What I Learned About Nutrition From My Pregnancies
BlogHer has compiled an expert crib sheet of nutrition pregnancy tips to save you some of the headache and heartache (and stomachache and foot-ache and everything-else-ache) I had to go through while pregnant.
Between the never-ending nausea, the terrible constipation and the wicked heartburn, food was not my friend when I was pregnant. It's a mystery to me how I gained over 60 pounds. Okay, maybe not a total mystery. After two years of trying, a miscarriage, and a stillbirth, my husband and I were just so happy to be carrying a healthy baby that we tended to celebrate. A lot. I got a double chocolate milkshake after every childbirth class. It was out to dinner after every successful ultrasound. And I had this crazy craving for raw pasta that made me eat handfuls of uncooked egg noodles like popcorn. Even if I did immediately regret it when the heartburn kept me up all night.
My nutrition during my next pregnancy wasn't any better, thanks to super-stressful life circumstances and a fear of gaining even more weight -- my second son was conceived when my first was just 9 months old, so I hadn't lost all the previous baby weight. I ended up under-eating and freaking out all my friends, family, and doctors. By the time I got pregnant with my third son (pregnancy #5 for those of you playing baby bingo at home), I was determined to be as healthy and active as possible, both for my son and myself.
Unfortunately, I had no idea what exactly "healthy" meant. Through a process of trial and error and a lot (a lot a lot) of obsessive Googling and book reading, I finally discovered a basic, healthy way of eating that while it didn't make pregnancy feel awesome (confession: I hate being pregnant. I love my kids but I really do not enjoy the process of getting them here) at least made it bearable. And even better, after I had my daughter -- pregnancy #7 (I'm officially a brood mare!) -- I bounced back physically and mentally faster than I had after the first baby!
BlogHer's nutrition during pregnancy crib sheet is full of great tips so your pregnancy can go like my later pregnancies. These are my faves.
1. To ameliorate "morning" (ahem) sickness, the crib sheet recommends staying hydrated, eating smaller but more frequent meals, and adding sliced ginger to your water. I tried all of these and still ended up with my head in the toilet more often then not. The experts added that getting more sleep can help, too, and it turns out that was the golden ticket for me. I discovered nausea was inversely proportional to exhaustion, so taking a short nap or two during the day helped me immensely. (Or was ( just sleeping through some of my normal puke-fests?) If you have any little ones already, though, this can be much easier said than done!
2. When it comes to pregnancy nutrition, it's funny how quickly things change. Ten years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, everyone was recommending a low-fat diet -- but by my last pregnancy, everyone was touting healthy fats as mommy's best friend. Not only are nuts, olive and coconut oils, avocados, and whole cream great for your skin, hair, and energy but they are also great for your baby. Those little butterballs don't get so deliciously chubby from rice cakes and fat-free salad dressing! Not to mention that fats are critical for healthy baby brain development.
The crib sheet follows the advice supported by the USDA: "Drink fat-free or 1% milk and snack or low-fat yogurt and cheese." While that's one route you can go; I personally choose to follow some new studies that say full-fat dairy helps you absorb critical fat-soluble vitamins and helps you feel full longer.
But for anyone worried about nuts, the crib sheet busts that myth. "For many years, it was believed that pregnant women should avoid nuts due to potential allergies in the child. New research suggests otherwise. Consuming nuts can actually have a protective effect against allergies and asthma."
3. Considering the pain associated with my food going out one end (vomiting) and not going out the other end (constipation), my fave tip from the crib sheet is how important fiber and fluids are to keeping the system going. Constipation is inevitable with pregnancy -- you can thank your hormone influx for slowing down your digestive tract -- but you can manage the uncomfortable toilet sessions by upping your fiber. The experts' crib sheet advises women to "aim for 25-35 grams of fiber daily through high fiber whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and seeds." They add, "Be sure to follow high fiber meals and snacks with lots of water, seltzer or unsweetened decaf tea to keep things moving. Staying hydrated is important; carry a stainless steel water bottle with you throughout the day. If you crave a little sweetness in your beverage, infuse your water with fresh fruit, herbs or sliced veggies. Get creative with the flavors, you’ll be obsessed." (My fave was ginger-mint!)
What other nutrition tips did you learn from your pregnancies that you can pass along to others?
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