The myths surrounding A Pregnancy Diet include so many limitations, and often one of the first things I hear from others after announcing my pregnancy is “how are you coping with all the food limitations?” The truth is, I haven’t felt limited much at all, as I am more preoccupied with consuming enough of the right foods.
For those who are used to eating processed foods in high quantities, it may feel daunting to see the ingredients of each meal and come to the realization that pepperoni pizza doesn’t contain adequate nutritional value for your fetus.
But for those who regularly eat vegetables, quality proteins, and high-fiber grains, they usually find that pregnancy involves eating even more of these foods, in greater variety, to ensure that baby is receiving as many quality nutrients as possible.
What do I mean by this? For example, pregnancy revealed to me that my diet— although incredibly healthy by most standards— was lacking in quality calcium: I don’t drink milk and I consume minimal amounts of dairy. One of the many changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy is the draining of calcium from her body to go towards building the bones of baby’s body. Mom can easily become calcium-deficient, and as we get older, we continue to deplete calcium from our bodies. This will lead to problems later in life such as osteoporosis (which runs in my family), brittle bones syndrome, and a host of other issues like the need for hip or knee replacements.
My once-a-week breakfast of Plain Greek Yogurt + Fruit had to be increased to daily, and my splash of almond milk in my coffee was swapped out for two glasses of warm almond milk, in the form of a Turmeric Latte. I discovered that raw broccoli contains extremely high amounts of calcium, and so I’ve taken to eating a head of raw broccoli once a day alongside a healthy dollop of hummus.
This is all in addition to my regular diet, meaning I never feel hungry. It also allows me to feel less guilty for the times I binge on fancy donuts, prime rib, or copious amounts of tamales.
So what are the limitations of A Pregnancy Diet that so many people talk about? Mostly it pertains to consuming foods that have the potential of food poisoning in delicate stomachs, or from questionable vendors. Our immune systems are weakened during pregnancy, so our risk of food poisoning is higher— which means the baby will get food poisoning, and since its immunity isn’t built yet, there’s a high risk of fetal death. So we avoid high risk foods, which pretty much comes down to raw fish and meats, and unpasteurized dairy or soft cheeses.
We don’t typically eat raw chicken ever on purpose, but in several cultures, raw beef is on many dinner plates (from France to Korea). And of course, there’s shellfish and sushi: my absolute favorites! Yeah, I do feel pretty confident that I could eat a plate of shrimp, or stuff myself with sushi and be totally fine, but... there was that ONE time that my husband and I treated ourselves to an expensive sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills that sent both of us running from the table to the bathroom before the check even landed. We both had a painful, humiliating, gut-wrenching reaction to something we just ate. So even though its tempting to take the risk while pregnant of eating sushi like any other day, you don’t want to put your baby at the same risk— its really not worth it.
Soft cheeses and unpasteurized dairy are similarly a risk, but most restaurants don’t serve these anyway, and if there’s a concern, the server should be well-informed on what is safe for moms-to-be to eat off the menu.
Other cautions advise against eating large-bodied fish (for their higher levels of mercury), non-organic foods (they’ve been sprayed with pesticides or exposed to e.coli), and meats or poultry raised in slaughter-farms who have suffered high stress levels, hormone-injections, and exposure to disease (this includes sandwich-deli meats and cured sausages, as they contain nitrates). Technically, we as humans shouldn’t be consuming these chemicals, metals and hormones anyway, but for our fetus and the tiny babies they become, their bodies are especially vulnerable to the harm these products cause. It might sound like an all-encompassing list, but most markets today provide organic and free-range everything. These healthier options are so widely available, and they are now similar in price to the bad stuff, so you shouldn’t feel too limited in this capacity.
So, what you caneat on A Pregnancy Diet?
Calcium-rich, high-fiber, high-iron foods. This includes grass-fed dairy products, whole grains (where you actually see the seeds and berries), and lots of dark leafy greens... and yes, steak! As long as its grass-fed and free-range, you’re all good.
Soups are an excellent way to include a multitude of vegetables, beans, and proteins in every spoonful. Additionally, sautéing a wide variety of vegetables with high-quality proteins fork easily with whole grains and pastas, making complete meals.
The key to eating healthy is to be in charge of making your own meals. A Pregnancy Diet isn’t so much a diet as it is a lifestyle of eating nutrient-rich foods that help you live healthier, longer lives, and set the foundation for the child (and his tastebuds) that is growing inside you. By taking the extra few moments to sculpt your daily meals, you are developing a set of skills that will come in handy for raising your future toddler. Parenting is hard enough without the sugar-induced tantrums of a 3 year old, so eating right in vitro will make meal time more bearable (and yes, healthier) once the little one is present in your daily life.
I’ve provided here a sampling of recipes that I’ve eaten throughout my pregnancy that have kept me and my baby saturated in quality nutrients, and his kicking proves its working!
Omega-3 Enriched Granola, Almond Milk + Fruit
Plain Greek Yogurt + Fruit
Omega-3 Enriched Steel-Cut Oats, Flaxseed + Fruit
Breakfast Burritos (egg, tomatoes, corn salsa, black beans, uncured bacon)
Raw Vegetables + Hummus (celery, broccoli, carrots, bell pepper)
Peanut butter sandwich on whole grain, sprouted bread
Avocado Toast on whole grain, sprouted bread
Tortillas + Hummus
Vegetable Sauté + Garbanzo Beans
Ravioli + Sausage + Vegetables
Fish, Ginger + Vegetables
Anything I darn-well please!