IS PRENATAL NUTRITION IMPORTANT?
“IMPROVING NUTRITION AND SOCIAL SUPPORT OF THE PREGNANT WOMAN ARE THE ONLY TWO THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN PRODUCING HEALTHIER BABIES, IN THE GENERAL POPULATION”
~Gloria Lemay – first published by Midwifery Today Magazine
Yes and as a Holistic Nutritionist, this quote was one of the most re-affirming pieces of information that I learned during my Doula training. Nourishment during pregnancy in the form of good food, friends, family, support, and love are key ingredients needed for development of a healthy & balanced child.
Sadly, there are findings that have shown over 200 toxins found in the umbilical cord blood of some babies. Yikes!! This is where education and support from your health care team comes in; knowing what to avoid in your diet & lifestyle and what to add in, is important information for Mother’s to know in order to increase baby’s chances of optimal health!
WHEN DO I START MY HEALTHY PREGNANCY REGIME? The best time to start a healthy pregnancy diet, and make positive lifestyle changes is before you conceive! By starting early you can help to increase the likelihood of a healthy conception and quite possibly even help to reduce any chances of common pregnancy discomforts. That said, babies happen! We can’t always plan ahead. So the best time to start is as early as possible.
“GOOD BEGINNINGS MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD, SO IT IS WORTH OUR WHILE TO PROVIDE THE BEST POSSIBLE CARE FOR MOTHERS AND BABIES THROUGHOUT THIS EXTRAORDINARY INFLUENCIAL PART OF LIFE”
~Ina May Gaskin
13 WAYS TO BE NOURISHED BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER PREGNANCY
1. Limit toxins and environmental pollutants
Important area’s to consider are food, drink, water, body care products, clothing, bedding, deodorant, sunscreen, hair products, and perfumes, pumping gas, cigarette smoke and other teratogens (substances that can cause birth defects). Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the EWG’s Skin Deep Database for loads of important information, research, and consumer and shopping guides. Learn what products are safe and which ones aren’t.
2. Buy organic, local, unsprayed and/or non-GMO foods whenever possible. Synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers have detrimental effects to our health, baby’s health and the environment. This is probably a good time to remind you about avoiding processed, refined, and packaged foods and drinks. Check out the EWG’s annual dirty dozen & clean 15 list to see which foods contain the highest and lowest levels of pesticides in produce.
3. Quality vs. Quantity
The reality is, you don’t need many extra calories until about your third trimester (and this increases again while breastfeeding). I believe it’s more important that you eat ‘quality’ food over the ‘quantity’ to get the most nutritional bang for your buck! That said, I always encourage you to listen to your body and eat when you feel hungry. Here are some examples of ways to make ‘quality’ choices, when possible:
4. A good prenatal vitamin
Nutritionist’s Tip: Add kelp and/or sea vegetables when cooking your soup broth or rice!
5. Eat the rainbow!
Leafy greens, vegetables, fruit and berries contain the most natural and bioavailable form of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants These include important nutrients such as beta carotene, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and chlorophyll.
Nutritionist’s Tip: Smoothies & popsicles are a great way to pack in your greens & berries!
6. High quality fats
Here are some of my favourite and recommended fats:
Nutritionist’s Tip: avoid anything labelled ‘diet’, ‘low fat’ or ‘skim’.
7. High quality protein
When possible choose organic, animals fed non GMO feed and raised without hormones or antibiotics.
How do you know you’re getting enough protein? Aim for at least two fists of your favourite proteins throughout the day. Some great sources are eggs and poultry raised free to range and in a stress free environment, grass fed beef, gelatin, and dairy and wild/sustainably caught fish (smaller fish preferably due to heavy metal and radiation contamination). Organ meats (quality is key here!) are also great sources of protein, iron, folate and other nutrients. Plant based proteins include hemp seeds, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, lentil/rice, and beans/rice.
Nutritionist’s Tip: Remember ants on a log as a kid? Celery with almond butter & sundried/unsweetened cranberries is always a tasty and easy treat!
Sleep, in complete darkness, ideally. It helps to regulate hormones in the body and gives you the opportunity to think clearly (that darn baby brain). The body is using a lot of energy creating a human life. That’s no small feat. Getting sufficient sleep might be easy for some, while for others (including myself) it might be more challenging. That being said we are all very different and our needs for sleep will vary from person to person. Some people cannot function without their 8-10 hours of sleep, while others feel sufficiently rested on less. On another note, I believe pregnancy prepares you (especially in the final months, weeks, and days) for some of the sleep-ness nights to come. So take the opportunity to sleep whenever you can during pregnancy and once baby comes. That saying, sleep when baby sleeps should be tattooed on a mother’s breast ;)
10. Limit Sugars
Choose natural sweetness from fruit and unrefined sugars. Some great options are honey, maple syrup, dates, prunes, date sugar, bananas, apple sauce, molasses, raw sugars, coconut sugar. Avoid chemical sweeteners like Aspartame and Splenda and try stevia or xylitol instead.
11. Sunlight & Fresh, Clean Air
Getting sufficient Vitamin D is extremely important and may reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and preeclampsia. It may also lower the chance of giving birth prematurely. For us Vancouverites, it can be challenging to obtain optimal vitamin D levels from the sun, especially in the winter months, so I would generally suggest supplementing with at least 1000 – 4000 IU/day.
12. Slow down & Enjoy
Do yoga, breathe deeply, reduce stresses, and walk daily (barefoot for added benefit!), move your body, make love, dance, and laugh and most importantly be gentle with yourself (physically and emotionally).
13. Wisdom and intuition
Let this guide you, always. Find ways to connect to your innate wisdom and learn to trust it. This could be finding moments of silence and stillness. This could be a walk in nature or simply placing your bare feet on the earth. Listening to the body – when you feel tired, you rest. Pregnancy is a time to slow down and honour the body and the little life that is growing inside.
HOW CAN A NUTRITIONIST SUPPORT?
Pregnancy brings on many changes to the body and emotions, that’s for sure! Common symptoms can include morning sickness, food cravings, exhaustion, aches and pains, gassiness, bloating and headaches to name a few. Not to mention the emotional rollercoaster!
As a nutritionist, I like to examine the specific symptoms you are experiencing, and also explore what the root cause could be. Supporting a symptom might work acutely and might be just what you need at the time, but if the underlying cause isn’t supported then the issue will likely continue.
For example, does your favourite pre pregnancy food now makes you want to gag? Are you experiencing all day long pregnancy sickness? Sometimes morning sickness can be related to a deficiency in magnesium, insufficient protein or water intake, or possibly blood sugar instability. Having sugar cravings? Maybe your body needs more protein.
Is this all completely intuitive? Not really. With all the added hormones, emotions, changes, information overload, never ending to-do lists…I get it, it can be tricky to decipher what the body truly needs.
During my own pregnancy, I was studying nutrition, and was overwhelmed to find answers to my questions and found it challenging to find practitioners that focused on prenatal nutrition! And so…I found myself at the beginning of my journey to find the answers.
There is a lot of information available to us these days…too much sometimes! Yes, you can Google some really great stuff! But, who is the most credible source? Which diet should you follow? What books should you read? Where can you find these books? It has taken me a number of years, reading many books, attending webinars, teleconferences, courses, meetings, interviews, and experience to feel like I finally have a grasp on what is most important during this profound journey! Even with all of the knowledge available to us, the most powerful tools is our intuition, all we have to do is listen for the answers.
Easier said than done though, right!? That’s where having a support system and/or health care team that you can trust is helpful. This will look different for each person. Part of mine has consisted of a Naturopath, Chiropractor, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, and Massage Therapist, energy healing, a yoga practice, community of like-minded friends, colleagues, family and most importantly, myself.
Maybe you need one or two support people, maybe none, or maybe a whole village, but whatever you choose, it is because it works for you. You are the one making the changes. You know when you’re ready. You know what you’re ready for. Sometimes all you need is a gentle push in the right direction. Sometimes you need guidance. Sometimes you need someone to help you understand and answer your questions. We almost always need support.
“SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ENDS UP BEING THE BIGGEST STEP OF YOUR LIFE. TIP TOE IF YOU MUST BUT TAKE THE STEP”.
Post your questions and comments.
by Christina Zvicer
I am a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Yoga Guide, Doula and Mother; with a special interest in supporting families before and during pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood. My support as a Holistic Nutritionist goes beyond the food ingested and incorporates the person as a whole, physical, emotional and spiritual being. I recognize each person I work with as an individual and address their health needs in a way that is focused, practical and realistic for their unique goals and lifestyle.
What a responsibility and joy it is to be blessed with the opportunity to help guide and nurture a piece of the future. Giving our children the best possible start in life sets them up for a healthy, balanced, and happy life. This is my passion and my purpose.