2-3 Tbsp to fruit/veggie smoothies or hot, whole grain cereal.

MAKING SENSE OF PROTEIN GRAMS

3 large eggs = 18g

6 oz salmon = 46g

6 oz chicken = 48g

1 cup of lentils = 18g

1 cup almonds = 20g

4 tbsp peanut butter = 16g

1 cup quinoa = 8g

3 oz ground beef = 18g

1 cup Greek yogurt = 23g

4 tbsp tehina = 10.4g

4 tbsp hummus = 4g

As in pregnancy, growing children, breast feeding women, those with illness, injury, and certain health conditions like depression, anxiety, mood swings, and low blood sugar need more protein and fat divided over each meal and snacks, and do feel better off grains, sugar and cow dairy. If you feel well eating grains and are not gluten intolerant, have one serving a day of grains in their whole form, like 1 slice sprouted multi-grain bread, 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal cereal or 1 oz of dry multigrain cereal; but do vary them, and don't only eat wheat. There are many grains to chose from, such as stoned ground or sprouted whole wheat like Ezekiel bread, whole spelt, oats, rye, and barley. Gluten Free options: brown rice, millet, quinoa, kasha/ buckwheat. When you combine them with foods such as legumes like beans, chic peas, lentils and split peas, or nuts you create a complete protein.

BRING ON THE FAT!

Your body needs a liberal amount of fat, but choose healthy, high-quality fats which have more omega 3s than omega 6-type fatty acids to counter act the modern overexposure to omega 6s.* Avoid polyunsaturated oils like cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, corn and soy. Avoid partially hydrogenated fats such as vegetable shortening and margarine as well as refined vegetable oils that have been heated to high temperatures. Use only organic cold, expeller-pressed oils like extra virgin olive (great for salads and sautéed veggies), coconut oil, grape seed and organic butter (ideally goat) for cooking, baking and sautéing at high temperatures. Never heat olive oil so high to the point of smoking. Use nut and seed oils for cold food only. Storing the oils, nuts and seeds in the fridge preserves shelf life. If they do not taste or smell good, throw them out, as they have started to oxidize and become carcinogenic.*Ideally omega 3 & 6 intake should be equal in ratio per traditional ancestral diets before there was mass production of foods and supermarkets.

DON'T FORGET THE WATER

Drink good water and plenty of it. I recommend 8-10 glasses = 64 ounces = 1⁄2 gallon daily or half your body weight in fluid ounces. Good water is full of charge and energy. It has a high reduction potential to detoxify, anti-oxidize free radicals and hydrate. Obtained fresh from mountain springs, it is rich in minerals with an alkaline pH, and free of chemical pollutants and heavy metals. Since many of us do not live near pure mountain springs, the next best option is to drink filtered ionized Kangen water. You can have a Kangen unit for your kitchen sink installed. Otherwise, fresh glass or stainless steel bottled spring water are great options. Add a some natural flavor like slices of lemon, grapefruit or orange or mint leaves to taste. To protect your skin, the largest organ of your body, get a general water filter for your home that removes most of the chemicals that come in though the pipes, to make the water you bathe in as pure as possible.

Drink 2-3 glasses of water at least 20-30 minutes before each meal, and a few glasses in between, at least 2 hours after meals. Have no more than a cup during actual meals, as it dilutes the enzymes needed for digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Image by Megan Hancock Photography

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HEALTHY LIVING FOR HEALTHY WOMEN

Even the best diets do not provide all the essential nutrients you need during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To read more about the supplements I take and recommend, and why, check out my last monthly blog on just this topic!

My online dispensary is a convenient way for you to purchase my hand-picked, professional-grade, whole food supplements and other natural health products. Ordering is simple, and the products will be shipped directly to your home or work within a few days.

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