Balanced Prenatal Nutrition
Good prenatal nutrition is vital to growing a healthy baby and keeping your body strong and ready for a safe and natural birth.
These recommendations are proven to build healthy baby. If you're expecting twins your nutritional needs during pregnancy increase even more! Good prenatal nutrition is the cornerstone for any pregnancy.
It may seem like this is a lot of food to eat, but if you “graze” throughout the day, you'll find that it's easy to get everything for a nourishing pregnancy diet.
Enjoy four serving of dairy foods each day. These can include milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, or other dairy products. Cow or goat milk products are fine.
4 cups (1 quart, or 32oz) of milk is the easiest way to get this. Choose raw milk (best) or milk pasteurized at traditional temperatures, and choose milk that is not homogenized. Milk from cows raised on pasture is best. “Ultra-pasteurized” milk should be avoided – it's basically dead and denatured! You want whole milk – the cream is very, very good for you and your baby.
Raw milk cheeses are best. You can get good hard cheeses in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store or at your local whole foods store. Many European cheeses are of good quality and from cows, goats, and sheep raised on pasture.
Choose a yogurt or kefir made from whole milk (again, the cream is wonderful for you and baby). These fermented milk products may be easier on your stomach than fluid milk and are packed with beneficial bacteria – this benefits your gut. When your baby is born these good bacteria will colonize your baby's intestines too – giving him a great start at good health.
Dairy products give a lot of “nutritional bang for their buck.” They're packed with vitamins and minerals as well as plenty of protein.
Protein is vital to a balanced prenatal diet. A serving of most dairy foods is around 8oz of protein, but if you enjoy cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, you'll get a lot more protein in each serving!
I don't recommend soy milks or other milks as a milk substitute because of the concerns raised by strong hormones in soy and additives in soy and other “milks.” The vitamins and minerals added to these beverages are usually synthetic and not as good for you and your baby. Choose real dairy products (from cows, goats, or sheep) if at all possible.
Homemade almond or other nut milks are okay to drink, but don't count them as a dairy substitute.
Eggs are also little prenatal nutrition powerhouses. Eat at least two a day. Eggs and your dairy servings together give you about half of the protein you need each day =D Eggs also have a lot of iron. Enjoy eggs with one of your vitamin C rich foods for even better iron absorption.
My bag of waters with my third child didn't break until well into the pushing stage and my midwife commented that the strong amniotic sac was due to my eating my eggs every day!
Two eggs a day from pastured chickens are best – these eggs will contain lots of nutrition for you and your child. However, conventional eggs are better than no eggs! The yolk is most packed with vitamins and minerals, EFA's, and iron – most of the protein is in the white. Feel free to eat extra eggs or egg yolks every day.
Fish eggs are also excellent for you and your baby – choose roe or caviar that have no dyes or preservatives added.
Proteins – meat, fish, and others
Meat, fish, and other foods such as beans and nuts are strong sources of protein. Cheeses are also an excellent source of protein. Protein is a big part of your prenatal nutrition.
You need around six servings of protein a day. This may sound overwhelming but is really pretty easy. A “serving” is usually only 1oz of the chosen food. A meal usually contains 2-3oz. Protein is essential to building your baby and maintaining your body!
Good meats are grassfed beef, lamb, and bison. Pastured chickens and pigs fed naturally also provide good meat. Fish are ideally wild-caught or raised in a hatchery following natural methods. These animals eat what they're supposed to eat, so their meat and organs develop properly (and they're happy animals). This means you and your baby get the best nutrition possible.
Soaked beans (legumes) have a lot of protein and B vitamins. Their nutrition is especially high if you combine with a small amount of meat (such as chili or beef and bean enchiladas).
Dark Leafy Greens
Have two servings of dark leafy greens each day. You can have salads if you enjoy them – a chef salad with grilled chicken and sliced egg would be a tasty way to satisfy a few parts of your balanced prenatal nutrition. Dark leafy greens such a lettuces (not iceberg lettuce! Go with a dark type like romaine or green leaf), spinach, and mustard greens are packed with nutrition.
Choose fresh or frozen varieties for lots of vitamins. You'll also get some iron from each serving. Leafy greens will help keep you from getting constipated as well. Cook leafy greens like broccoli, greens, and spinach – they can be hard to digest raw. Eat them with good fats (olive oil on your salad, butter on your streamed vegetables – yum) so you absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients.
Properly prepared whole grains provide you with vitamins, minerals, and small amounts of protein. You get B vitamins from whole grains, which are essential for your body. You also get folic acid, an essential nutrient for your baby.
Wheat, oats, rice, corn, and other whole grains are all a good choice. Soak these grains to make them more digestible.
Many fruits and vegetables have generous servings of carbohydrates. Potatoes, berries, squashes, and other fruits often fill requirements. Raisins can also count as a serving (and give you some iron). You'll find ways to work in all your need for good prenatal nutrition.
Vitamin C foods
These foods are often a favorite! Have a couple of servings each day of a vitamin C rich food. Oranges and tomatoes are popular vitamin C rich foods. You may also love cantaloupe and strawberries! Many fruits are rich in vitamin C. Try and enjoy one with your eggs every day to aid good iron absorption. This is also a good time to take your prenatal vitamin.
Fats and Oils
You need good fats and oils. They add flavor to foods and they help your body absorb essential nutrients from your other foods. Believe it or not, fat is essential to your baby and to your good prenatal nutrition. Butter and olive oil are both very good fats to choose to flavor your foods. Having some fats in your diet also helps your skin and gives you calories. You need calories for energy; otherwise your body will burn protein it needs for you and baby. Coconut oil is very good for you; it's quite stable and can be used for cooking at high temperatures. Lard and tallow can be used for baking (and also add a nice flavor to eggs).
Have four tablespoons of butter daily – this will add flavor to your veggies and grains. Olive oil can be drizzled over your salad greens.
Do not use modern “industrial fats” like corn oil, soybean oil, and shortening. These fats are not good for you and were designed to make industries richer. Nature designed traditional fats to nourish you and your baby.
Cod Liver Oil
I've given this essential fat its own section because it's so vital. The benefits of cod liver oil are so numerous that the Weston A. Price Foundation has written extensively on them. You and your baby will receive plenty of vital EFA's. You also get essential vitamins A ans D. These two vitamins work in conjunction and help balance each other out. Recent studies have shown that vitamin A is safe during pregnancy*.
Liver and organs
Having organ meats several times weekly is a amazing source of nutrients for you during pregnancy. Liver is easy to find and prepare in tasty ways. Be sure to choose an organic liver. Toxins can become concentrated in the liver, so you will want only organic and avoid any hormones or other artificial substances that may have been fed to commercial animals. Other organ meats are very good for you too – liver, marrow, heart, etc. Shellfish are very good for you because you get all the organs right there! Fish stocks made with the whole fish give you a lot of beneficial nutrients from organs too.
Vitamin A foods
Vitamin A helps protect your body from infection. Your Cod Liver oil and organ meats will provide you with plenty of vitamin A. Deep orange vegetables will give you beta carotene – your body can usually convert this to vitamin A if you're in good health.
Making bone broths – soup stocks – at home will provide you and your child with needed minerals and with gelatin, which eases digestion. You can make broths from chicken, beef/lamb, or fish. You can make stock easily in a stockpot on the stove or even right in your crockpot while you're out and about! It's easy to make soups from the stock – they provide easy meals and you can pack a lot of nutrition into a soup. Stocks also make delicious bases for sauces and gravies for meats and veggies. You should have bone broth daily.
I found that making a quick sauce based on a stock really helped me get meats down during my fourth pregnancy, when the textures of meats were hard for me to eat. Drizzling a tasty sauce or gravy over the meat always make the dish easy to eat!
Traditionally fermented foods (not ones made in vinegar) like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and beet kvass (as well as fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir) are very good for you and your baby. They're also getting easier and easier to find in the grocery store! They send beneficial bacteria into your body to help you digest food and absorb nutrients so you're healtheir and your baby grows vibrantly. You should eat some fermented condiments daily – be sure to put one on the plate if you're having any cooked meats.
Salt to taste during pregnancy. Your blood volume will expand dramatically during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Salt helps your body retain this expanded blood volume. Drink plenty of water, salt to taste, and use the bathroom frequently. Getting plenty of protein and complete, balanced prenatal nutrition will help ensure your excellent health. Salt does not cause abnormal swelling during pregnancy – if you have abnormal amounts of swelling, contact a care provider. Use natural sea salt that is not iodized.
Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day – yep, this is part of your prenatal nutrition! This helps your body clear all the wastes that need to be cleared, it helps keep you regular, and it helps with your expanding blood volume.
If you've eaten everything recommended for balanced prenatal nutrition and are still hungry, choose healthy snacks in addition. Protein and fat rich snacks are best (cheese, nuts, avocado, etc.) If you are carrying multiples, you will need to do more snacking because you'll need additional protein and nutrients. Snack with healthy foods and you'll find you grow a healthy baby!
If you're eating an excellent diet you don't need a prenatal vitamin. But if you want one for your own peace of mind I recommend using only a whole-foods vitamin like New Chapter's Perfect Prenatal. You may find some herbal supplements beneficial during pregnancy – red raspberry leaf tea is an excellent pregnancy tonic.
These guidelines are based on the research and case studies of the late Dr. Tom Brewer. Brewer achieved excellent success during a twelve year study with some of the most at-risk mothers in Contra Costa County (CA, USA). Many midwives use these guidelines.
Information also comes from the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation (PPNF). Their guidelines are based on doctor Brewer's work and take into account practices of traditional cultures – cultures that had problem-free pregnancies, produced strong, healthy babies, and whose mothers had abundant milk supplies.
Study Finds Moderate Doses of Vitamin A Before and During Pregnancy Do Not Pose Risk of Birth Defects: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jul97/nichd-22.htm
Olafsdottir, A. S., Magnusardottir, A. R., Thorgeirsdottir, H., Hauksson, A., Skuladottir, G. V. and Steingrimsdottir, L. (2005), Relationship between dietary intake of cod liver oil in early pregnancy and birthweight. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 112: 424–429. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2005.00477.x
Photo by ilovebutter