The Nutritionist’s Guide to a Healthy (and Happy!) Pregnancy
The internet can be an overwhelming place for an expectant mother, with differing opinions and unsolicited advice from every corner of the web. What should I be eating during pregnancy? How do I stay healthy, so my baby stays healthy? What if I’m stressed about feeling stressed, and that stress affects my baby - which makes me more stressed?
With so many questions and so much misinformation out there, we knew we needed a certified expert to share her knowledge with us. Who else loved our post-CNY detox article? Guest written by Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach from The Nutrition Clinic, we invited Bonnie (who happens to be pregnant herself!) back to share some tips specifically for mums-to-be.
Instead of a strict list of dos and don’ts, Bonnie outlines some healthy eating tips and self-care habits that any expectant mother can adapt for themselves.
Let’s dive in!
#1: GIVE YOUR BODY WHAT IT CRAVES
Even as a health coach, I struggled with this. In the first trimester, my usual balanced diet of greens and protein went out the window. I really struggled to eat vegetables; I just wanted to eat carbs! So I did.
Understand that your body will adjust back to normal over time, so try not to stress too much about it. Whenever you can opt for healthier choices, do that - the only rule I suggest keeping to is to cook all your meals, if you can manage, so you can control the quality. Otherwise, just enjoy the process of eating things you never usually do.
After the first 3 months, my diet settled back to normal. Try to focus on adding in:
Protein (red meat - especially important as iron tends to decrease, chicken, fish, eggs)
Greens and vegetables
An increase in appetite is totally normal. Pre-pregnancy, I used to fast alternate mornings and very rarely snacked. Don’t deprive yourself!
Some healthier breakfast ideas include eggs & stir-fried greens, blueberries, kefir and seeds or a smoothie for breakfast (we’ve got a great recipe below). For snacks, I rotate between avocado, bone broth, dried apricots, nuts and nut butter with apple slices. Dark chocolate definitely makes an appearance! Allow yourself the occasional treat, but if you’re getting enough protein and fat at each meal, you’ll slowly start to find yourself with fewer cravings.
BONUS: NUTRI-BOOSTER SMOOTHIE RECIPE
Smoothies are great during pregnancy as they are easy to digest for those that suffer slower digestion, but many people think smoothies are just throwing together a bunch of frozen fruit - which can actually spike your blood sugar. The right smoothie can contain a lot of nutrients that are beneficial pre, post and during pregnancy - or for whenever your body feels like it needs a boost.
- 1 scoop of collagen powder
(collagen is amazing for hair, skin, nails & the protein is essential for gut health - but it’s important to only invest in good quality collagen powder)
- 1 cup of berries (phytonutrients, antioxidants)
- 2 cups of nut milk, oat milk or milk kefir (for probiotics)
-1 handful of spinach (calcium, vitamins and minerals)
Of course, everybody is different and some people do need to take it easier due to medical reasons but for most of us, pregnancy does not have to be a time where we are overly cautious and scared to do anything. As your body adjusts there are certain times that you do need more rest, but there are other times when you feel full of energy - ride those waves!
Always try to keep moving and doing. If you’re struggling with this, try to aim for some gentle walking; walk to and from work each day and do some basic stretches in the morning.
The point is, life doesn’t have to stop when you’re expecting: stay active. Remember, the stronger you are during pregnancy, the stronger you'll be after giving birth!
#3: TEST, DON'T GUESS
This is a philosophy we hold close to our hearts at The Nutrition Clinic. Let me use myself as an example here.
At the start of each trimester, I do blood tests to make sure I keep track of certain levels. I routinely check my thyroid, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin D levels, so I know if I need to top up beyond my standard prenatal supplements.
Why is this important? You don’t want to go into the fourth trimester depleted. This is particularly true of iron; even with the high dose of iron in my prenatal vitamins, my levels turned out to be still slightly lower than optimal. Through testing, I knew to double up on iron supplementation and to top up through diet as well (eating more red meat).
It is hard during pregnancy to know if you're feeling tired because you’re pregnant, or if it's related to a deficiency. Blood work will help you make the right adjustments to your diet.
#4: SELF-CARE IS IMPORTANT TOO
During pregnancy, take time out and pace yourself. I realized as I entered the third trimester that although I felt able to keep up with my usual routines, after a few days it catches up to you, and you start to feel depleted.
Try focusing on having balance and taking small moments throughout the day to catch your breath. By doing that, you’ll be able to get through more of the day, more consistently.
Self-care is different for everyone; I take a few moments out during the day to enjoy a cup of tea, read a book or clear my head with a walk after work. You can also try to do 2-3 bigger things like getting a massage, going for an exercise class or catching up with friends.
#5: TRUST YOURSELF
Personally, this has been my biggest lesson. I have learnt how important it is to go with the flow and to trust my body more. It is so easy to get caught up in a web of google searches — something that I’ve actively tried to avoid this during my pregnancy.
Choose your support team wisely — it means you have a lot more time to get on with other things! I have found it has really helped to find a doctor you trust and 3-4 people whom you can ask for advice and who also share similar views as you. It’s as simple as that!
My core support team on the ground consists of my OBGYN, Pooja (who is the incredibly knowledgeable Functional Medicine nutritionist at The Nutrition Clinic where I work), a midwife (who runs excellent prenatal classes) and my osteopath (who helps with all the aches and pains that can arise with a growing belly — she's also recently had a baby so is a treasure chest of advice).
With all that support, there is not much need for googling each and every thing. Don't waste time second-guessing yourself. Once you have chosen your support team — trust them. They have a lot more experience combined than you do when you try to figure out what's fact from fiction online.
About The Nutrition Clinic:
What we do at The Nutrition Clinic is simple: we cut through all the clutter of (mis)information and get to the root of your problem by providing a solution that’s unique to you.
We use nutrition in an intelligent, thoughtful and inspiring way. Our method believes in taking you directly to your goal, as swiftly and sensibly as possible. Integrating the latest science with practical real-world suggestions, we support you from start to finish.
Everything starts with the decision to change. We provide the science, structure and motivation so you get impressive results.