Thursday, December 27, 2012

Paleo Pregnancy - Getting the Nutrients You Need

Being a typical pregnant lady, I have been visiting all of the pregnancy websites and reading the books. I receive the weekly email updates on my baby's development and the tips for what I should be eating to keep my baby healthy and strong. I also cry at random Christmas songs, but that really isn't the point. 

The point is that in many ways I am an atypical pregnant lady because I don't automatically subscribe to the pregnancy diet guidelines laid out for me in these books, emails and websites. Most recommend a diet rich in whole grains from bread, rice and pasta and calcium from sources such as milk and cheese. I am trying my hardest to stick to my pre-pregnancy Paleo diet, but I do believe it is important for babies to get all of the nutrients that are essential for healthy growth and development.

I've spoken with my midwife about my diet and her advice was that as long as I am eating a variety of whole, fresh foods I should be getting everything I need. I have done some research on my own, as well, and wanted to share with you how you can incorporate all of these important nutrients into your diet, while still following a healthy, whole foods, Paleo way of eating.

A few of my baby's favorite foods

>Folate/Folic Acid - Folate is extra important in early pregnancy because it assists in the proper development of the brain and spinal cord. Most of the pregnancy literature out there recommends a diet rich in cereals and other grains fortified with the synthetic form of folate, folic acid.

Because cereal has been off of my menu for almost two years, I went out in search of other forms of folate. Spinach is my go-to source for folate. I use it in salads, add it to smoothies (I promise you can't taste it) and throw a handful into stir frys and omelettes. Speaking of stir frys, add some asparagus into the mix and a squeeze of orange juice and you've just upped the folate level even higher!


If you are trying to get pregnant, I would suggest upping your folate intake now to ensure you are getting this important nutrient early in pregnancy, before you may even realize you are pregnant.

>Calcium - Throughout life, calcium is important for strong, healthy bones and teeth, and it is even more important when you are growing another tiny life inside of you. Along with dairy, fortified grains are encouraged as part of a balanced pregnancy diet to ensure you are getting the daily recommended 1,000mg of calcium.

Anybody who has followed a Paleo diet for a while, though, knows that the RDA goals don't always necessarily match up with our own. There is research that suggests that much of the calcium we consume is never absorbed due to our gut lining being irritated by Standard American Diet foods. Because of this, I don't freak out if my calcium intake doesn't match up 100% with the RDA standards. Also, I do choose to take a prenatal vitamin, which should make up for anything I may be lacking as my diet varies from day to day.

To get the calcium my baby and I do need, I again turn to spinach and other dark, leafy greens. Almonds and dried figs are also good sources of calcium - try adding them to your next batch of trail mix for a yummy snack.

Trail mix time!
Salmon is another rich source of calcium that I try to eat at least once a week (minus those couple of months in the first trimester when I couldn't even LOOK at seafood). I even have a few tasty salmon recipes on the blog!

>Vitamin D - Another important nutrient for bone and teeth health, Vitamin D can be found in seafood, eggs and even mushrooms. Maybe my baby knows this because I have been craving eggs like nobody's business and eat them daily.

Yum, eggies! Serve 'em up!
>Protein - During pregnancy, protein is necessary for healthy fetal cell growth and brain development. Luckily, protein intake is usually not an issue for those of us following a Paleo diet. Eating plenty of red meat, poultry, nuts, eggs, and fish can guarantee that you and your baby are getting all the protein you need. Here are a few of my favorite protein-rich recipes.

>Iron - Last, but certainly not least, on the list is iron. Because your blood volume increases during pregnancy, your need for iron also increases to help prevent anemia. Again, fortified grains are recommended, but are never as good of a source of nutrients as foods with naturally occurring iron, such as red meat and poultry. A couple of surprising sources are cocoa and molasses, which is why I never feel guilty about my molasses-sweetened chocolate smoothies!

Really, it all goes back to the advice I received from my midwife. If you are eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and meats, you are your baby will be well taken care of in the nutrient department. As always, talk to your doctor or midwife about your eating habits. It is helpful if you are both on the same page with your diet and they can monitor you and make recommendations if necessary.

Source - Mayo Clinic