My Pregnancy Self-Care: Balanced Diet

Balanced Diet

Starches

In my first trimester, I found out very quickly that my body wanted carbohydrate-dense foods, so I opted for sweet potatoes, squash, beets, potatoes, sprouted corn tortillas, peas, seasonal fruits (mostly from the garden) and occasional gluten-free hemp bread, all with a generous dollop of healthy fats. I can understand how many women tend to "crave" cakes, cookies, and the like because they sense a need for more glucose. I interpreted that "craving" as my body needing nutrient-dense carbohydrate foods a couple times a day. Naturally, in my second trimester, I was sensing the need for less starches but was having a couple servings of seasonal fruit each day. As I'm finishing out my third trimester, starches and fruits haven't been as much of an emphasis but I'm definitely having one serving per day.

Carbohydrate needs really aren't as high as the guidelines recommend (175 g/day) and sometimes when a woman is even following the guidelines, she still may end up getting gestational diabetes depending on her susceptibility, see a post on that here. Because each pregnant woman's lifestyle and genetics are different, individual nutrient requirements need to be determined to most accurately meet the needs of the woman.

Handful of berries from the garden on a sunny June day

Handful of berries from the garden on a sunny June day

Meats

Protein-dense foods (meat, seafood or eggs) were the only foods that eliminated my pre-meal nausea in the first trimester. Though, ironically, some types of protein-dense foods (specifically ground meats and fried eggs) had too strong of a smell for me to tolerate for a few weeks during the first trimester. One day I attempted to have a lentil salad for lunch, but I ended up eating 6 full bowls with hunger still remaining afterward. This was a clear sign that the growth of baby requires solid amounts of protein, and plant-based sources were just not meeting my needs. Thankfully, chicken, steak, organ meats, collagen, bone broth, poached eggs and fish/sardines were usually well-tolerated. My midwife at each prenatal visit has been checking in with me to make sure I'm eating enough protein. She talked about how she's always concerned with women who think they don't need a lot of protein during pregnancy because there's a higher risk for membrane rupture with lower protein diets. Not in this pregnant mama!

Sufficient protein is essential for postpartum recovery as well, especially if there have been any tears or the mother needs to heal from a Cesarean birth.

Around 18 weeks, I hit what I thought was my body's maximum capacity for skin stretching (as evidenced by my belly button spreading out) so whatever belly growth happened after that required the addition of new skin. This is not something that freaks me out, as it is normal and expected in pregnancy. So, to nutritionally support my skin for healthy cell differentiation, I'm adding in more collagen and keeping my liver intake regular (vitamin A is essential for skin cell differentiation and is found in its bioavailable form in liver). Still, I can expect to have some resulting stretch marks and that is okay!

Fat

Understanding that many essential nutrients (such as cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, essential fatty acids, and fat-soluble vitamins) are required for healthy hormone production and baby's growth and development, I've been very free with my consumption of healthy fats. Their calories take up the majority of my meals. These include fats such as high quality butter, cream, eggs, lard, tallow, olive, avocado, nuts, coconut and fish eggs (salmon roe). At most meals, I even visualize them nourishing the baby ;) What happens in the mind makes a difference!

This is an example of a highly nutrient-dense breakfast: Chicken liver seared in grass-fed butter with truffle sea salt, fermented pickle (probiotic), whole avocado with caviar/salmon roe, organic blueberries and homemade broth.

This is an example of a highly nutrient-dense breakfast:

Chicken liver seared in grass-fed butter with truffle sea salt, fermented pickle (probiotic), whole avocado with caviar/salmon roe, organic blueberries and homemade broth.

I do also supplement with a fish oil daily to minimize inflammation and promote healthy baby brain development, I love the Balance Oil from Zinzino which contains both olive oil and fish oil!

Fats are so essential to the healthy growth of a developing brain. The third trimester of pregnancy is the primary time when the baby brain is growing so I'm trying to consume as much bioavailable DHA in the form of salmon roe as I can. DHA in it's phospholipid form is deposited in the developing brain 10x more than DHA in its free fatty acid form (the kind found in salmon itself). Even more amazing, just one tablespoon of fish eggs contains 17,000 IU of Vitamin D!⠀

The baby brain is 60% fat which comes from healthy fats in the diet and its function is protected by cholesterol from our foods. The wisdom of nature has also made it clear that these foods are essential because cholesterol-containing fatty foods are the only sources of bioavailable fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, D, and K2!⠀

Micronutrients

My veggies tend to be leafy greens from the garden, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, kimchi, sauerkraut, and carrots (of course there's more, but these are the main ones). These all provide a variety of micronutrients, though most B vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins come primarily from meats and fats. I enjoy bone broth on most days (when it's not too hot out), which I make with chicken or pigs feet for extra collagen and with veggie scraps like mushroom stems, kale stems, carrot tops, leek greens, celery ends, etc. Other micronutrients I've enjoyed were from seasonal fruits that I would pick like berries, figs, apples, quinces, and pears.

Probiotics

Though consumed for thousands of years, fermented foods are finally making a comeback! Our food production system has mostly outsourced food preservation to using sugar, salt, chemical preservatives, canning and refrigeration. With this change, the practice of fermenting foods had been lost, at least in the United States. Fermentation was not only useful for preserving the harvest, but also for creating naturally probiotic foods!

These are some of my two favorite ways to get my probiotics through food!

These are some of my two favorite ways to get my probiotics through food!

I'm always having something in my fermentation crock bubbling away. Currently I'm making kimchi and in another jar I'm fermenting some beet-ginger sauerkraut. Throughout the summer, I preserved our pickling cucumbers to make delicious dill pickles! Eating fermented vegetables is my favorite way to get probiotics in my diet.

The currently known benefit to baby is that having a probiotic-rich diet optimizes my gut, skin, and vaginal microflora to create an ideal bacterial environment for baby's first "inoculation". This, supported through exclusive breastfeeding, significantly reduces the future occurrence of allergies, eczema, mood disorders, GI disorders, asthma, and so on.


One thing that's been confirmed for me through this pregnancy experience is that my baby's growth and development is 100% dependent on the building blocks I provide. A strong and healthy body is built with the best materials. I am encouraged and confident that I have done everything in my power to set this child up for success in his next world. God knows he is going to need all the advantages he can get!

Gestational Diabetes: Are you too sweet?

As pregnant women approach their third trimester, it is standard protocol to test for Gestational Diabetes (GD). This is a form of diabetes that is developed and/or first diagnosed during pregnancy. Those with GD run the risk of increased medical emergencies at birth and birthing larger babies who have a higher risk of birth injury, the need for C-sections, hypoglycemia at birth, jaundice, and permanent metabolic changes they must tolerate for life. Now, I'm not sharing any of this information to scare you, though I do feel it's important to be informed that the foundation of your child's health is determined in utero.

In pregnancy, it is normal for certain metabolic adaptations to occur that make it difficult for the pregnant woman to regulate her blood sugar. If a woman previously had some level of insulin resistance, it is possible for it to progress into GD once she becomes pregnant.

One common misconception is that because it develops during pregnancy, we assume it goes away after pregnancy.

We know that those diagnosed with GD have a higher chance of developing prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes later in life. Actually, within 5 years of giving birth, 70% of women with GD will develop Type 2 Diabetes. So, we can conclude that pregnancy didn't CAUSE the diabetes, rather it shed light on the fact that the woman was already insulin resistant to begin with and if she doesn't make any changes, it will likely progress into Type 2 Diabetes after birth.

How do I find out if I have Gestational Diabetes?

I recommend working with a provider who is encouraging and takes the time to help you through all of your pregnancy concerns. Both OBs and Midwives are qualified to assist you in your prenatal visits. Some providers will require you to take a 2-hour Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) which entails drinking a 75g sugar/glucose solution and measuring your blood glucose 2 hours afterward. This tells us your body's ability to remove that sugar from your bloodstream . For someone who has sufficient insulin sensitivity, her levels should be below 140 mg/dL at the 2-hour mark.

If you feel like you have a healthy diet and lifestyle and that your risk for Gestational Diabetes is rather low, you can ask your provider if you can observe your blood sugars using an alternative method. This can not be used to diagnose GD, but it can quite clearly confirm that you don't have it. Personally, I wouldn't volunteer to drink 75g of pure sugar if I didn't absolutely have to.

For myself, I chose the alternative option. Though I have family members who do have diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), my blood sugar has been quite well-regulated for several years and I know that I was not insulin resistant going into my pregnancy (lifestyle > genetics). My midwife was on-board with having my use the alternative method. For one week, I chose to measure my fasting blood glucose (FBG) upon waking and to measure my blood sugar before and 2-hours after meals. My FBG was 86 mg/dL most days and averaged around 90 mg/dL 2-hours after meals. The highest measurement I had after a meal during the week I measured was 123 mg/dL.

To give some context, the meal that showed the highest 2-hour post-meal BG was right after a 5 mile hike and looked like this:

  • 2 sprouted corn tortillas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup lobster mushroom
  • 1 tbsp goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup eggplant with garlic
  • 1 cup grapes
  • 3 figs

As you can see, they were all real, whole foods but still had significantly raised my blood sugar after the meal. Thankfully, I was able to quickly shuttle away that glucose to help me recover from the hike. I'm showing this because it's very easy to throw your blood sugar off, especially if you are consistently eating foods like bread, pasta, sugary drinks (including juice), etc.

2 hours after breakfast one day (most days). (Disregard the time stamp, it's about an hour off.)

2 hours after breakfast one day (most days). (Disregard the time stamp, it's about an hour off.)

So what can I do if I have Gestational Diabetes?

The beautiful thing is that a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes is not a life sentence! Through making the proper dietary and lifestyle changes, you can control your blood sugar during pregnancy and birth a perfectly healthy baby! I highly recommend enrolling in one of my 21-Day Sugar Detox Coaching groups and/or working with me 1-On-1 to prevent GD or get yours under control. The 21-Day Sugar Detox Program is the ideal program, filled with whole, nourishing foods, to help you manage blood sugar in a way that will help you develop a metabolically healthy child.

 

My Pregnancy Self-Care: Circulation

As a pregnant woman retains more water due to her need for more blood volume, circulation can become an issue. Often times, especially in the third trimester, many women retain water in their lower legs and ankles.

If we imagine the blood supply to be like a river and we wanted to improve water flow through that river, we wouldn't just focus on a small segment of that river would we? Of course not, we need to think about that river as a whole system; Where is the water source? What changes can we make to help water flow easier?

Skin Brushing

Skin brushing is a traditional practice used to enhance lymphatic circulation. A few times a week, I practice skin-brushing to move the lymphatic fluid from my extremities back toward my heart. As I progress through the rest of this pregnancy, this practice will be so helpful for minimizing ankle swelling as well as improving general circulation to the muscles of the lower leg. On that note, if I do experience any ankle swelling, we have a MarcPro electrical stimulation machine on stand-by. However, I am in my third trimester now and haven't yet experienced it. Prevention is key.

Skin brushing at 29 weeks

Skin brushing at 29 weeks

Contrast hydrotherapy

River soaking in August

River soaking in August

Contrast hydrotherapy is a wonderful way to promote circulation and to rebalance the nervous system. I take a warm bath with lavender essential oil 1-2 times per week with my partner to simply relax and recover from the day. If I feel myself getting too hot, I'll take a cold shower then get back in, always ending these rounds with cold water. When I shower in the mornings, most days I end my shower on cold to help stimulate blood flow. When possible, we try to get out and soak in our local (freezing- 54 degree) rivers which is always so refreshing and rejuvenating! To me, there's nothing else that makes me feel more alive than contrast hydrotherapy.

When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables, and by various waters, hot and cold in temperature.
— `Abdu'l-Baha

Movement

In my personal opinion, movement is a cure for just about everything: aches, pains, stagnant blood, etc. For my post on movement during pregnancy, click here.

Warm and Spicy foods

In Eastern cultures, it is highly encouraged to eat warming foods, especially when pregnant or postpartum. As I enter my third trimester, we are also transitioning into Fall so I'm making a solid effort to include foods like garlic, ginger, turmeric, chili peppers, soups, broths, and kimchi in my diet regularly. I like to think I get double points for making foods that have all of the above ingredients ;)

If you struggled with increasing blood flow during your pregnancy, what methods have you found helpful? Share in the comments below!