It was during my late 20s, where I discovered the wonders of nutritional healing and alternative forms of health. By my 30s, everything I ate was directly related to how it would make me look and feel. When I found myself at 35 and pregnant, all my food obsessions and physical fitness pursuits completely changed. The moment I saw the take home pregnancy test strips read a big blue, positive plus sign, everything that was once my central focus: me, shifted to being all about the life growing inside of me.
Now, if physical fitness and nutritional knowledge has not been part of your lifestyle until getting pregnant, that is fine. Enclosed are recommendations I feel are essentials to having a healthy and happy pregnancy for both you and your baby. I will provide for you everything I found to be most essential during my pregnancy. My recommendations come from the collaborative efforts with my naturopathic medicine doctor, my doula, my prenatal trainer program, my self-research through readings and classes, and my fellow community of mothers and elders. Please note, I am not a medical doctor, so make sure to get your doctor’s approval before practicing any advice or undergoing any exercises.
I will say, enjoy eating. Think of eating as a way to connect with your baby. You want to give this new life the best nutrition possible. This is not the time in your life to diet down or worry about the scale. The scale will go up no matter what. Again, do not compare yourself to other women. Some women gain no more than 15 pounds being pregnant, whereas other women can gain up to 40, 50, 60 plus pounds. The most important thing is to eat a well-balanced diet that provides you with enough energy to create a healthy baby.
Diet Avoidance Recommendations:
- Alcohol. Not recommended. Period.
- Limit Caffeine to 200mg per day. Many OB doctors will translate that to one grande Starbucks coffee, but I usually kept my intake to 8-10 oz of black coffee.
- Avoid raw foods like fish/sushi/shellfish and undercooked meats/poultry or undercooked eggs.
- It is best to avoid fish that is high in mercury/lead such as swordfish or tuna.
- Stay clear of processed meats with nitrites/sulfates, such as low quality lunch meats
- Say “no thank you” to unpasteurized juice/dairy products. This means no cheeses such as brie cheese, queso fresco, or blue cheese. Also, avoid unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
- Avoid unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce or eliminate artificial sweeteners and dyes in foods.
- Reheat food in glass. If you use plastic make sure it is free of BPA.
- Pay attention to what gives you heartburn. You will want to avoid these foods, especially as the baby grows and your acid reflux becomes more sensitive. For example, in the first trimester I wanted pinto beans all the time, but by second and third trimester I had to avoid them because they triggered serious heartburn.
- Eat a wide variety of all plant foods: fruits and vegetables (which includes green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables). I recommend cooking veggies to avoid digestion complications and to help your body better absorb the nutrients. As you explore fruits and veggies, see how they make you feel. You might discover that certain plant based foods do not digest as well as they use to or taste the same. On the other hand, you might be more partial to certain fruits and veggies during different times during your pregnancy.
- Eat healthy fats. Good fats are an excellent source of energy and help you to feel fuller longer. This is helpful when you get to the point in your pregnancy when you don’t have as much room in your stomach because of your growing baby. I suggest having good fats like: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, whole avocados, grass fed butter or ghee, nuts, and nut butters in your diet.
- Try to have some kind of protein with each meal to balance your blood sugar and to prevent blood sugar spikes or extreme drops. Protein can be eggs, meat, fish (wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies, or low mercury white fish), Greek yogurt, beans and legumes (such as lentils and seeds). Having a diet rich in protein is important when you are making a baby. Plus, consuming enough protein will prevent anemia. You will also stay feeling fuller longer, and be less inclined to mindlessly snack.
- Consume complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, wild rice, yams, potatoes, or oats. This also include veggies. When hungry go for vegetable options rather than sugary carb options like cookies and cake.
- Drink LOTS of water. You need the extra water to keep your amniotic fluid levels up and to help you detoxify your liver and kidneys. Plus, dehydration in pregnancy is a real thing. In third trimester, swelling is no joke and can cause serious discomfort. Drinking more water will help with swelling and water retention. I recommend a gallon a day at a minimum.
- Prenatal vitamin that is food based and contains iron to prevent anemia
- Fish Oil in a dosage of 450-500mg of DHA and 1000mg of EPA. Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. They also help with hormone balancing and heart protection. Plus, this supplement is essential for the development of the nervous system for the fetus.
- Take probiotics to support your gastrointestinal tract. These will increase your body’s healthy flora and support your immunity. A daily probiotic will also help your baby’s immune system.
- Digestive enzymes help with digestion, which gets harder for many women the further along in pregnancy one goes.
- Vitamin D to help support daily levels. I recommend taking 3,000IU daily
- Xymogen 5MTHF – 1mg – 1 capsule daily with a meal to support optimal folate levels and prevent birth defects. This combined with the Folate in a Prenatal will be sufficient.
- Calcium Magnesium Citrate is great for two things. First, the calcium helps to decrease blood pressure during pregnancy and helps with the developing fetus. Plus, having extra calcium is great for pregnancy as there can be a decrease in calcium for some women. The citrate helps the body to absorb the magnesium. Calcium and magnesium together help to reduce stress, which is super important to keep in check as your body creates a new life.
Lifestyle Practices While PregnanT
I recommend walking at least five times a week for at least 30 minutes. If you can maintain a jogging lifestyle, hats off to you, but if you find it uncomfortable then walking is perfectly fine. Walking will help maintain core stabilizing muscles, which is important as you lose core strength the further you go in your pregnancy. You might even find that swimming becomes your most favorite way to get physical movement. I did not have access to a pool until the bitter end of my pregnancy, and though I only got to go a few times, it sure felt amazing to be weightless.
When it comes to physical exercise, you should do physical activities that you enjoy to help reduce stress and anxiety. Resistance training is also still important, but you don’t need to go heavy. Listen to your body first and foremost. As you get bigger, you will find your strength reduces and that is okay and normal. You can always rebuild your strength and muscles after the baby. If you feel you are straining to lift something then go lighter. You don’t want to compromise the baby’s well-being for any reason. Make sure to take adequate rests too. For example, I suggest two minute breaks and drinking water between sets. Do not resume another set or interval until you have fully regained your breath. Never compromise your ability to breathe because now you breathe for two.
I also recommend exploring meditation and other relaxation practices to promote more parasympathetic activity within the body to reduce anxiety. Many women go through periods of worry, mood swings, and anxiety throughout their pregnancy. Doing things like meditation or yoga can help to reduce any troubling thoughts. I found yoga to be super helpful preparing my mind to give birth. The breath work used in yoga is translatable during labor. Plus, as you go through the different stages of pregnancy you might find that your joints hurt, your body swells, or your ligaments ache. Yoga can gently open up the body, so both you and your baby have more room to grow.
I also encourage you to get prenatal massage, acupuncture, and/or chiropractic care throughout your pregnancy. We all have different budgets, but trying to do these periodically will help you to create more circulation in your body and to help you manage the surplus of pregnancy symptoms that you may face.
For all personal care, I recommend anything you put on your skin to be as free of parabens or anything highly chemical as possible. This is a great opportunity for you to explore new skin care regimens. I found my skin completely changed during my pregnancy and I discovered that I needed to add extra moisture to my skin. Everyone is different, but what is not different is the fact that a fragile life is being made inside you. It is best to use all natural and organic products on your body.
Each pregnancy is radically different. Each woman will experience her own unique pregnancy. There are many different symptoms in pregnancy, but that does not mean you have to experience them all. For example, some women have intense morning sickness where other women have none. Some women suffer from extreme swelling while other women have little. Your goal during pregnancy should be becoming your best self. Be as healthy as possible each day. Listen to your body. Allow yourself to slow down when needed. Rest when needed. Ask for help when needed. This is one of the most precious times in a woman’s life, but it goes very fast. Embrace all your changes. Remember, you have your whole life to get fit, but you don’t have your whole life to make a remarkable baby. Enjoy this time in your life. It’s a miracle.