I love pregnancy nutrition! My approach is that birth is a natural state of being for a woman, however it does place some added stress on the body, mind and spirit. With proper nutrition you can feel strong & nourished, reduce cravings, minimize any unwanted weight gain and encourage hormonal health.
There are quite a few important nutrients & foods to incorporate into your diet while pregnant. This is by no means a complete list, just some of my favourite recommendations to get you started. Introduce new foods slowly during your pregnancy, and stick to whole foods that are natural, alive and good-quality whenever you can.
1. Butter (yassss!).
Just as there are so-called “superfoods” one could call butter a “superfat” – it is loaded with fat-soluable vitamins A, D, E & K (needed for the development of body and brain), iodine (critical for thyroid function) as well as DHA (vital for brain development and function). Butter also provides arachidonic acid (AA), which supports the skin, intestinal health, and brain function.
Look for Ghee if you have any diary intolerance, especially for cooking. Otherwise you can purchase a good-quality grass-fed (might have to go online or find a local farmer!) or a cultured butter as I think they are the most nutritious options. Failing that, conventional butter is still a much better option than margarine or any hydrogenated oils.
Stay away from trans-fats in general, and especially when you are pregnant.
2. Homemade bone broth.
Homemade bone broth (sourced from good-quality chicken, duck, beef, lamb or even fish and slow-cooked for 24-48 hours) is a collagen & gelatin-rich food that helps digestion and contributes to strong bones and tendons and connective tissue in both mother and baby.
Bone broth is extremely rich in minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, all of which are important for building your baby's bones, and also keeps your own stores from becoming depleted. Continue drinking bone broth while breastfeeding to produce calcium rich milk and help replete loss of bone density. Drink plenty while pregnant!
3. Pastured, whole eggs.
Eggs contain choline, which is critical to the development of the brain and helps protect against neural tube defects. Eggs also contain vitamins A, D, E, and K, folate, biotin, iron, zinc and selenium.
Choose fresh pasture-raised eggs whenever possible. Choline can also be found in foods such as: spinach, pork, navy beans, sardines, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts. Make sure eggs are cooked (white and yolk) to avoid any chance of salmonella bacteria.
4. Yogurt & Probiotic-rich foods.
Pregnant mothers pass on healthy bacteria onto their newborns during vaginal birth and thus it is essential to promote healthy gut bacteria before and during pregnancy. Probiotics strengthen the immune system, increase immune cells of both mother and baby, regulate bowel movements, break down bacterial toxins, make Vitamins B, A & K and help to protect against environmental toxins.
Fermented foods include: goats milk kefir, coconut juice kefir, yogurt, kimchi, Greek yogurt, sour cream, sourdough bread and sauerkraut. It is important to increase good bacteria and inhibit bad bacteria with anti-fungals such as coconut oil and garlic.
Choose sealed packages of yogurt from grocery stores when pregnant (instead of anything homemade just to be on the safe side) and eat within a day or two of opening.
5. Small, Cold-Water/Oily Fish.
These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) which are very important for brain and eye development, as well as heart health.
These are some of the fish with the highest nutrient-to-pollutant ratio out there. Examples of fish found in this category would be: Atlantic mackerel, cod, haddock, herring, mahi mahi, salmon, anchovies, pollock, trout, whitefish, and sardines as well as canned skipjack/light tuna (in moderation). The ones in bold are my favourite choices.
6. Iron-Rich Foods.
The amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy until you have almost 50 percent more blood than usual, so you need more iron to make more hemoglobin, and support the growth of your baby and placenta.
Topping the list of foods rich in iron would be things like chicken livers, as well as beef and the dark meat of turkey. When eating liver, I would recommend purchasing organic, pasture raised meat. The liver is an organ of detoxification, so my thoughts are that it is best to choose one from as healthy an animal as possible. Note that livers are high in vitamin A (you will want to monitor your total vitamin A levels from food + supplement sources), so you can eat them, but in moderation and more towards the second and third trimester. Iron from meat sources is better assimilated into the body, however there are non-heme (non meat) sources as well.
A great plant-based source of iron (as well as calcium and magnesium) would be nettle leaf (not root) tea during the second and third trimesters. Other sources include spinach, lamb, beans, and sunflower seeds. Another easy way to increase iron levels is to switch to cast iron pans while you are cooking at home.
Meal & Snack ideas:
· Pan-fried whole sardines stuffed with lemon, parsley and garlic, served over fresh baby spinach with purple potatoes.
· Borscht soup topped with freshly chopped dill & sour cream, served with potato latkes and spiced yogurt.
· Bone broth soup served with sourdough bread with butter and hard cheese.
· Shakshuka (with fully cooked eggs) or fully cook eggs and then serve on top of homemade tomato sauce with sourdough and thinly shaved aged parmesan slices.