How do you achieve a healthy pregnancy and gain a healthy amount of weight? Maybe a prenatal nutrition plan is what the doctor ordered! If you are newly pregnant, or even trying to achieve pregnancy, what you are putting into your body makes a world of a difference! But many of us don’t know where to start and that’s ok! Thankfully we have resources and practitioners to guide us 😃 Here I’ve addressed some of the basics you should learn about when you are growing new life!
We will learn the following:
- Managing Blood Sugar
- Managing Weight Gain
- Achieving Optimal Nutrient Intake
- Personalizing a Plan for YOU!
STARTER TIPS FOR NATURALLY MANAGING BLOOD SUGAR
- Eat about every 3 hours (of course, choose healthier choices as we will later mention). Why?
- It helps prevent large fluctuations in your blood sugar, which can lead to changes in mood & can cause fatigue/light headedness.
- It helps you and your baby achieve adequate nutrients for proper energy & growth throughout the day.
- It helps prevent consumption of excessive amounts of food because it keeps you from getting ravenous when going long periods without eating! This can also help prevent cravings later on in the day.
- Have some protein WITH your carbohydrate choice…no lonely carbs. Here are some examples (protein sources are in bold):
- Pair a hard boiled egg or 2 (or my favorite: egg “muffins”) with a pear and green tea for a quick breakfast.
- Add almond butter with an apple and water for a snack.
- Top a salad with chicken/steak/salmon/beans/eggs/nuts/seeds/etc, veggies, avocado, & vinaigrette dressing. Add a baked sweet potato on the side for a nice balanced lunch.
- Crunch on some raw veggie slices with hummus or ricotta cheese & for another snack option.
- Pair meat sauce with spaghetti squash or lightly sautéed zucchini noodles. Include a side salad topped with garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, olive oil & vinegar for a light-yet-filling dinner.
- Try a protein pancake if a bedtime snack is needed (Blend 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, 1 banana and cook like pancake). Top with ~1 Tbsp of a favorite nut butter (if you haven’t tried cashew butter, you should.)
STARTER TIPS FOR MANAGING WEIGHT
- Follow the above tips for managing blood sugar…these tips also help to manage weight!
- Ensure you are getting regular physical activity: even if it’s only 10 minutes after each meal, try to get up and move! Enlist the help of youtube exercise videos and try doing 10-20 minutes while dinner is in the oven or in the morning when you first get up…something is better than nothing! Move that body!
- Reduce sugar/sweetener intake…this will also help blood sugars as well! Stop drinking sodas and try a sparkling water or kombucha if a bubbly beverage is desired. Desiring a sweet treat? Have frozen berries or frozen mango chunks instead. There are many healthier options you can make that will still help if you’re having a sweet tooth. Your body will eventually get used to these changes and you’ll acquire new, healthier habits that can last a lifetime if you give them a chance.
STARTER TIPS FOR ACHIEVING OPTIMAL NUTRIENT INTAKE
Nutrients give us energy, help our bodies function properly, help with growth and generation of new cells and much more. If we have deficiencies, they can affect us in many ways.
The demands for specific nutrients during pregnancy and lactation are particularly draining on a mother. And if the mother is not getting enough of certain nutrients, the growing baby may not be either. That’s why a balanced diet is important!
- Daily consumption of folate-rich leafy greens and B12-rich animal proteins, this helps to provide adequate nutrients, especially for those of us with MTHFR. Many times, we do not consume or properly activate adequate amounts of these nutrients, which can cause various deficiency symptoms or subclinical symptoms.
- We also need sufficient fiber (approx. 25-35 grams/day) and B vitamins from green vegetables to help the body deal with regulating hormones. Green, leafy vegetables can also help the nervous and immune systems; and magnesium relaxes smooth muscles found in the intestines.
- Fibrous foods help to bind to waste products and excrete them via the bowels:
- legumes including lentils, white beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and edamame
- broccoli & cauliflower
- Fibrous foods also help with insulin resistance by slowing down glucose uptake in the intestines.
By approaching diet and nutrition first, we lay the groundwork for a healthier, more fertile landscape in our body. By normalizing hormone levels through lifestyle changes, we affect the entire hormonal cascade that happens before, during, and after pregnancy.
With nutrition, we also regulate the reproductive cues to support a healthy endometrium and allow for an appropriate luteal phase so that a fertilized egg has the opportunity to implant, grow and develop.
~Our focus is to initiate a regular, pain-free menstrual cycle (when not pregnant, of course)
~Our goal is to support fertility, leading to a healthy, full-term pregnancy
And, the basis of any healthy reproductive system and healthy pregnancy begins with optimal nutrition!
Protein, vegetables, fruit & other nutrient dense starch/carb options, healthy fats, and adequate fluids are important macronutrients (see the Nutrient Dense Meal Planning: Healthy Plate “TemPlate” picture).
Beyond a balanced diet, functional nutrition testing for micronutrient status can be very beneficial before pregnancy and during, as well as post-partum. Targeted supplementation may also reduce the following pregnancy complications:
- coenzyme Q10 and selenium can help reduce risk of pre-eclampsia
- vitamin D can help with decreasing bacterial infections
- vitamin A, C, and B2 can assist with alleviating pregnancy anemia
- trace elements can help reduce pregnancy induced hypertension
- folic acid, biotin, and B vitamins can support the reduction of birth defects
Other key nutrients to consider during pregnancy are omega 3 fatty acids for the brain development of the baby, probiotics for gut & immune health, and magnesium for stress/anxiety/relaxation and can help with constipation.
Talk to the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Courtney, or your provider, about individualized suggestions for you personally, and about SpectraCell’s micronutrient testing to assess your vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant deficiencies on the cellular level. This unique testing provides you with individualized results to determine which nutrients your body needs to reduce your risk of chronic diseases and to live a healthier life.
Another option that goes hand in hand with nutrient testing is MTHFR testing.
Why is the MTHFR test important?
This helps us know about your body’s ability to methylate. Methylation is a crucial part of cell processes and if you have a defect, you could be at higher risk of nutrient deficiencies (such as folate & B vitamins because your body does not properly methylate, or activate, these nutrients as well), miscarriages, neurological and cardiovascular disorders, mental dysfunctions and diabetes.
What role does nutrition play if you have a MTHFR defect?
Using SpectraCell’s Micronutrient testing, you can get your status on 33 vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Even if your body is not methylating properly, you may be able to effectively supplement nutrients (such as methylfolate (activated folic acid), methylcobalamin (activated B12), etc) through targeted repletion, and micronutrient testing will provide assessment of your nutritional deficiencies. So, both MTHFR and the micronutrient test could be a beneficial option for multiple reasons.
PERSONALIZING A PLAN FOR YOU!
You can manage your blood sugar, gain the right amount of weight, and give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby.
And it’s easier than you think!
Hopefully this guide has given you the starter tools to begin figuring out how nutrition affects your body.
But it’s ok if you need more support…
Do you have specific food likes/dislikes?
Food allergies and/or sensitivities?
Irregular life & work schedules?
Do these things may make it difficult to find a meal plan or nutrition guide that really works for you?
Curious about specific supplementation recommendations or further testing?
Need help with the practical application of a nutrient dense nutrition plan?
Would you benefit from a sample meal plan with specific carbohydrate and/or protein goals?
Consider meeting with Courtney Rinehold (Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified LEAP Therapist, Certified GAPS Practitioner) at the Fertility & Midwifery Care Center by calling (260) 222-7401. She can meet with you and help create a more personalized plan just for you!
Anagnostis P, Karras S, Goulis D.Vitamin D in human reproduction: a narrative review. Int J Clin Pract 2013;Epub ahead of print.
Cetin I et al. Role of micronutrients in the periconceptual period. Hum Reprod Update 2010;16:80-95.
Ebisch I,Thomas C, Peters W et al.The importance of folate, zinc and antioxidants in the pathogenesis and prevention of subfertility. Hum Reprod Update 2007;13:163-174
Ozkan S, Jindal S, Greenseid K et al. Replete vitamin D stores predict reproductive success following in vitro fertilization. Fertil Steril 2010;94:1314-1319