prenatal nutrition

How to prevent stretch marks with nutrition

healthy diet during pregnancy

About 9 in 10 women develop stretch marks during pregnancy. Despite all the stretch mark creams available on the market today, experts agree that the determining factor on whether a person gets stretch marks is genetics.

Although genetics play a major role, holistic health practitioners will also say that nutrition can be the determining factor. I have to agree. It would explain the fact that I got faint stretch marks on my hips from a growth spurt during high school but I didn’t get any stretch marks during my first pregnancy with a collagen-rich diet (and I’m working on preventing any during this pregnancy).

 

How can food help prevent stretch marks?

First up, your skin is an organ that needs specific nutrients to function at its best. Your skin is your body’s largest organ so just like your heart or liver, it needs nutrients to thrive.

The key nutrient for healthy-looking skin is collagen.

Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissue such as bones, joints and ligaments. Without collagen, our skin would be inelastic, i.e., it wouldn’t be able to stretch. That’s why the beauty industry has long-used collagen in anti-ageing serums and moisturizers. Collagen improves our skin elasticity and without it, our skin is prone to wrinkles, sagging and stretch marks.

Improving skin elasticity from the inside out

I’m all about health from the inside out. Healthy skin is a reflection of a healthy diet and lifestyle. By eating more collagen-rich foods we can improve skin elasticity from the inside out. After all, stretch marks are a sign that the skin is not as elastic (or cannot stretch) at the rate it’s being asked to. 

As a side note, I still use stretch mark prevention creams, along with good nutrition, to prevent stretch marks. Since your skin is your largest organ (and everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream within 27 seconds), I've been on the hunt for natural stretch mark creams that actually work. I love ThinkBaby's Best Stretch Mark Creams for Pre and Post-Pregnancy list for natural creams that have been tried and tested on moms who've either used these creams and haven't got stretch marks - or moms who've seen stretch marks fade and disappear after using these creams.

Collagen-rich foods

The richest source of collagen is from bone broth. Beef, chicken and fish broth contain collagen from the bones it was cooked from. By slow cooking these bones, collagen is released into the broth. I personally love the taste of broth, so I drink a small bowl of it almost every day. There are a few places around New York you can get broth, but I’ve found that cooking my own is so simple and inexpensive, that I make a batch in the slow cooker almost every weekend.

Broths are also a great base for home-made chicken and noodle or minestrone soups. This is how I sneaked broth into my diet during my first trimester when the thought of broth by itself made me feel ill!

What if you can’t stomach bone broth?

If the thought of drinking bone broth makes you want to gag, try collagen powder. You can add a spoonful in to your sauces, your soups, your smoothies or smoothie bowls for a collagen-boost. Vital Proteins and Dr. Axe have high-quality collagen powders you can order online that are rather taste-neutral and easy to mix into soups, smoothies or even juice or water.

If you can drink bone broth, check out my easy chicken broth recipe that takes only a few minutes to prep and you'll have enough broth to last you a week. In my humble opinion, it’s totally worth the many benefits it can give to your skin and your body (not to mention your baby’s development too).

   Chicken Broth 

COLLAGEN + GLYCINE

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

Caffeine during pregnancy

i love coffee

Coffee: to drink, or not to drink?

When it comes to coffee, many experts agree that drinking about one cup of coffee - or less than 200mg of caffeine per day - will not affect your pregnancy

A good thing to remember is that, the longer you brew coffee, the more caffeine it has. Filter coffee has more caffeine than espresso because it takes less than 30 seconds to make an espresso but a few minutes to brew filter coffee.

It’s also good to remember that a latté or cappuccino in the US has two shots of espresso in it, which is about 150 mg of caffeine. In Australia and some European countries, lattés and cappuccinos usually have one shot of espresso in them.

The standard cup of coffee, tea or cola has this much caffeine...

how much coffee

Three reasons to limit your caffeine intake during pregnancy

1.     It makes you pee more

If you’re already pacing back and forth to the ladies, reducing your caffeine might be a good idea. Caffeine is a diuretic so it increases the production of urine so you’ll have to pee more. If you feel you pee excessively, try added a pinch of sea salt to your water bottle for added electrolytes. 

2.     It stops your body from absorbing certain nutrients

 Caffeine can also hinder nutrient absorption. For example, caffeine blocks the absorption of iron and calcium when consumed at the same time. If you drink coffee or tea, it's best to wait at least an hour before or after your tea or coffee before you take your prenatal supplement to improve its effectiveness.

3.      It can make your boobs more tender

Research has found that lowering your caffeine intake may also help with breast tenderness in the early stages of pregnancy. So, experiment with cutting out or lowering your caffeine intake if sore boobs are making you miserable.

But, I still need caffeine!

If you want a lower, steadier dose of caffeine, try black or green tea. Some black tea may contain a similar amount of caffeine to coffee, but the caffeine in tea is absorbed at a much slower rate so you don’t get that same caffeine-high (and crash, a few hours later), that you can get with coffee.

Caffeine-free alternatives

Rooibos, peppermint and chamomile teas are herbal teas generally regarded as safe for pregnancy. Be mindful about herbal teas during your pregnancy because some herbs have negative side-effects such as uterine cramping or bleeding. These herbs include St John’s Wort, Don Quai, Ginseng, Pennyroyal, Licorice Root, Yarrow and Ephedra. Check out the full list from the American Pregnancy Association if you’d like more info.

GREEN COCONUT  SMOOTHIE

POTASSIUM + MAGNESIUM

Why you need folate, not folic acid

green salad

Most of us have heard about how important it is to get enough folate in pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

You may have also noticed that folate is sometimes called folic acid. In fact, most prenatal supplements have folic acid in them instead of folate. So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Folate vs folic acid

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate which means, it’s been manufactured in a lab.

Most supplements on the market today have synthetic vitamins and minerals in them because it's much cheaper to produce and sell. And the catch is...  these "vitamins and minerals" aren't as bioavailable as the vitamins and minerals found in real food (FYI, bioavailablility means how much of that nutrient your body is able to absorb).

This applies to folic acid which is significantly less bioavailable than folate in its pure and natural state, found in real veggies, fruits, beans and lentils. 

Research has also found that 4 in 10 people might have a gene mutation that doesn't allow their bodies to recognize and use folic acid. For more info on that, click here.

Why you need folate

Folate (otherwise known as Vitamin B9), is one of the most important nutrients your baby will need in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Folate will help ensure your baby’s “neural tube” forms correctly. Your baby's “neural tube” extends right down from your baby’s brain to form your baby’s spine and includes all the nerves along the way. Extensive research has found that a deficiency in folate, especially as the “neural tube” forms in the first few weeks of pregnancy, can lead to birth defects such as spina bifida.

How much do I need?

Pregnant women need about 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate each day.

If you eat a lot of greens and veggies, chances are you're easily getting this amount. However, I highly recommend taking a good-quality prenatal supplement as an insurance policy.

I took a couple of brands during my pregnancy that made me feel great and my son was born (and still is), very healthy. I loved Garden of Life Raw Prenatal and Naturello Wholefood Prenatal supplements. The best thing about these two prenatals is that they both have real folate in them and not the cheaper folic acid stuff that your body has a harder time using.

Folate in food

As the name suggests, folate is richest in “foliage” type food like leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens and romaine lettuce.

Brussel sprouts, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, beans, peas and lentils are also great sources of folate too. 

What to eat

As a guide, here are some ways you can get your daily folate intake.

You can easily boost your daily folate-intake by adding beans and lentils to your meals, or adding a cup or two of spinach in a smoothie you can have in between meals. 

BREAKFAST

1/2 avocado smashed onto whole-wheat toast (50mcg)

SNACK

1 cup of spinach in a smoothie (50mcg)

LUNCH

Choose two

2 cups of spinach, kale or romaine in a salad (100mcg) 

1/2 cup Garbanzo beans (175mcg) 

1/2 cup black beans (100mcg)

1/2 cup Kidney beans (50mcg)

DINNER

Choose two

2 cups of spinach, kale or romaine in a salad (100mcg)

5 spears asparagus (100mcg)

1/2 cup Brussel sprouts (80mcg) 

1/2 cup peas (65mcg) and 1/2 cup broccoli (50mcg)

green goddess dressing

GREEN GODDESS SALAD DRESSING

FOLATE PROTEIN OMEGA 3s

How to make healthier choices during pregnancy

colorfulhealthytoast

Don’t know where to start making healthier choices during pregnancy? Here are two simple ways to start that can really shape your pregnancy for the better.

1. Eat real, whole foods most of the time

Choose real, whole foods when you can, so you don't feel bad about the times you have an insatiable craving. I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle, which means you eat real, nutritious whole foods 80 percent of the time and leave yourself 20 percent for more-processed meals or snacks.

Real, whole foods are the opposite of food that comes from a factory, which is most food that comes out of a box or packet. However, in our busy, modern-day lives, eating food out of a box or a packet is sometimes unavoidable.

Unless you cook all your meals from scratch, it's inevitable that you're going to eat some packaged food here and there. But the secret to a healthier pregnancy is to make sure you're eating real, whole foods at least most of the time, so you don't feel bad for the occasional treat or meal that comes out of a box or packet.

2. Choosing the least processed option

Processed foods don't contain the same amount of nutrients for your baby's development as real, whole foods. Instead, what these processed foods have are a lot of ‘empty’ calories - calories with little nutritional value that can contribute to excessive weight gain if not used for energy.

For example, if you need to choose an energy bar, choosing one that has whole food ingredients (like a Larabar or Rx Bar) is better than choosing one with a long list of ingredients, especially if that list includes added sugars, artificial sweeteners or preservatives you can't pronounce.

When I was pregnant, I would often go to long work meetings that were catered. (Some of these meetings would go for 3-4 hours at a time!) There would always be cookies and pastries, and sometimes sandwiches and fruit. If the sandwiches were made with whole-wheat bread, I would have a sandwich and a small serving of fruit. If there were no real, whole foods available, I’d always have one of my own snacks that I’d pre-packed in my handbag for when I got hungry. I'd always carry a piece of fruit or a packet of raw almonds or my own home-made trail mix so I would have a nutrient-dense option to eat and not be left hungry… because no one wants that when you’re pregnant!

Try out my pregnancy superfood trail mix below!

superfoodhealthytrailmix

SUPERFOOD TRAIL MIX

PROTEIN CALCIUM MAGNESIUM