I am a firm believer that the most important time to pay attention to your health is when you are pregnant. I think everyone should have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum. So many people share the belief that when you are pregnant you “are eating for two” and should throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight. While you do have an increased caloric demand, you still need to pay attention to the quality of food that you eat. I was always vigilant of the quality of food that I was eating and made sure to pack in as many nutrients as possible. This does not mean potato chips and ice-cream. Yes, I did crave those foods as many do! I simply found other, more nutritionally dense foods to satisfy those cravings.
You NEED “Superfoods” daily!
Let's face it, some days you do not feel much like eating when you are pregnant — or you don't have much room to eat towards the end! There were days in my first trimesters that I just wanted to sleep all day, actually making food seemed impossible. This is why it's important to have some super healthy staple foods on hand so you can just grab them out of the fridge and pack in a lot of nutrition with little to no effort, or without having to consume a huge amount of food. What are these foods? Fermented foods, organ meats, eggs, leafy greens, and healthy fats. I focused on very nutrient dense foods throughout my pregnancy. Eggs and liver being two of my daily staples. The bonus is that these foods are very affordable, so healthy eating while pregnant does not have to break the bank! Also, eat a rainbow to ensure that you are getting a variety of phytonutrients, enzymes, and vitamins & minerals. Keep it easy: sip bone broth throughout the day, make a big salad every night, eat a few scoops of sauerkraut every day, pack in some organ meats! Eat them daily, however you do it!
- Here is how I ate liver and sardines every day
- Here is how I constructed a fabulous salad every day
- How I make my bone broth
- Here is how to make your own sauerkraut
- Here is what I eat every day postpartum
In short: Super foods = your body the gets nutrients it needs = less cravings & less fat storage!
P.S. I recently found an awesome new company that makes healthy snacks for pregnant and breastfeeding Mamas. They are so delicious and I always have them on hand now for snacks in a pinch. They support a healthy pregnancy AND healthy lactation! They are made by a Mom for Mom's!!! Check them out HERE.
Our bodies are smart. They will send signals to you when you need a particular nutrient. Some people crave things like dirt and chalk. These are signs of a nutrient deficiency. For example, often times a craving for chocolate can be from a deficiency in magnesium. Do you get leg cramps at night? You might be deficient in magnesium! Use some magnesium oil, or up your intake of leafy greens — then watch those chocolate cravings diminish
If you consume a well rounded diet every day, then your cravings will greatly diminish because your body is getting the building blocks that it needs to keep you healthy and to grow a healthy baby. Organ meats, eggs and leafy greens pack such a huge nutrient profile — that is why I made sure to get these foods in every day! If you eat a diet scarce in nutrients, your body will crave and crave and crave until it gets the nutrition it needs. This is a big factor in weight gain. When you eat nutrient-poor food your body thinks it is starving, and it goes into starvation mode. This means storage! Your body will store all of the empty nutrients as body fat! Always consider the nutrient content in your food before you take a bite. Eat the foods your body needs and it will utilize them efficiently, not simply store them and ask for more.
In short: be mindful of your cravings, your body might be telling you something about what you are deficient in. Fill that void and your cravings will diminish.
Filling the Holes
I took supplements. Yep, I said supplements. Some people think of vitamins as “expensive urine” and a waste of time. I am not of that belief. Now I do not think you can supplement your way out of a bad diet, but they are great to take if you are not eating as much, or as much of a variety. I personally took a prenatal vitamin every day to make sure I was getting all of my vitamins and minerals, especially folate. I also supplemented with fermented cod liver oil (here is why), and probiotics.
Read up! Learn where your holes are in your diet. I DEVOUR nutrition books. I could read about food all day long. I especially read up when I was pregnant. I learned so much and am so thankful to have this knowledge now for my growing family.
Here are the books that I found to be the most useful:
- Nourishing Traditions
- Beautiful Babies
- The Better Baby Book
- The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care
- Mother Food
- Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods
In short: Supplement to fill the nutrient deficient holes, along with eating a balanced diet. This will lead to less cravings and less over eating empty foods
So, now you have your diet in check. Let's talk about movement!
It is a pretty common belief that exercise while pregnant can hurt the baby. This could not be farther from the truth. Studies show that exercise is just as beneficial when pregnant as it is when not pregnant. I continued to run daily up until the day that I delivered. I ran 4 miles the day all three of my babies was born!
A recent study published by the Institute of Movement Sciences and Sports Medicine at the University of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, found that “regular physical activity has proven to result in marked benefits for mother and fetus.”
Maternal benefits include improved cardiovascular function, limited pregnancy weight gain, decreased musculoskeletal discomfort, reduced incidence of muscle cramps and lower-limb edema, mood stability, and attenuation of gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension.”
Now, this is not to say that you should BEGIN a new exercise routine when you find out that you are pregnant. Maintain what you already had been doing. Do not go out and start crossfitting the day you have a positive pregnancy test! If you were not active before you became pregnant, then start slowly — just go for a walk every day. Anything to get the blood and lymph flowing will be beneficial.
I noticed that on days that I did not run, I would puff up more. I am a firm believer that my running circulated my lymph enough to keep me from swelling. I never had issues with edema when pregnant, ever! Get outside and move around. Yoga is an excellent exercise to pick up when pregnant, it prepares your hips for delivery too!
One study showed that “exercise during pregnancy at a level great enough to produce or maintain a training effect does not adversely affect birthweight or other maternal and infant outcomes but may be associated temporally with fewer perceived pregnancy-associated discomforts”. I felt great when I got my runs in, and not so great when a few days would go by without hitting the trails!
Buy a kettlebell and do gentle exercise in your living room. I did this to keep my core, back and arms strong for labor. I did very gentle exercises and did not do a lot of sets. Just enough to maintain some muscle. Always listen to your body! If weights are too much and it just doesn't feel right, then don't lift them. Kettlebells are all I could use, the weights at the gym were too much. Listen to your body! Don't push yourself too hard. If you need to walk on your runs, WALK. At the end of my pregnancies I had to walk up every hill, that was perfectly fine. I was out in the fresh air and moving around, thats the most important thing!
In short: Move, do whatever makes you feel good. Just do it every day! Pregnancy is not the time to just sit around.
Finally, You Need to SLEEP!
Sleep is when our body rests, repairs, and rebuilds. It is of particular importance when you are pregnant because you are growing an entire human being inside of your body! I made sleep a priority. I never stayed up late, pregnancy is a perfect excuse to go to bed at 8:30! I always wore my blue-light blocking glasses at night so my cortisol did not spike before bed while watching TV or working on my computer. Every night I wore a sleep mask and ear plugs so my sleep was not disrupted by light or sound. I could not sleep without my pregnancy pillow — total game changer for sleep when pregnant! And I never forgot to use my magnesium oil before bed, and I mean NEVER! One night I forgot, and woke up with paralyzing leg cramps. Even though I ate leafy greens every day, I still needed a little more magnesium. It also helps you sleep. Here is how I make it.
Bonus: I would put lavender essential oil on my pillow and sheets to help have a more restful sleep. Here is where I get my oils (I only use therapeutic grade)
In short: sleep is important for hormone regulation, rebuilding and repairing of your body, and to maintain normal cortisol levels. These are all extremely important for keeping fat storage down and muscle repair up!
So, to recap
- Eat Nutrient Dense Foods: Especially super foods like organ meats, eggs, butter, and leafy greens. Eat them every single day! Your body will stay healthy when you provide it with the necessary building blocks. Feed your body junk and it will store it as fat and you will feel awful!
- Move: Get outside and move around. Do not over do it, but you can certainly continue doing what you had been pre-pregnancy. Listen to your body, if it feels like too much, then it is. Go for a walk instead. But, keep moving every day!
- Sleep: Make sleep a priority and you will feel so much better. Sleep rebuilds your body and mind. Plus, when baby arrives you will not be getting much of it, so take advantage while you can!
- And again, don't forget to read this post and watch the video I did about eating well Postpartum:
- Here is what I eat every day postpartum
Always keep it in mind to love yourself and your changing body! You will get new lines and curves and things will move around. Embrace these changes and see them as reminders that you are doing such an important job, you are growing a healthy baby! You will get your body back after baby is born! Love your belly, love your waddle, love those kicks. You will miss them when they are gone. Believe me. Take time to be present and enjoy every day of your pregnancy as much as you can. It's a beautiful time in your life.
I would love to hear your pregnancy and postpartum stories! Please leave them in the comments below.