Ah week 11 has been tough! On Tuesday morning I experienced my first actual sickness which obviously wasn’t pleasant, and the tiredness has really hit me this week too. I have started feeling some ‘pulling’ sensations at the sides of my stomach from the groin up, which I think is just my pelvis and muscles stretching to get bigger. As of yesterday I feel like my belly has popped out a little bit more! Ive also been keeping an eye on my weight which give or take a couple of pounds is right on track for this stage in my pregnancy.
I did have an awesome pregnancy exercise session with the PT at the gym. It was completely un planned, I told her I was pregnant and she offered to have a session with me and give me a plan to follow. She was awesome, more on that in a future post!
Today I wanted to focus in on pregnancy nutrition. Since I found out I was pregnant I’ve been trying to find out as much as I can on the topic, as obviously with my health coaching role I’m a bit of a nutrition geek at the best of times!
There’s the traditional advice given in the usual pregnancy books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the NHS booklets that focuses on fruit and veg, whole grains etc. I think all of that is fine, but where it falls down for me is the role of fats in the diet, as well as certain nutrients that are important for the development of the baby, and the health and wellbeing of mama. I know that I will be prone to things like stretch marks and varicose veins, so I was interested in foods I could eat that would help minimise or avoid those issues.
Generally, my list of top nourishing foods are spot on for pregnant women to maximise nutrition, however as I have experienced, wanting to eat that way and actually being able to are two different things. My food aversions and nausea have made it very hard to eat the best foods, what I have tried to do is eat the best that I can. When all I wanted was cheese on toast I choose organic cheese, when I wanted crisps I choose Popchips. When I fancied cereal I choose Bear Nibbles coconut nectar sweetened alphabites. I haven’t been perfect, there has been pizza and chocolate, but over all I’ve done the best I can. Green smoothies have been a great way to make sure I’m getting in some leafy green vegetables when salads have not appealed.
I’ve also found that eating smaller regular meals has helped me to manage my tiredness and nausea, and right now I eat 3 meals and 3 snacks a day.
The main thing to do is not to stress about it. I know I ate pretty well before we conceived and I will be able to eat properly after the first trimester, if you eat well usually, you’ll be fine.
As I said, fat isn’t given the focus it should have in most mainstream pregnancy diet info. Babies brains and nervous systems are made of fat and fat soluble minerals support the growth and development of the foetus. I’ve been trying to get as much good quality fat in as I can, particularly from coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut yoghurt, avocado, chia seeds, butter (I’ve craved butter!), whole eggs, salmon and organic beef. I’ve also had plenty of nuts, nut butter and seeds. Those foods offer a range of fats that will support the development of the baby such as omega 3’s. They also provide fat soluble nutrients such as choline from egg yolks which are vital (more on this is a mo) and vitamin K2 from butter.
To keep it simple, I think eating a good balanced range of foods with a focus on good quality fats, while minimising processed foods, and most importantly of all, listening to your body, is the best way to approach pregnancy nutrition. In the first trimester, I think you just have to do the best you can and perhaps try and make smart choices for the things you can stomach.
There are some key nutrients that can be helpful in pregnancy, so in addition to the basic approach outlined above, I’m trying to eat foods that will maximise these nutrients:
- Omega 3 fats - oily fish such as salmon and mackerel as well as chia seeds and walnuts are good sources
- Folate – Folic acid, or vitamin B9 is advised as a supplement for all pregnant women and those trying to conceive to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. As well as the supplemental form, getting actual folate from leafy green veggies, root veggies and nuts is just as important.
- Vitamin C – This helps your body to absorb iron as well as supporting the production of collagen for tissues and cartilage, and helping to reduce stretch marks. I’ve been craving things like bell peppers which are high in vitamin C, as are tomatoes, leafy greens, strawberries, goji berries etc
- Iron – A woman’s blood volume increases significantly in pregnancy. As far as I’m aware, you should have your iron levels monitored by the mid wife anyway, but making sure you are getting plenty of iron rich foods, eaten with vitamin C where possible, such as good quality red meat (I’d always recommend organic), almonds and eggs and you should get enough.
- Choline – Choline plays a role in brain development, so it’s good to make sure that you are getting this nutrient from somewhere. It’s present in egg yolks, but also soy lecithin (great if you are vegan!). I bought some non GMO soy lecithin to add to smoothies occasionally.
- Collagen – Collagen is used to support the production of connective tissues and cartilage. It’s also good for skin elasticity for Mama! I’ve been using home made bone broth which I’d made a while ago and froze, in soups and stews recently. I’ve also been adding hydrolysed collagen to smoothies and my pregnancy mocha drink, which I’ll share more on soon.
I have another post planned on supplements in pregnancy, but it’s always wise to do your best to get nutrients from food sources as much as possible any way.
Some online resources I’ve also found useful include:
- Vitamins for fetal development – conception to birth from Weston A Price Foundation
- Episode 88 of the Balanced Bites Podcast which covers pregnancy from a Paleo / traditional foods perspective
- Optimal diet and nutrition for healthy pregnancy from the Wellness Mama
- For veggies and vegans, the pregnancy posts on The Kind Life are excellent.
There are of course certain foods to avoid in pregnancy including raw dairy products, un washed salad, under cooked meat etc. There’s also some herbs you need to watch out for which could be in herbal teas, for example if you have high blood pressure you need to watch for liquorice. You aren’t advised to eat runny yolks in pregnancy due to the risk of salmonella, however this is the one thing that personally I’m not worried about as my eggs are Lion marked from vaccinated hens. Lightly cooked yolks are better than cooked ones for me, although I’m not going to knock back raw egg yolks in smoothies just yet! Another thing I have done is almost cut out caffeine completely. They say you should be ok with up to 200mg a day, but as I’ve gone off coffee all together I’d rather just play it safe and leave it out for the first trimester at least. When I reach the second trimester I think I’ll re introduce green tea again.
There are also recommendations for certain foods to eat and teas to drink in the last trimester to make labour easier, but I’ll talk about them closer to the time.
Right now I’m super excited (and a little nervous) about my 12 week scan next week, I can’t wait!
What do you think about nutrition in pregnancy? Did the way you eat change when you were pregnant? How do you think you would handle food aversions and cravings?