Monday, February 9, 2015

10 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Paleo Pregnancy

I am still floating along on the happy cloud of the release of The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book so I wanted to share with you some of my favorite tips from the book and from around the web for a happy, healthy Paleo pregnancy! There are so many things you can do during pregnancy that can help to prepare for your new arrival, alleviate symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue, and to just plain enjoy this special time.

1. Don't skimp on protein - During pregnancy, your baby is constantly growing. Your own body is changing, too, as your breasts, uterus and placenta grow to provide for your baby. Proteins provides the building blocks (amino acids) to facilitate this growth, so it is important to get plenty of protein in your diet. Animal proteins are the only complete sources of protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein to include, too, but they won't provide the full spectrum that you can get from meat and eggs. The key here is variety. Not only will you be getting all of the essential amino acids, each protein source provides other important nutrients, too. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids and red meat is high in iron and vitamin B12. Mix it up and include some type of protein with each meal and snack and you won't have any problem getting enough protein in your diet. Think eggs with breakfast, a handful of nuts with your afternoon snack, or a salad with chicken breast for dinner.

Some studies have even shown that eating more protein can alleviate morning sickness. This can be difficult to swallow (yes, I meant to say that) when you can't even stand the smell of bacon frying in the me, I've been there. I can say from personal experience that eating protein and fat throughout the day helped my morning sickness. It helped to keep me full longer, which kept that gurgly, empty stomach feeling at bay. If you are experiencing frequent nausea, focus on protein sources you can stomach. A spoonful of almond butter, plain scrambled eggs, grain-free muffins made with almond flour, or my yummy Paleo Trail Mix Bars from The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book.

2. Know your non-dairy calcium sources - One of the most common Paleo pregnancy questions I get is how to get calcium if you don't consume dairy. We all know that calcium is one of the key players (along with vitamin D) in building strong bones and teeth, and we are basically raised to believe that dairy is our only source of calcium, but it just isn't true. Some of the best sources of calcium are fish canned with the bones. Yes, I'm talking about our good friends sardines and salmon. It really isn't as icky as it sounds. You can easily mix sardines into a salad or even mix with tuna to mask them a bit. Canned salmon also makes a great salad or you can make the Salmon Muffins from The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book. Just be sure they are canned with the skin and bones and you'll be getting all kinds of extra nutrition in that little can. Dark leafy greens like kale and collard greens are also good sources, along with almonds, dried figs, broccoli and even molasses.

3. Eat pregnancy superfoods - During pregnancy, a few foods really stand out as spectacular superfoods. If you can get a few of these in each day, you'll be well on your way to a nutrient-dense Paleo pregnancy diet:

  • Avocado - Not just a delicious source of fat. Avocados also contain fiber, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin K
  • Grass Fed Beef - Contains choline, iron, B vitamins, protein, selenium and zinc
  • Organic Berries - High in fiber, folate, vitamin C and phytonutrients
  • Dark Leafy Greens - Contain calcium, fiber, folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and phytonutrients
  • Eggs - Probably my top pregnancy superfood! Eggs are the perfect food all wrapped up in a neat little package. High in choline, iodine, iron, protein, vitamin D, selenium and vitamin B12
  • Salmon - Fresh or canned with skin and bones. It's all good! Contains calcium, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium and vitamin D
  • Sweet Potatoes - Good source of fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and phytonutrients
  • Walnuts - A nutritious snack with copper, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B6 and zinc

4. Smooth skin, naturally - This tip comes from Primally Inspired's Beautiful Skin Fridays with Jenni Raincloud. Her recipe for Anti-Stretch Mark Belly Serum is all-natural and can help to prevent or fade stretch marks. It can even be used all over as a moisturizing body oil. I wish I had found this when I was pregnant. My skin was super-dry and itchy, but I did get a lot of free back scratches from Kevin out of it. :) I actually didn't realize I had stretch marks until after I had Avery because they were on the underside of my belly where I couldn't even see them! I don't mind them, they are definitely a badge of honor for everything I went through to bring my beautiful baby into the world, but I would have been happy to rub this belly serum on to keep my skin nourished and glowing and hopefully prevent stretch marks from forming in the first place.

5. Sip Pregnancy Tea - This recipe for Happy Pregnancy Tea also comes to us from Primally Inspired. This special blend of pregnancy-safe herbs tones the uterus, helps to relax and prepare the body for birth and even contains many vitamins and minerals that are important for mom and baby. It is made with red raspberry leaf, nettle, oatstraw, alfalfa and rose petals. Pay attention to the guidelines for how much to consume in each trimester. You can drink more as you near your due date and your body is preparing for birth.

6. Stock the Freezer - Before Avery was born, I spent about a week prepping two or three meals a night and throwing them in the freezer so we would have healthy meals in a flash when we came home from the hospital. I made chili, soup, egg muffins and some slow cooker meals. These lasted us a few weeks and came in really handy when we were busy, tired new parents. You can find some of my favorite slow cooker and freezer meals here.

7. Make memories - This tip comes from Trisha of Go Eat Your Beets. She has four beautiful kids and had a photographer at the birth of her youngest son. It really is a wonderful way to capture the special memories of meeting your baby for the first time. I felt like it all went by so fast that a lot of it just seems like a blur. In this post, Birth Photography: 10 Lessons I Learned, her birth photographer, Courtney, shares tips for other photographers who plan on attending a birth. If you choose to have a birth photographer, or even if a friend or family member plans to take pictures, this would be a great post to share with them so they know how to best capture the experience.

8. Get moving - Regular exercise during pregnancy is just as important as proper nutrition. Get moving for at least 30 minutes daily and you'll reduce your risk of common pregnancy complications, find relief from pregnancy symptoms and bounce back more quickly from labor and delivery. Exercise has many benefits, including fewer aches and pains, improved digestion, better sleep quality, increased energy and reduced risk of diabetes and preeclampsia.

Most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy, including running, swimming, aerobics, weight training, yoga and pilates. If you are new to exercise, your best bet is to join a prenatal fitness class or find a personal trainer so you can get specialized, one-on-one instruction. If you already have a daily exercise routine, let your coach or trainer know that you are pregnant so they can offer modifications. Even a 30 minute daily walk will provide the benefits listed above. As always, talk with your health care provider about your fitness routine at your first prenatal appointment.

Milk coma!
9. Prepare for successful breastfeeding - This tip is from Kelly Bejelly, the brilliant mind behind A Girl Worth Saving (seriously, have you seen her recipes). As a new mom, Kelly faced many challenges with breastfeeding. The thing is, most of us do not have a perfectly smooth relationship with breastfeeding. There are ups and downs, but if you do choose to breastfeed it is important that you educate yourself so that you can be prepared for the challenges. In this post, Kelly shares her New Mom Tips for Breastfeeding...the most important one being to go easy on yourself!

10. Get comfortable - In The Everything Paleo Pregnancy Book I talk a lot about loving your growing, changing body and finding clothes that help you feel comfortable and beautiful. During exercise, for example, you'll probably need a larger, more supportive sports bra and possibly even bigger shoes. During those first few days (or weeks...or months) home from the hospital, you might be more comfortable in pajamas or yoga pants as your body heals and returns to your new normal. Especially if you are nursing, you'll want comfortable nursing bras and nursing tops for easy access to breastfeeding.