Healthy eating for a healthy pregnancy

healthy real food

In today’s world, there's a lot of "diets" and ways of eating that claim to be the healthiest. Low fat, low carb, vegan, vegetarian, keto or paleo are just to name a few... Maybe you yourself have tried some or all of these ways of eating and now that you’re pregnant, you might be wondering is one way of eating better than the other?

Pregnancy is an important time where you need more than the usual amount of nutrients to nourish your baby’s growing body. For this reason, I don’t like to prescribe a certain way of eating other than a wholefood diet: real, natural food.

Eating real, natural food is the best thing you can do for you and your baby while you’re pregnant. If you focus on eating real food you’ll be getting more of the nutrients your developing baby needs without worrying about the empty calories that come from processed foods, which contribute towards unhealthy levels of weight gain during pregnancy. 

 

What is real food?

 

Real food is food that's as close to its natural state as possible. Potatoes compared to potato chips. Whole-wheat toast compared to a bagel. Corn on the cob compared to a packet of Doritos.

 

A good question to ask yourself is how much time did this food spend in a factory?

 

For example...

 

An apple = no time at all

Apple sauce = a little time to get processed into sauce and packaged

Apple pie = a longer time especially for the crust to be made and added

 

Brown rice = little time to get washed and packaged

White rice = a little longer for bran to be stripped and packaged

Rice crisps = a longer time for the bran to be stripped and then converted into crisps and then packaged

 

Choosing foods that've spent no time in a factory is always the best option. Choosing foods that’ve spent only a small amount of time in a factory is the next best thing. I believe that if you can eat real foods most of the time throughout your pregnancy, you don’t have to worry about calorie counting or restrictions. These foods have real nutrients that serve a purpose.

During my first pregnancy, I was hungry all of the time. Some days, I would have two lunches just to get me through to dinner and most days, I’d have to eat something every 2-3 hours. However, since I was eating real food when I was hungry, I didn’t worry about counting calories. The only time I had to be mindful about portion size was when I was indulging in a craving that wasn’t “real food” (for me, it was the occasional ice-cream or slice or two of pizza!).  

In a nutshell, pregnancy is not a time to deny your hunger but it’s not a time to go crazy on food that doesn’t deliver nutrients to your body or your baby. Does that mean you can’t occasionally have a chocolate bar or a dessert? Not at all. Sometimes, it’s just better for your emotional health to go on and treat yourself. But a treat should be exactly that… a treat. Not a replacement for a wholesome nutritious meal. And when it comes to sweets and treats, portion control is everything.

 

So how can you making choosing real food easier?

Here are five tips that worked for me in both my pregnancies that helped me choose real food as often I could.

 

1.   Meal prep

If you can take the time to prepare your meals, do it. Cook ahead if you can so you have meals ready for when your hunger strikes. For me, I would cook a big batch of brown rice pasta with lots of veggies and grilled chicken and I would take servings of it to my office where I could have a serving of it as my “3pm snack” when I was hungry. This kept me full and helped me avoid the usual snack foods like chips, chocolate and candy. In my opinion, having a second serving of brown rice pasta with grilled chicken and veggies is very different to having a bag of chips, a muffin or a chocolate bar.

 

2.   Look for the least ingredients – or better yet, no ingredient list at all

If you’re on the go and need a quick snack, the healthiest options will always be food that comes without an ingredient list: fruit, nuts, seeds and hard-boiled eggs are just to name a few... If they’re not available, then foods that have as few ingredients as possible, are the next best thing. For example, an energy bar with less than five ingredients is more nutritional than one with a long list of ingredients you can't pronounce. Likewise, unsweetened yoghurt or salted potato chips with 3-4 ingredients are better for you than their counterparts with a long list of ingredients.

 

3.   Avoid anything artificial 

Avoid foods that have colors, preservatives and artificial sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup. Any food with these things added to them are a huge red flag to me. These foods have spent a long time being processed in a factory and they’re as far from natural, real food as possible. Research has confirmed that artificial sweeteners have a toxic effect on our bodies and that high-fructose corn syrup triggers weight gain. The hard thing with artificial sweeteners is that food manufacturers are sneaky by hiding sweeteners in everything from ketchup to crackers so always read your ingredient lists.

 

4.   Don’t have junk food in your home or in your office

If it’s not there, the likelihood of you eating junk food is a lot less than if it was within reach. This is especially important when you’re pregnant and hungry most of the time. I’ve learnt this the hard way!  If I crave junk, I have to really make an effort to go to the store and get it. Occasionally, I would satisfy a craving for hot chocolate or French fries and go out to indulge, but because I don’t have sweets or junk at home, if I’m hungry I have to eat what I have available: nuts, fruits, dried fruits such as dates and figs which are great for satisfying a sweet tooth… so are pre-made cacao balls that you can keep in the fridge or freezer for later.

 

5.   Don’t get too hungry between meals 

 

I find myself thinking about sweets or junk food when I haven’t had a good meal beforehand. To feel full and satisfied, I need high-quality protein at each meal or snack, otherwise I’m hungry and craving junk or processed food an hour later. I try to include a serve of protein in each meal or snack in the form of eggs, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, tofu, beans, lentils or lean meat. A high-protein breakfast always helps me stay on track for the day so I’ll most likely have eggs in the morning, avocado toast or nut butter on whole-grain bread. If you’re more of an oatmeal or granola girl in the morning, try making your own granola so it has more protein and fiber than the store-bought varieties. I love this grain-free granola by Minimalist Baker which uses lots of walnuts, almonds and pecans so it's nutrient-rich without any refined sugars.

 

Morning sickness: why you get it & what you can do

morning sickness nausea

 

I am living and breathing this article as I write it. As a wonderful surprise, we found out that I was pregnant with our second baby a few weeks ago, which is exciting because I get to walk in the shoes of other bella mamas and re-visit pregnancy health and wellness for myself all over again.

However, one thing that’s been very different to my first pregnancy, is how sick I’ve been in the first trimester. With my first, I barely experienced any nausea. Although I was tired most of the time, my first trimester wasn’t plagued with trips to the bathroom to be sick.

It’s very different this time ‘round.

The last few weeks have been extremely difficult, physically. I’ve been sick several times a day, exhausted and emotional. So, what better way to harness a horrible feeling than to put pen to paper and talk about morning sickness and how I’ve learnt to combat it.

And just for the record, morning sickness isn’t limited to the morning at all. Women can experience it any time of day and it can last the whole day as well. For me, the nausea lasts the whole day but it’s worse from about late afternoon to bedtime so I’ve learnt to do the most important things I need to do (including take my prenatal supplements) and eat meals during the day, in preparation for feeling ill at night.

 

What is morning sickness?

 

To support a healthy pregnancy, your hormones like estrogen and progesterone have to soar to new heights. Progesterone increases up to 100 times its normal amount and estrogen goes up to 15 times its usual limit. These hormones keep the baby safe and encourage normal development but they’re responsible for everything from sore boobs and vomiting to mood swings and irritability. The first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy), is when women experience the most hormonal fluctuations. Hormones often level out after week 13 when the placenta (your baby’s life-support organ) takes over producing these hormones and nausea and fatigue often ease up.

 

Why do you get it?

 

One theory is that morning sickness is Mother Nature’s way of getting us to avoid certain toxins in what we eat and drink. Our normal diets are replaced with basic easy-to-stomach foods such as fruit, crackers, bread and soup. At least that was the case for me. I’ve only been able to stomach meat or dairy in very small amounts and the thought of anything fried, overly processed or too sweet, makes me feel sick. As frustrating as it is to not be able to eat all the well-balanced meals as I want right now, I’m trusting that my body knows best and I’m trying to be kind to myself by eating what I can, when I can.

Whether you believe this theory or not, the most important thing in the first trimester (when your baby’s organs are forming), is to avoid and limit toxin exposure. For me, this experience, has made understand the importance of pre-pregnancy health even more, because it’s in that time before you conceive that you can detox your body and build up your nutritional stores. After all, morning sickness doesn’t discriminate. A healthy woman might be faced with a few weeks of nausea, vomiting and an aversion to fruits, vegetables and food she would normally eat, so it's best to be prepared beforehand.

However, if you didn’t get a chance to prepare your body before pregnancy, don’t despair. The best thing you can do now is to get on a good prenatal supplement and limit your toxin exposure by eating organic wherever possible, avoiding processed foods and eating as many fruits and vegetables as you can.

 

What can you do?

If you’re reading this and already battling nausea and vomiting, I feel ya sister! Here is what helped me get through the last few weeks…

 

1.    Take a good-quality prenatal supplement

Despite being as sick as a dog, I’ve taken my prenatal supplements every day. I love taking high-quality brand like Naturelo because I know my baby is getting the essential vitamins and minerals she or he needs in this time. When it comes to prenatals, it’s important to find a brand that uses real folate, and not the synthetic kind that most brands use because there's a real difference. This is especially important in the first few weeks of pregnancy to reduce the chance of birth defects.

 

2.    Have small, frequent meals

I am not a natural “grazer”. I’ve always preferred to have three larger meals and don’t snack much in between meals but I’ve had to adapt and change the way I eat the past few weeks because low blood sugar levels heighten nausea. Now, I don’t go far from my bed in the morning without having eaten half a banana or half a granola bar or half a glass of unsweetened almond milk. Even though I don’t feel like it, I’ll have a few bites of something every couple of hours so I don’t get too hungry throughout the day.

 

3.    Try natural remedies for queasy stomachs

Ginger is an age-old remedy because ginger neutralizes stomach acid. I’ve had a lot of pickled ginger the past few weeks because one of pregnancy cravings has been shrimp and avocado sushi made with brown rice. You can also try ginger tea or a low-sugar ginger ale. Simple soups and plain crackers have also been life-savers for when I’ve felt queasy. In this time, it’s also best to avoid greasy and overly processed food as they put more strain on your digestion.

 

4.    Citrus fruits

Many women report that the scent of citrus can ease nausea momentarily. I also found this to be true and ate half a grapefruit and a couple of oranges each day because I enjoy the scent (and taste!). Lemons in ice cold water has also helped ease the nausea and on really bad days, I suck on lemon wedges because this takes the nausea away, at least momentarily.

 

5.    Load up on Vitamin B6

Research has found that a Vitamin B6 deficiency can make nausea and morning sickness worse. If you can stomach them, try and eat as many foods rich in Vitamin B6, even before nausea and morning sickness kick in. The best sources of Vitamin B6 are turkey breast, grass-fed beef, pistachio nuts, avocado, pinto beans, garbanzo beans and sunflower seeds.

 

6.    Try essential oils

Just like the scent of citrus, many women report that citrus or peppermint essential oils can help relieve nausea. I use a diffuser to diffuse grapefruit oil throughout the apartment. I have my diffuser in the kitchen, where I feel the most nauseous because of all the different food smells.

 

7.    Get fresh air and sunshine

It might sound cliché, but fresh air and sunshine, does do wonders for the soul. There were days when I felt so sick, I couldn’t leave my apartment and I just had to be kind to myself and accept that it was that way. But on the days that I could, I would go on a short walk with Elijah. Even if my body felt ill, at least I was feeding my soul with some fresh air and sunshine and that brought some relief.

 

 

 

You're pregnant, now what?!

If you're like me when I first found out I was pregnant, I was little overwhelmed as to what to do. When should I make my first doctor's appointment? What food should I now avoid? Can I still exercise? How can I made healthier choices to help my baby's development?

Here are the first 7 things women should do when they found out they're pregnant...

1.    If you’re not already taking a good prenatal, please start now! A prenatal supplement is your insurance policy for all the important nutrients your baby needs for healthy development and because it’s such an important nutrient in preventing certain birth defects, it’s a good idea to invest in a good quality prenatal that has real folate in it too.

 

2.    Book an appointment with your OBGYN or midwife. Most health care providers will want to see you by Week 8 so they can perform a blood test to test your hormones and thyroid function – and to see if your lacking in specific nutrients like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D or iron. Don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’ until you find a provider you’re comfortable with.

 

3.    Meal prep nutritious meals for future weeks when nausea or fatigue can prevent you from eating well. Bone broths, minestrone or French lentil soup, casseroles and stir-fries are great to cook in large batches so you can freeze them for a time you don’t feel like cooking. Experiment with frittatas, healthy muffins and energy date balls for quick and easy breakfasts and snacks.

 

4.    Get familiar with what foods you should avoid over the next 9 months because these foods are more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria called listeria. Listeria can cause infection, cross the placenta and be life-threatening to your baby. Check out Practice Safe Food to see what food to avoid and how you can reduce your chance of listeriosis.

 

5.    Start a pregnancy journal, even if it’s a few short words on paper. The early weeks of pregnancy (especially before you announce it to family and friends), can be overwhelming or lonely at times. I found that journaling helped me focus and ground my thoughts in a very emotional time.

 

6.    Drink enough water… at least ten 8oz glasses a day. Try and get into a routine of drinking enough water because this will become even more important as your blood volume increases and your baby’s amniotic sac grows larger throughout your pregnancy.

  

7.    Keep up with a strength-training routine if you can, whether it be yoga, barre or a light-weights video at home. Making sure your arms, back and shoulders stay strong becomes even more important as these muscle groups will support your growing belly throughout pregnancy. Most pregnancy back, neck and shoulder pain can be prevented by making sure your upper body and back stays as strong as possible through pregnancy.

The 10 most common early pregnancy signs

1.     Missed period

If your period is late, it’s worth taking a pregnancy test. The best time to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning, using your first pee of the day. That’s because the test will be looking for elevated hCG hormone levels and the concentration of hCG is highest first-thing in the morning.

 

2.     Sore boobs

Just like your boobs may get sore before your period, hormonal changes may make them sore in the earlier half of pregnancy. With my first pregnancy, I discovered that I was pregnant because my boobs were so sore, I felt like I needed to wear two bras to get the support I needed!

 

3.     Fatigue

Hormones, again, are responsible for the crippling fatigue most pregnant women experience in the first trimester. The hormone, progesterone, soars to up to 100 times its normal amount in a pregnant woman’s body. Progesterone relaxes the uterus and protects the growing baby, but it also acts as a sedative and makes the pregnant woman more tired. If you feel like you can’t get through the day without a nap, or an earlier bedtime, it could be a sign that you’re pregnant.

 

4.     Nausea

Despite the name “morning sickness”, nausea and vomiting can strike any time of day and can last the whole day for some women. With my second pregnancy, my nausea and vomiting was worse in the afternoon until bedtime, so keep this in mind if you expectantly experience nausea and vomiting and it’s not food poisoning or a gastro bug.

 

5.     Light spotting

Light spotting happens for some women when the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus wall, where it will make its home and grow into a fetus from there. Light spotting happens around the time you would normally get your period. The only difference is that the bleeding won’t be heavy enough to fill a pad or tampon.

 

6.     Cramping

Just like light spotting, some women experience cramps when the fertilized egg implants itself onto the uterus wall. These cramps feel very similar to your usual period cramps. With my second pregnancy, I experienced these cramps and thought my period was on the way. However, it didn’t come and sure enough, I was pregnant!

 

7.     Change in your cervical mucus

If you’ve been tracking changes in your cervical mucus for ovulation and fertility, you’d be familiar with how your cervical mucus changes around the time you’re ovulating. It’s thicker, almost the consistency of runny egg white. This mucus will change to become clear and thin, almost disappearing before your period comes. However, if you’re pregnant, your mucus will stay thick and white. That’s because this mucus is part of your body’s way of protecting the growing fetus from bacteria and microbes that could otherwise enter through the vagina.

 

8.     Food aversions

Just like nausea, food aversions are a common early pregnancy sign. If you experience a sudden dislike for a food (or smell) you’ve always loved, and you can’t explain the dislike, it could be a sign that you’re pregnant. One of the tell-tales signs for me in my first pregnancy, was my sudden dislike for the smell and taste of bacon (which I ate a few times a week prior to pregnancy!).

 

9.     Cold-like symptoms

During the earlier half of pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is naturally lowered to protect the baby from being rejected by the mother’s body. Pregnant women are more susceptible to colds and flu and it’s not uncommon to wake up with a stuffy nose or a sore throat or to have cold symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing throughout the day.

 

10.  More emotional

The hormonal rollercoaster is real. Just like hormonal changes can bring on PMS before your period, hormonal changes during pregnancy can you more emotional or irritable, especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy where hormone levels are escalating each day. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to be more teary and emotional... I know I certainly am during pregnancy!

Practice safe food: what not to eat while pregnant

If you’re pregnant, it can be a little overwhelming to think of all the foods that you can’t eat during pregnancy. No raw fish. No unpasteurized cheese. Even prepared salads are out of bounds. It can seem a lot.

These foods are a ‘no go’ during pregnancy because they’re more likely to harbor bacteria called listeria. Listeria is food-borne bacteria, just like E. coli. However, unlike E. coli, listeria can cross the placenta and cause infection or blood poisoning in the baby. In severe cases, it’s been linked to miscarriage and preterm delivery.

Each year, there are 2500 reported cases of listeria poisoning in the US. Out of that 2500, about 500 of them are pregnant women. When you do the math, that's about 1 in 8000 pregnant women. That’s pretty slim odds, but still, it’s best to avoid listeria-harboring foods until after your baby is born, just to be on the safe side.

When I was pregnant with my son, I craved penne carbonara a lot in the last trimester. Penne carbonara is made with raw egg so I held out and sure enough, it was the first meal we had delivered to the hospital after my son was born. I still remember every bite, it was that good!

Here’s the lowdown on what to avoid and how you can lower your chances of listeria poisoning.

 

SEAFOOD

salmon

·      Raw or undercooked seafood including sashimi, crudo and raw oysters. Cook any fish until its opaque (not see-through) in the middle.

·      Fish high in mercury. Mercury has been linked to brain damage and development delays in babies. The bigger the fish, the higher up on the food chain it is and the more mercury it could contain. That includes larger fish including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna and tilefish. On the flip side, smaller fish such as anchovies and sardines are low in mercury. So are wild-caught  cold-water fish like salmon, cod and halibut. As a bonus, cold-water fish are higher in Omega 3s so they promote heart and skin health along with your baby’s brain development.

·      Tuna more than once a week is not advised. Canned tuna is generally lower in mercury than tuna in other forms so don’t sweat it if you have canned tuna from time to time. I’d recommend limiting tuna to one serving per week and eating other types of seafood that are lower in mercury such as wild-caught salmon, trout, cod, halibut, shrimp, Pollock and tilapia.

·      Smoked or pickled seafood thats unpasteurized including lox, kippered and nova style fish because there’s a greater chance they could contain listeria. If you have to have it, canned smoked salmon has been pasteurized and is safe to eat.

 

EGGS

eggs

·      Raw or undercooked eggs. Save your ‘over easy’ eggs for after the birth and for now, cook your eggs so the yolks are firm and not runny.

·      Desserts that contain raw eggs including mousse, meringue, tiramisu, egg nog and cookie dough (sorry).

·      Home-made mayonnaise and home-made sauces such as hollandaise, béarnaise, aioli and Caesar salad dressings because these all contain raw eggs. Store-bought versions of these sauces are okay and if you’re eating out, just check with the restaurant to see if their sauces use raw eggs.

 

DAIRY

cheese platter

·    Avoid raw milk and raw cheeses. Legally, all milk sold in the US has to be pasteurized so you don’t have to worry about the milk you buy from the grocery store. If you do buy milk straight from a farm or farmers market, check to see if its pasteurized.

·    Avoid soft cheeses like brie, Camembert, Roquefort, feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican style cheeses like queso blanco and queso fresco. Most of these cheeses are imported and could be made with raw milk so it's best to avoid them unless you can guarantee that they’ve been made with pasteurized milk. Swiss, cheddar and mozzarella are safe to eat during pregnancy.

 

MEAT

hot dog

 

·      Raw or undercooked meat. Cook your meat all the way through so no ‘pink’ is visible, especially ground beef and pork.

·      Pâté (raw chicken liver). If you love the stuff, you can eat canned pâté which has been pasteurized. 

·      Luncheon meats including ham, roast beef, bologna, salami, pepperoni and hot dogs. Luncheon meats are more likely to harbor listeria so if you have to have them, heat them until they’re steaming (about 165° F.).

 

PRACTICE SAFE FOOD.png

 

5 safe food tips

1.     Wash your hands before you cook or eat your food to reduce bacteria.

2.     Wash your fruits and veggies before eating them. It’s good practice to wash off any residue from herbicide and pesticide anyway.

3.     Keep your fridge below 40° F and throw out leftover food that's been sitting out for more than two hours.

4.     Don’t eat picnic or buffet food that’s been sitting out for more than two hours. Sadly, this includes pre-prepared fruit and veggie salads because they can be a breeding ground for listeria too.

5.     Don’t eat the stuffing from a roast chicken or turkey, unless you know the insides have been heated to at least 165° F.

 

 

Why organic matters

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Yes, organic produce is more expensive, there is no denying that. Sometimes I catch myself comparing prices in the grocery store wishing that organic produce wasn’t double the price. Like most people with a limited disposable income, I want to make sure that I’m spending my money on things I really need. So, if you’re like me, here are five reasons why organic will improve your health.

1.     More nutrients

Research has shown that organic fruits and vegetables can have up to three times more nutritional value than conventional (non-organic) produce (GOOP).  Organic fruits and veggies have more nutrients because they’re grown in soil that hasn’t been depleted of all the important minerals and enzymes needed to make nutrient-dense foods (Harvard). Eating organic helps you get more of the important vitamins and minerals that you and your baby need.

2.     Less chemicals

 Did you know that at birth, over 200 different chemicals can be found in the baby’s umbilical cord and amongst other things, herbicides and pesticides from food were part of the mixture (EWG). These pesticides and other toxins can create health risks for babies. Many studies link pesticides to low birth weight, birth defects, neurological and behavioral problems, disrupted hormone function, autism, and cancer. If pesticides can cross the placenta, it’s best to avoid them at all cost and switching to organic produce can significantly reduce the amount of toxin exposure your baby has while in utero.

3.     No growth hormones

The meat and dairy industries use growth hormones on animals so they grow faster and produce milk all year round. Unfortunately, these hormones don’t break down at high heat, so they still remain present after the meat is cooked. These hormones can disrupt your own hormonal balance, which could make you gain weight, break out or bloat. One way to avoid these growth hormones is to only eat organic meat and dairy.

4.     No antibiotics

Just like hormones, we ingest antibiotics through non-organic meat and dairy. More than 80% of all antibiotics produced in the US are for the meat and dairy industry, so animals grow faster and survive the unsanitary conditions of concentrated feedlots (FDA).  These antibiotics can interrupt your own gut bacteria balance, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Eating organic meat and dairy is one way of avoiding antibiotics in our food.

5.     Guaranteed non-GMO

In the US, food manufacturers don’t legally have to label genetically modified (GMO) food, so unless a label says it’s organic or that it’s non-GMO, you can’t always be sure of what you’re getting. However, to be classified as organic, farmers can’t use genetically modified seeds or feed GMO food to animals so you can always know that your organic produce is non-GMO.

And as a bonus to your health, organic farming practices do not use fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals that poison our soils, water and air. Pesticides and herbicides don’t break down in water so they can stay in our water systems and in our land for years.

 

HOW CAN YOU START EATING ORGANIC?

 

To be honest, it took me a while to get the importance of eating organic. Selfishly, I didn’t start to eat organic for environmental reasons… I simply enjoyed the taste of organic eggs and organic fruit better. However, when I was pregnant with Elijah, something shifted in me. Pregnancy was a time I became mindful of a lot of the choices I made in my life and that included the food I ate. After all, I couldn’t always control the chemicals I was exposed to each day, but I could control what was on my plate.

Slowly but surely, I started replacing conventional produce like berries or eggs, with their organic counterparts. Now with Elijah in my life, we eat organic whenever we eat at home. It is definitely more expensive so I do my best to make informed decisions and save where I can.

If you’re like me, here’s how you can start eating organic, even if you’re on a budget.

 

1.     Buy organic for the Dirty Dozen

 

The Dirty Dozen is a list of the top 12 most heavily sprayed crops in the US. I recommend always buying these organic and being a bit more relaxed about the Clean Fifteen because they’re the least sprayed crops. For example, I always buy organic strawberries and spinach (the top two most sprayed crops in the US) but I don’t stress about bananas, avocados and grapefruit so I often buy these conventional.

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2.     Buy frozen

 

Frozen fruit and vegetables are a lot cheaper, so I will opt for a bag of frozen organic blueberries over a fresh punnet of conventional blueberries, especially when organic berries aren’t in season. The same applies with broccoli and bell peppers, especially when they’re not in season and too expensive to buy organic. The added bonus with frozen produce is that it’s pre-cut so its super easy to meal prep and cook!

 

3.     Reduce meat and dairy  

 

Personally, organic meat and dairy has become non-negotiable for me, especially when I’m pregnant or nursing. I make the financial sacrifice there and I buy conventional fruits and vegetables from the Clean Fifteen list to save money.

However, if you can’t afford organic meat, try swapping out meat for beans and lentils a few times a week. 1 cup of lentils has 17g of protein compared to 25g in the same amount of meat. Not only that, but lentils are full of fiber, folate, iron and minerals such as calcium. Maybe experiment with meatless meals that have beans or lentils 1-2 times per week and see how much you save and how you feel? The great thing with beans and lentils is that you’ll be getting lots of protein, minerals and vitamins, along with lots of fiber to help keep things moving during pregnancy.

 

STRAWBERRY & PEACH SMOOTHIE

Vitamin C

How pregnancy changed my relationship with fitness

meray frose

An interview with Meray Froese: personal trainer, business-owner and mom-to-be.

There are so many benefits to exercise during pregnancy. However, to some people the biggest challenge might not be working out in itself but instead, learning how to find balance and listen to our bodies, especially if we’ve held ourselves to strict pre-pregnancy fitness regimes.

One woman who knows this better than anyone else, is Meray Froese. Meray is a personal trainer and business-owner on the forefront of the fitness industry in Vancouver, Canada. More than that, she’s a wife and mom-to-be of a baby girl due in May.  

I’ve long-admired Meray’s honesty when it comes to the ups and downs of pregnancy, including her miscarriage with her first baby girl in 2017. Meray has also been open about body image during pregnancy, which is something we will be exploring more of here on the BML. Let’s face it, what woman doesn’t walk into pregnancy without fears or hang ups about body image?

I can especially relate to how Meray’s relationship with fitness changed during pregnancy. Meray speaks about having to learn how to listen to her body and rest when she needs to.

Just like Meray, fitness was a still a big part of my life during pregnancy but I found that pregnancy was a time to undo some of the strict expectations I held myself to. Instead of high-intensity classes and 10-mile runs, I opted for more moderate forms of exercise. I still worked out 3-4 times per week during my pregnancy but I went to barre and yoga classes and did about 20 minutes of cardio on the elliptical twice a week.

I can really relate to how Meray had to learn how to listen to her body and know when it was time to rest.

Here’s a peak into Meray’s life and her views on pregnancy and fitness.

 

What has your pregnancy journey taught you about health and looking after your body?

Pregnancy has taught me to listen to my body. When I wasn’t pregnant, it was mind over matter. If I was exhausted, I’d go to the gym and work out anyway. If I was hungry at night and it was after a certain time, I wouldn’t eat. For me, what I’ve learnt during this pregnancy, is not to care about what anyone else thinks. I want to listen to my body. Sometimes that means saying no to an event that all my friends are going to because I’m too tired. Sometimes it means eating in the middle of the night because I’m hungry, and sometimes it means skipping a workout because I’m exhausted and I need to rest. All of these things have been huge adjustments for me because they’re so different from my pre-pregnancy self. I’m so used to doing whatever I’ve scheduled in for myself.

 

How has your fitness routine changed now that you're pregnant? And what has been the hardest or the best thing about that change?

It’s a day and night change between my pregnancy and pre-pregnancy routine. Before I was pregnant I worked out about 5 times a week. My routine included a lot of heaving lifting, high intensity, explosive jumping and sprints. I would be drenched in sweat, exhausted after each workout. Now it’s the polar opposite.

I was so sick in my first trimester that I hardly worked out. As much I wanted to work out, I couldn’t. I vomited every day. After that, I got into a routine of working out 4 times per week. I would do 20 minutes of cardio – the stair climber or the elliptical – and then do some weight training afterwards. I wear an Apple watch so I can check my heart rate. I take rests between sets and I listen to my body. I feel like I don’t overdo it but I’ve had to adjust my mindset. I’m so used to pushing myself, and now I have to be content with what I can do.

 

How has your pregnancy journey taught you to love and appreciate your body in a different way

Pregnancy can be a challenging time if you’re typically used to exercise and weight management. It’s been a huge adjustment for me and for a lot of women I’ve spoken to. It’s difficult when no-one else can notice your ‘bump’ yet but you’re getting larger. That can really mess with your mind if you allow it to.  

For me, I’ve had to really let go of that type of thinking. I felt like I was finally getting into shape again after gaining some weight with previous miscarriages and the trauma my body went through.

I constantly remind myself (and my husband is really good at reminding me too), that the purpose of my body right now is to grow and nurture this baby. That’s the priority right now. And it’s actually quite freeing when you allow that to happen because it gives you permission to take care of yourself and rest.

 

What does it look like to be a healthy mother to you and what's one thing you want to pass onto your daughter?

Self-care is an important thing I want to model for my daughter. It’s really important for me to keep taking care of myself after I have my baby. I want to eat well and nurture my body and manage stress and anxiety by still pursuing the things that I love.

Ultimately, I want my daughter to be the kindest person, but having a daughter, I’m aware that body image will be an issue she’ll be confronted with at some stage. I want to model a healthy relationship with body image. Even though I’m in the fitness industry, I don’t want to be talking about dieting and exercise all of the time. Instead, I want to be healthy eating and an active lifestyle to be part of our everyday life. I believe that you don’t have to do talk about it, you can just live it and children will see your values that way.

For more information on Meray, check out her inspiring blog.

zesty shrimp bowl

PROTEIN FIBER + VITAMIN A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnancy cravings & healthy weight gain

donuts in bed

Before I was pregnant, my biggest perception about pregnancy was that pregnant women got uncontrollable cravings for pizza and ice-cream at all hours of the day. I thought that those cravings would control you for the nine months that you were pregnant and that you had no choice but to give in and eat exactly what you were craving.

What I learnt through my own pregnancy, was that firstly, every woman is different and secondly, you can turn your cravings into healthier options, at least most of the time.

Some women crave pizza and others crave watermelon. Other women, like myself, crave cheese burgers but can't stand the thought of cupcakes (for some reason, anything too sugary made me feel sick).

While I indulged most of my cravings, I always looked to how I could turn them into healthier, more nutritional options when I could.

When I craved cheese burgers, I would order burgers on a whole-wheat bun – or skip the bun if whole-wheat wasn’t available and indulged in a few French fries instead.

When I craved Mac n cheese, I would make my own version using brown rice pasta, and throw as many vegetables in there as I could. I would also use organic cheese.

When I craved something salty, I would buy roasted and salted almonds before reaching for the potato chips.

When I craved chocolate, I would have some raw cacao truffles that I had stored in the fridge or freezer. These cacao truffles are made with ground walnuts so they’re packed with fiber, protein and Omega 3 fatty-acids that will benefit both you and your baby. They’re also sugar-free and naturally sweetened with dates.

So how can you make your cravings healthier?

Can you choose whole-wheat?

Whole-wheat grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat flour, whole-grain oats, barley and faro, have fiber and protein in them so they slow the absorption of glucose (or blood sugar) into your body. This is key to weight management and healthy hormones because a spike in blood sugar means a spike in insulin, which signals your body to store excess glucose as fat.

Can you choose whole-wheat dough for your pizza or whole-wheat bread for your grilled cheese sandwich? Better yet, can you sub in quinoa or buckwheat instead of grains because both quinoa and buckwheat are protein-packed seeds and not grains.

Can you cut the sugar?

Just like excess carbohydrates, excess sugar causes a spike in the hormone insulin and signals your body to go into fat-storage mode.

Can you bake it with half the amount of sugar or make an alternative with natural sweeteners such as maple syrup or dates? Check out my recipe for sugar-free raw cacao truffles for a sweet treat or a mid-afternoon pick me up.

Can you have it with protein?

Protein slows the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream to prevent a spike in insulin. Protein can also keep you full for longer because it takes your body longer to digest it.

Can you have your pizza with a serving of grilled chicken and veggies on the side? Or a handful of raw almonds or shredded coconut with your serving of ice-cream?

Can you limit the portion size?

If the above options aren’t available, can you limit your portion size so you’re not over-indulging in a pint of ice-cream or a whole pizza to yourself?

There will be days when you will be very hungry during your pregnancy, but filling up on protein, vegetables and whole-grains instead of the empty calories found in processed food, has nutritional benefits for you and your baby.

And if you focus on eating real, nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time, when you do get a craving for something not-as-healthy, you can indulge in a single-serving of it with no worries.

Raw cacao truffles

PROTEIN OMEGA 3 + FIBER

Real vs fake food

doughnuts

Knowing the difference between real and fake food is the best place to start when making healthier choices during pregnancy, or in life in general.

It’s a lot easier to define what fake food is, so let’s start there.

Fake foods come from a factory. You can’t find them in nature. Think, Doritos, potato chips, candy bars. They’re considered fake because they have little nutritional value but are high in calories that can easily be converted and stored as fat, if they’re not used for energy.

Fake foods are often packaged and have long ingredient lists with ingredients that are hard to pronounce. I would save these foods for an occasional treat but avoid them on a daily basis because the worse thing about these foods is that theyre addictive. They can taste good, fill you up for a short period of time, but they'll leave you wanting more a few of hours later.

On the hand, real foods look exactly how they would in nature, from the plant or animal they come from. Think, fruits and veggies, fish, eggs, lean meat, nuts and seeds. These foods deliver nutrients, without the empty calories that you find in processed or “fake” food, so excessive weight gain during pregnancy is less likely. Eating an abundance of real food during your pregnancy – or before you get pregnant – is key to optimal nutrition. My goal is to make these foods the basis of my every day diet.

Then you’ve got your foods that float somewhere in the middle.

These foods do exist in nature but they’ve been somewhat processed to look the way they do when they end up in your kitchen, like bread or hummus. In the case of bread, flour has been milled and baked to form bread. In the case for hummus, chickpeas have been mashed with tahini, lemon juice and salt to form hummus. These foods can still be considered a whole food thats been minimally processed.

What makes these foods beneficial or not, is the question, what else has been added?

Has sugar, artificial flavors and preservatives been added to extend its shelf life and make it taste better?

Does it have hidden trans fats to make it taste fresher?

Or has it been overly processed so theres little nutritional value left?

In the case of rice crackers, rice cakes and most cereal bars on the market today, they’ve been so processed that none of the fiber or nutritional value from the grain remains. These products are sold as healthy but it couldnt be further from the truth. Instead, you’ve got calories that are low in nutritional value, but high in simple carbohydrates and sugars that can be easily converted and stored as fat if they're not used for energy.

Why does it matter?

Real food delivers real nutrients that your body will happily receive and use to support the little life growing inside of you. Real foods are nutrient-dense, with a higher nutrition to calorie ratio, compared to packaged foods. Your pregnancy weight gain will more likely to be slow and steady, and within the normal range.

On the flip side, if you’re always eating processed foods to satisfy your hunger, you’re more likely to put on excess weight because these empty calories don’t deliver real nutrients. When you eat fake foods, you might feel full for the moment but you’ll find yourself hungry for more, shortly afterwards. You might find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of eating fake food, getting hungry shortly afterwards and doing it all again. 

What you can do today

Have a look at what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner and your snacks in between. Are your meals from real food ingredients? If not, what can you do to change them, so that they are? If you’re having a bowl of cereal or a cereal bar for breakfast, can you change it to a bowl of wholegrain oatmeal and berries? Can you have a pre-made frittata muffin instead of an energy bar if you’re rushed for time? It all starts with one small change at a time. You’ve got this, bella mama!

Broccoli cheddar frittatas

PROTEIN + CHLOLINE

Why self-care is good for you and your baby

self care during pregnancy

I believe that taking care of your baby begins with taking care of yourself.

I love the “oxygen mask” example where you can only be helpful to others, once you’ve put on your oxygen mask and you’re breathing first.

I know that as women, and as mothers, we so often get consumed with the needs of all those around us before we even check to see that we’re breathing first. Maybe you, yourself, are feeling over-worked, over-stressed or stuck in bad habits that you can’t seem to break?

Take heart, it’s never too late to get into a routine of healthy self-care.

No matter where you’re at, I encourage you to start getting into a routine of self-care during your pregnancy so that those routines will ground you throughout motherhood, especially when things get crazy and unpredictable.

What does self-care look like to me?

For me, it’s looking after my body with nourishing foods. It’s taken me years to learn it, but I know I know I feel my best when I’m eating well and looking after my body in that way. I like to indulge in a treat every now and then, but choosing healthier options most of the time, makes me feel better and happier too.

To achieve this, I know it means taking the time to buy real, fresh food and preparing healthy meals that will nourish my body. I try to meal prep as best as I can, so I have simple meals ready to go when I’m tired or busy. I know I can’t have junk food in the house because it’s too tempting for me, especially when I’m tired or bored.

When I used to work in an office, I learnt that I couldn’t keep chocolate or chips in my office drawer. It would be too tempting to me, and I’d always choose junk over a healthier option because it was just there! 

Nowadays, when I do feel like something indulgent, I have to make a healthier version of it myself. Or I have healthier options like my trail mix ready to eat when I feel like a sweet treat.

Self-care also means being intentional on what I feed my mind with. For me, it means unfollowing the social media accounts that don’t make me feel good about myself or the life that I live. Maybe you can relate?

When I was pregnant, this was extremely important. I went through a time when I was convinced that my husband would no longer find me attractive because I was pregnant. Even though this couldn’t have been further from the truth, I had to be intentional about what I fed my mind, not just my body, during my pregnancy.

I focused on filling my mind with positive affirmations about pregnancy, the power of motherhood and the beauty of bringing life into this world. I found that, just like our bodies, our minds respond to what we feed them...

What does self-care look like to you?

It honestly could look like anything that’s going to look after your mind or your body.

Maybe it’s time spent doing something what you love to do but you don’t get to do often, like a relaxing bath, a foot massage or a night to "unplug" and just Netflix and chill?

Perhaps, it’s breaking not-so-healthy eating habits, like replacing soda with unsweetened seltzer water or switching out white bread for whole-wheat?

What’s one thing that you can start doing during your pregnancy to look after you?

I encourage you to start getting into a routine of healthy self-care. It may seem unnatural at first but if you start by doing one kind thing for yourself today, and then another tomorrow and another the next day… before you know it, it will be second nature and both you and everyone around you will be breathing just fine ;)

ALMOND FLOUR PANCAKES

PROTEIN FIBER VITAMIN E