What to Eat When You Are Expecting

Women are frequently emailing, texting, or calling me about what to eat when they are pregnant.  In fact, just the other day I sat next to a young woman on a plane who was expecting her first baby.  Her baby has a heart defect that will require four surgeries by the age of three years old.  My heart goes out to this mom.

What to expect when your expecting

Want to have a healthy pregnancy?

 Her question was the same as many moms.   When people find out I am a nutritionist, the first question is inevitably, “What can I do to make sure I am doing everything I can?”  It is a question I love to answer.  I have three children of my own, and I know how much you want to make sure your baby is getting everything he/she needs.  This would be a subject I would shout from the rooftop if I could.  We are a nation in the greatest ill health of our time.  One in thirty-three babies is born with a birth defect.  Some defects are unavoidable; others are clearly linked to nutritional deficiencies.  This is why I wanted to write this article for expectant mothers and for those who are planning to get pregnant.  It is never too soon or too late to implement some profoundly helpful changes. You probably have already heard of the necessity for folic acid, a B-vitamin that prevents neural tube defects.  That is one of those defects which is avoidable through a proper diet and supplementation.  What you probably do not know are the devastating effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  The high saturated fat, high sugar diet of choice is destroying our health and the health of our unborn children.  These foods are over-feeding our bodies and severely lacking in vital vitamins and minerals.  The SAD is loaded with sugar, preservatives, and artery-clogging foods that do far more harm than good.  These foods contribute to disease, gestational diabetes, and obesity during pregnancy.  The apple does not fall far from the tree, as the saying goes: If this diet is doing this to us, it is doing it to our children.  Let’s take one common deficiency in our daily diet and see how this can be problematic for our unborn babies.  Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are greatly lacking in our diets.  We consume excessive amount of saturated fats in the form of harmful Omega 6.  We do not get enough of Omega 3 from fish, olive oil, coconut oil, and organic butter.  We also do not get enough of the healthy Omega 6 foods like sunflower seeds and walnuts.   A lack of essential fatty acids can cause a host of problems for adults.  The brain is 60% fat.  You need these good fats for healthy brain, nerve, and heart function; healthy hair, skin and nails; energy; healthy intestines; and bones. The same is true for your unborn child.  EFA are critical for brain, nerve, and retinal development, just to name a few.  Research shows that babies born with proper EFA amounts have much higher IQs.  Research also shows that most women are very lacking in these fats.  Lab results show that new mothers have about half of the Omega 3 levels they should.  Mothers who breast fed have even less.  In this case, the mother and baby are both lacking in these vital fats.  The levels drop even lower with each pregnancy.  Some believe this is the reason first born children are generally mentally superior to their siblings.  You must supplement with Omegas 3 and 6 during pregnancy and while nursing for the good of your baby and for your own strength.  Even if you are eating a stellar diet, it is very difficult to get enough. This is one of the first supplements I put all of my pregnant and recovering mothers on.  All new mothers tell me how much this helps with the dry mucous membranes and mental fatigue that are so prevalent after delivery.  Additionally, it makes those fat rolls that your baby needs for healthy development.   Here are my top picks for super foods and supplements for a healthy pregnancy and baby.  Always check with your doctor before starting a new program.  Let your doctor know what supplements you are taking.

1.     Cut out sugar and all processed foods.  They offer you nothing in the way of vital nutrients.  They increase your risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.  Fruit and some honey and stevia are fine in moderation.

2.     Emphasize the foods rich in Omegas 3 and 6.  Foods like dark leafy greens, raw walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, wild-caught fish (no mercury), organic butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. 

3.     Eat plenty of high quality protein like organic chicken, turkey, eggs, and avocado. 

4.     Eat whole grains like quinoa, millet, and brown rice in moderation.

5.     Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

6.     Supplement with a purified Omega 3, 6 balance in recommended doses.

7.     Take a whole food prenatal multi-vitamin and mineral supplement with at least 400 mcg of folic acid (please do not take a synthetic multi-vitamin and mineral supplement).  I also like to see B-12 (methyl form only) with folic acid taken.  It is so good for the mommy’s brain and nerve function as well as for the baby.

8.     Probiotics two times per day to establish and maintain healthy gut flora, which is the engine for your immune system.

9.     Exercise, mom—you need it to maintain good blood flow and to stay healthy and strong throughout your pregnancy.

10.                         Some women require extra iron in the last trimester as blood volume increases.   Gentle Iron by Solgar is amazing.  It doesn’t cause constipation.

Enjoy this season!  It is a gift!  It is not about being perfect.  It is about making the best choices most of the time.  If you cheat and cave to cravings once in a while, enjoy it!  I do!


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