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!