what to eat when pregnant

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.

 

 

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

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