My goal in writing this post is not to make you become obsessed with eating all the right foods for a perfect pregnancy diet, but to understand the importance of doing your best to eat wisely and with a purpose... to nourish and build the new little life growing inside of you, which needs plenty of minerals and vitamins to get the job done well.
I also want to let you know that there is no "one size fits all" system here when it comes to nutrition for pre-conception, pregnancy and nursing. Every mama is different and needs to be willing to listen to what her body needs, not what everybody else says she needs. Of course, there is a balance in asking for help and knowing what you need.
After my first was born, a friend showed me the Weston A. Price Foundation's diet recommendation for pregnant & nursing mamas. Which I've applied during my 2nd, 3rd and now 4th pregnancy. I do not follow their plan 100%, but look at it as general guidelines. These recommendations are very helpful but every mama has individual needs... I like how Shannon over at Nourishing Days said it on her post about her pregnancy diet last year.
So for me, drinking fresh milk and eating lots of eggs & veggies & fats (butter, coconut oil, etc.) has been what I need for this pregnancy. But you might need more meat and seafood to get what you need for your pregnancy. Make sense?
Preparing Your Body For Conception
To start off, I wanted to encourage those who are not pregnant yet or in between babies to consider the importance of nourishing your bodies now to clean it up and build up nutrient stores for the future baby.
When I first introduced My Pregnancy Notes Series... I wrote how it is vital to prepare your body to make a new life before conception, not after. With most pregnant mamas, what we eats becomes a very common topic... what we are craving, can't get enough of, can't stand to eat and/or can't keep down. Unfortunately, it is not common to talk about what we should be eating to prepare our bodies for a baby to move in for 9 months, right? Most will try to start eating better after they become pregnant, but that should start before the baby moves in.
To learn more about how you can start preparing, I want to refer you to a great post written by Donielle of Naturally Knocked Up. This is her specialty and what her blog is all about... fertility and preparing for conception. You can even purchase her book "Naturally Knocked Up" to have all her information from her fertility classes in your hands!
My diet was nowhere near what it is now when I was pregnant with my first baby. I didn't start becoming aware of what I ate and eating healthier until after I found out I was pregnant. If I were to go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would've started preparing my body long before I became pregnant. My first pregnancy started me on the road to educating myself on what a wholesome diet really should be and I saw the difference during my second & third pregnancy (and now fourth!).
What You Need for Each Trimester
Here's an overview of what nutrients are vital through all 3 trimesters for you and your growing baby:
- First Trimester - At the beginning stages, Vitamins A & D are needed for proper organ development. These can be found in butter, eggs and seafood.
- Second Trimester - During this time calcium & protein are vital for good bone and muscle development. Great sources of these nutrients are fish, poultry, meat, milk, cheese and eggs.
- Third Trimester - This final stage is so important because this is where brain development is happening. Omega-3 fats are vital and the best source is fish, but if you can't get fish or afford it, then get some good cod liver oil to supplement instead.
Not only is eating before conception important for building nutrient stores for your future baby, but continuing to eat well during pregnancy & nursing is even more important! Even though a rich variety in our diet is essential to make sure that we get plenty of different nutrients, there are several foods that every pregnant mama should be eat. Of course, every mama is different and some can't eat these superfoods due to allergies. Its all about doing your best to find out what your body & baby needs!
Superfood #1: Eggs
Eggs are an amazing food source during pregnancy and nursing! Rich in protein, Vitamins B, A, E, D & K, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, folic acid, minerals, essential fatty acids and more... these little round things are powerhouses (if interested, read this good post on the nutritional facts)!! To get all those nutritions, make sure you buy eggs from a good, trusted source where chickens are able to free-range, fed a wholesome diet and well taken-cared of.
Eggs should always be eaten whole... it is the yolk that contains the most nutrients. Did you know that the yolk itself is not a baby chick? Yeah, the yolk is what feeds the chick has it grows inside the egg. So, eating those golden yolks is good for your growing baby too! Simply add extra yolks into your scrambled eggs/omelets. I love to add raw egg yolks in smoothies & ice cream for higher nutritions, just make sure that they are from a good source! There are so many ways to eat raw egg yolks and actually enjoy it!
Superfood #2: Bone Broths
Did you know that bone broth is a powerful digestive aid and the richest source of minerals you can get? I believe every mama should be taking in homemade bone broth as much as possible while pregnant and nursing. The long & slow simmering of bones & meat brings forth easy to absorb minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals as well as chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine from the cartilage & tendons (excellent for arthritis and joint pain). Along with its mineral content, the gelatin-rich broth helps digestion and extremely beneficial for those with allergies, food sensitivities and/or impaired digestion (ex: leaky gut). It is also a great source of calcium for those who can't tolerate diary! To learn more, read this great article: Broth is Beautiful.
It is fairly easy to make your own broth. I have not wrote a post on making it, but I will bring you to my friend's blog... Diana from Spain in Iowa. She wrote a good simple post on making your own chicken & beef broth a couple years back.
Superfood #3: Organ Meats
Yes, the other parts of the animal... like liver, heart, etc... is extremely nutritious for mama and baby! Organ meats are very rich in fat-soluable Vitamins A & D, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and a variety of macro & trace minerals. They are also an excellent source of high quality protein, usable form of iron (very important for mamas while pregnant!), contains all the B Vitamins in abundance (including B12 & folic acid) and rich in trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium.
If you are worried about taking in too much Vitamin A... there are two great articles I highly recommend reading: Vitamin A for Fetal Development & Vitamin A Saga. They will help you better understand the whole Vitamin A confusion! It is only recommended to eat organ meats from grass-fed animals. Organ meats from animals raised conventionally (primarily processed feed) will have accumulated toxins from pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.
Superfood #4: Fish
Rich in Omega-3 fats and important DHA for brain & eyes development... it should consumed when possible during pregnancy. The good fats help with proper hormone balance along with giving a healthy dose of Vitamins A & D and protein. Yet, it is a food that most are discouraged from eating because of toxins found within the fish.
To lessen your exposure to toxins, buy fish that are smaller (such as anchovies, sardines, salmon and other small fish) and wild caught. Canned Wild Alaskan Salmon is a good alternative for those who don't have access to fresh fish (like me!) or you can buy online from Vital Choice. For those who aren't big fans of eating fish... supplementing with high quality cod liver oil is a must, check out my post on Whole Food Supplements.
Superfood #5: Cultured/Fermented Foods (Probiotics)
I wrote about the importance of probiotics on my post about Whole Food Supplements. To add on to that, I want to explain a little more about how a mama's gut health will affect her baby for life. Consuming lots of cultured/fermented foods during before & during pregnancy will offer your baby good digestive health, ability to absorb nutrients and stronger immune system for life. The probiotics in cultured foods are also vital for the mama to insure a proper balance of bacteria within her body before birthing. If mama doesn't have enough good bacteria in her body to fight off unwanted yeasts & bacteria, she & her baby will develop all kinds of health issues... eczema, yeast infections, thrush, mastitis, fatigue and severe diaper rashes caused by yeast overgrowth in the body. Probiotics can also help keep GBS (group b strep) under control, which is important for those who are planning to have a hospital birth because they require mamas who have been tested positive to have antibiotics.
You can supplement high quality probiotics (read more here), but it is always best to get as much as you can from food sources too... homemade yogurt, milk kefir, coconut kefir, water kefir, kombucha (only if you were drinking it before you were pregnant, best not to start your first drink while pregnant as it can have a slight detoxing effect on the body) and lacto-fermented foods like cortido, ginger carrots, bean paste and Chilero.
Superfood #6: BeefHigh in iron, protein, B Vitamins and omega-3 fats... grass-fed beef is great for the pregnant mama and baby! I want to highlight the importance of getting iron through this food source because iron helps to carry oxygen to the lungs as well as move blood through the body. Did you know that a pregnant mama's blood volume increases about 50%? The increased blood flow nourishes the placenta, which is vital for the baby's growth. That's why it is important that you get plenty of iron through beef or organs. You could take supplements, but they are harder for the body to digest and utilized.
When buying beef... grass-fed is your best option. Conventionally raised beef cows are fed high amounts of grain, which is not their normal diet, therefore subjected to high doses of antibiotics and various hormones to help them along. These antibiotics will effect your gut health and the hormones can mess with your own hormones, which are delicate to begin with. That's why buying grass-fed beef is important for the long-term health of you and your baby!
Superfood #7: Raw Milk
The topic of raw, unpasteurized milk & cheese tends to trigger some interesting responses from people. I have been drinking fresh (I like to call it that better than 'raw') dairy since Naomi was born (6 years now!) and have not had a problem with it. In fact, both my hubby and I are lactose-intolerant... which means pasteurized diary is a no-no for us.
Did you know that fresh milk is a complete food? Yes, it is a great source of Vitamins A, B, B12, C & D, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, all 22 essential amino acids, healthy fat, good carbohydrates and over 60 fully intact & functional enzymes. This kind of fresh milk simply does not need pasteurization because it is basically perfect the way it is! Clean, free-range & grass-fed cows or goats produce milk that have higher nutritional value than factory milk (even organic factory milk!). Those who are allergic or lactose-intolerance (like myself) can enjoy fresh milk without risk of irritation or the embarrassment of stinky gas. It is full of healthy bacteria, enzymes & vitamins that are lacking in regular store-bought milk (organic or not). The calcium found in fresh milk is easier for your body to absorb and use to build strong bones needed for your growing baby! Pasteurization denatures the calcium and everything else, making it more difficult for your body to absorb and digest.
It is vital to know your source when buying fresh milk. Not all providers have the same standards. It is recommended that your get your milk directly from the farm, giving you the opportunity to see the cows, check out their health & environment and be able to ask the farmer what they feed their cows during the winter months when fresh grasses are not available. They should only be fed alfalfa, timothy grass or other pasture greens... not grain feeds as that can endanger their health.
I totally agree that pasteurization is necessary for commercial milk production because at most places, cows are not properly cared for. They are commonly fed GMO soy-based feed high in protein, which they are not designed by nature to digest. As a result of poor diet and often unclean living conditions, these cows are given antibiotic treatments to keep them from getting sick. But antibiotics are known to lower milk production, so they are given growth hormones to help produce enough milk to keep the farm profitable. Does that sound like healthy milk to you? Plus, the life span of a commercially raised cow is 4 years while a naturally, grass-fed raised cow is 12-14 years!
Doing Your Best
I'm sure some of you are feeling overwhelmed because maybe you can't do everything that is recommended for a healthy pregnancy diet because of financial reasons or lack of resources.
In my circumstances (being a missionary in Central America), I do my best to eat a wholesome diet of whole raw dairy products, probiotic food (homemade kefir, lacto-ferments, etc.), bone broths, fresh veggies & fruits, decent meat and very little sugar along with taking my whole food supplements.
My diet is not perfect or very close to my ideal. I do not have access to organic veggies or fruits unless I grow them myself, which I am in the process of doing with expanding our gardens. I do not have the option getting clean, antibiotic-free meat unless I raise them myself (one day!). Thankfully we have free range chickens that give us lots of delicious, healthy eggs and a milking doe giving me over 1 quart of fresh milk daily!
I do my best with what I have for me and my family. The same should be for you and your family.
I’ve learned that it is better to make the best of the situation rather than stressing out over what I don’t or can’t have. Stress will do more damage than good! I am glad to say that I’ve found peace in that and trusting in the Lord to help keep us healthy. In the end, it is really HIM who is in complete control of my health, not what I do or don't eat! Do the best you can with the food you have and supplements you can take. Leave the rest in God's hands.
What do you believe is a "superfood" for you? What did you eat most when pregnant & nursing?
Linked up at Simple Lives Thursday
What do you believe is a "superfood" for you? What did you eat most when pregnant & nursing?
Linked up at Simple Lives Thursday