What you will learn in this blog post:
- Why it is important to eat healthy while pregnant and/or breastfeeding
- Sugar cravings and what they mean
- Best foods to eat while pregnant or nursing and why
- Thyroid disorders and pregnancy
- Key nutrients necessary for the health of mother and child
- Foods that should be avoided
Why Eating Healthy Is Important
The first 1,000 days of life, from conception up to 2 years of life, are unquestionably crucial for the prevention of adulthood diseases. That’s why following a diet that includes a balance of high-quality protein foods, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates can guarantee that you’re doing everything you can for your growing baby. In addition, pregnant women require more of certain nutrients in order to avoid developmental abnormalities and pregnancy complications. (2)
The goal of this way of eating is to be more energized, less uncomfortable, and more confident that you’re nurturing your baby. Your baby depends on the foods you eat to receive his calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fluids.
So why eating differently? Because a mother’s diet affects many aspects of a baby’s health, including the following:
- Organ development
- Brain development
- Birth weight
- Mental health
- Eating habits
- Long term health
The way you eat during pregnancy affects your health and well-being too. A poor diet during pregnancy can lead to health concerns digestive issues, fatigue, heartburn, swelling, and leg cramps. And many studies show that nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy can lead to some major health issues like anemia, an iron deficiency that causes low levels of red blood cells, and preeclampsia, high blood pressure that can lead to pregnancy complications.*
One other major health concern to note is the prevalence of thyroid disorders during and after pregnancy. For more information on this, click here.
What Your Sugar Cravings Mean
Sugar cravings while breastfeeding are signals from the body that we need nutrients. Hunger and cravings tend to consume new mommies to the point where they are in survival mode. This causes reactionary eating, based on intense feelings and hunger. Candies, chocolates, chips, crackers, peanut butter, Nutella and other packaged foods offer immediate satisfaction to both the hunger and the sugar needs. It is easy to open a jar of Nutella and dig right in. But, the convenience of most packaged foods is actually causing more sugar cravings and continuing an endless cycle. Follow the 6 steps listed below and incorporate the foods listed later in this article to help balance and curve these intense cravings.
The 6 Steps
- Eat a balanced diet
Eat a balance of high-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates
2. Don’t overindulge
Pregnancy and nursing only require a slight increase in caloric/energy needs
3. Keep empty calories to a minimum
Nutrient-dense foods will help to provide you and your baby with the energy and fuel it needs
4. Eat every color
Eat the rainbow when it comes to fruit and veggies throughout the day
5. Make it easy
Keep meals simple and less complex
6. Keep drinking water
Water is needed to keep fueling your baby’s body cells
Best Foods and Superfoods to Consume While Pregnant or Nursing
Fresh vegetables, especially leafy greens
Vegetables are an important part of a diet because they are nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and lower in carbohydrates. Green leafy vegetables are especially beneficial because they’re packed with iron, calcium, and vitamin K — three important nutrients for pregnant and nursing women. Add leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, bok choy, collards, mustard greens, and turnip greens to your meals.
Broccoli is another beneficial vegetable because it contains fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and magnesium. And so are Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, squash, and bell peppers.
Eating fresh fruit will ensure that you’re getting nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and fiber. Eat an array of fruits like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, mango, papaya, peaches, grapefruit, apples, pears, tangerines, and pineapple.
Organic, free-range eggs
Eggs, specifically the egg yolk, are an excellent source of choline. Research shows that women eating diets that are lower in choline content are at a significantly greater risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect than women eating diets higher in choline content.*
Organic eggs also contain healthy fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and iodine. Eating iodine-rich foods during pregnancy is also very important because iodine plays a major role in the healthy growth and brain development of infants. In addition, please note that Iodine is also a critical player in proper thyroid function. Without iodine in the diet, the thyroid cannot function optimally.
The ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are vitally important for the proper neurological and physical development of a fetus. Consuming salmon includes these vital omega-3s and many other important nutrients including vitamin D, iodine, choline, B vitamins, selenium, and protein.
Organic, grass-fed or pasture-raised meat
Protein’s amino acids are essential for the development of your baby, so eating plenty of good quality, organic protein is very important. The best options are organic chicken breast, organic turkey, and grass-fed beef. These foods have l-glutamine, and there are several l-glutamine benefits.*
Nuts and seeds
Nuts, like almonds, contain protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and copper, and brazil nuts contain selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. Eating an array of nuts can boost your overall nutrient intake.
Seeds are great sources of protein and fiber, which will support your colon and digestive tract. Flax seeds and chia seeds are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids that aren’t present in fish. These omega-3 foods will benefit your skin, hair, and nails.
Fermented yogurt or kefir
Yogurt contains probiotics, protein, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin K2. Plus, it’s a great source of iodine. Kefir is another form of cultured dairy that contains good bacteria that are essential for your digestion and overall health.
Lima beans are rich in iodine, garbanzo, kidney, and pinto beans are high in folate, and fava beans contain iron, zinc, copper, and vitamin K.
Are an excellent source of folate.
Things like gluten-free oats, quinoa, brown rice, and barley contain B vitamins that are vital for your baby’s development, and minerals like zinc, selenium, and chromium.
Iron plays an essential role in the transfer of oxygen to tissues and pregnant women are at higher risk of iron deficiency due to the increase of iron demand.
Folate (Not Synthetic Folic Acid)
Folate is needed during pregnancy is needed for the prevention of neural tube defects and serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.
Calcium deficiency is dangerous for both the mother and child because it helps your circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems to function properly.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in pregnant women and it’s associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. The risks of low vitamin D levels for the infant include low birth weight, impaired skeletal development, respiratory infections and allergic diseases in the early years of life.
Pregnant and nursing women need choline-rich foods like eggs, chickpeas, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, and turkey breast. Choline is an essential nutrient for fetal development and because a mother delivers large amounts of choline across the placenta to the fetus, she needs to make sure she’s getting enough choline with a combination of diet and supplementation. Research suggests that poor choline intake among pregnant women can adversely affect maternal and fetal responses to stress, increase the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects and a cleft lip, and negatively affect fetal brain development.*
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for the proper brain growth and eye development of your baby. DHA also reduces inflammation, which is the leading cause of complications during pregnancy.
Research shows that your gut microbiome is a key factor for maintaining during pregnancy and a lack of good bacteria in your gut can lead to pregnancy complications. Studies indicate that taking a probiotic supplement during pregnancy can help to prevent preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections, infant and maternal weight gain, and allergic diseases.*
What Foods to Avoid
- Deli meat
- Raw or smoked seafood and rare meat
- High mercury fish
- Raw eggs
Lastly, avoid all fake, and highly processed and refined foods. This includes bagged and boxed foods that line the grocery store shelves and freezer aisles. These foods contain a ton of additives, preservatives, unhealthy oils, dyes and toxins that can negatively affect the health of you and your child. Instead, choose foods that are fresh and whole to ensure that you’re getting just the nutrients that you need and none of that extra “stuff.”
**Feeling tired, sick, or stuck in your current health journey? Are you experiencing things like fatigue, bloating, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances, severe cravings, etc? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I would love to further assist you on your journey! Click here to claim your one FREE coaching session with me where we discuss your symptoms, frustrations, goals, dreams, and desires! Submit your name and why you are wanting the session and I will then reach out to you to schedule that call.