You have a lot of choices when it comes to what to eat in pregnancy. What you really want are the most important nutrients for a growing baby.
By Daja Gombojav, Contributing Writer
There is so much advice out there about what to eat when pregnant. It really can be daunting to sort it out. And then, because we just aren’t quite sure we are hitting all our bases, there are prenatal vitamins and supplements. Just to hedge our bets, you know? But, first things first…
Nutrition vs. Nutritionism
In sorting out and discussing what to eat when pregnant, we must be careful to differentiate between nutrition and nutritionism. Nutrition says, “Carrots are good for you. Eat lots of carrots to be healthy and have good eyesight, among other things.” Nutritionism, says, “Carrots are good for you. Must be the vitamin A. So, let’s isolate the vitamin A and consume scads of it.” Guess what? Doesn’t work. No one’s eyesight ever got better that way. Our bodies need food, not just nutrients. Author Nina Planck says it well,
“However, you don’t have to count calories, grams of saturated fat, milligrams of vitamin E, micrograms of folic acid, or jillibeters of anything else. I never do. It would be downright wacky to create shopping lists of nutrients. (“Sweetheart, I’m pregnant! Don’t forget complex carbohydrates, lauric acid, and betanine.”) As a nutrition geek, I have a basic understanding of the major nutrients and a few minor ones, but I am still firmly in favor of the tangible material formerly known as food. In our house we call it real food. It’s good for you. It’s good for babies. It’s good for everybody.”
Therefore, in outlining some of the essential nutrients for growing a baby, we are going to talk about the best sources as well. If you remember anything, remember this: EAT REAL FOOD. Not processed. Not denatured. Not things that come shelf-stable and prepackaged and cleverly marketed. Just eat real food. As much as you need/want. Listen to your body. It will tell you when you (and your baby) have had enough. If you are hungry: eat.
Here are some of the most important nutrients for a growing baby:
By macronutrients, we mean the big three: protein, fats, and carbs. It’s easier to remember to hit the big three than to count calories or grams of smaller chains of nutrients.
The groundbreaking work of Dr. Brewer highlighted the importance of protein for pregnant women. He had a few key recommendation to his diet (among them 80-100 grams of protein daily and adequate salt intake) that contributed to him completely eliminating pre-eclampsia/toxemia in his obstetric practice! (Learn more about Dr. Brewer’s approach on his website.)
Best sources of protein:
- Liver and other organ meats
- Bone broth
- Raw organic milk
- Fish eggs
Your body needs fat to synthesize hormones, to protect its cells, the process fat-soluble vitamins (namely A, D, E and K), for energy and muscle repair.
Best sources of fats:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Grass-fed butter
- Whole fat milk
- Tallow, lard and schmaltz
- Fish oil and fatty fish
Carbs have gotten such a bad rap these days. It’s the new trendy food to hate (like when we were all told that we had to hate fat, eggs, salt, etc. It’s always something). But, carbs are not all bad. And not all carbs are created equal. You need carbs in pregnancy for energy! Remember you’re eating for two!
Best sources of carbs:
- Bake potatoes
- Baked sweet potatoes
- Dark leafy greens
By micronutrients we mean those things that make the news: vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, folate, etc. To keep us from falling prey to nutritionism, remember that these nutrients are found liberally in REAL FOOD. So, eat a variety of real traditional food. Plus, it’s a lot more pleasant to eat a salad with bacon and creamy dressing than it is to take a handful of pills!
Vitamin D: Such as found in fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, and liver (On the fence about eating liver? Let’s address those common myths about liver.)
Vitamin A: Such as found in liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, mustard greens, beets, and squash
Vitamin K: Such as found in kale, spinach, chard, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage (You can toss these greens in a nutrient dense smoothie! The family will love it!)
Iron: Such as found in bone broth, organ meats, seaweed, blackstrap molasses, nuts, seeds, legumes and eggs (More information about getting enough iron here: How To Overcome Anemia)
B Vitamins: Such as found in clams, fish roe, eggs, beef liver, beans, and chicken
Magnesium: Such as found in bone broth, beans, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and raw milk (Check out this post on how to make your own magnesium oil. It’s easier than you’d think!)
Calcium: Such as found in raw organic milk, collard greens, broccoli, kale, cabbage and figs (For more information on consuming raw dairy in pregnancy check out this post: Breaking The Pregnancy Diet Rules)
As always, there are no guarantees in life–especially not in pregnancy. But, a good foundation is always to eat real food and to listen to your body. Your baby will thank you someday.