An Optimal Pregnancy Diet
Pregnancy is a key time in the life of a child and a mother. By specifically focusing on diet and lifestyle during these months, a mother has an opportunity to optimally support the life of her growing baby and re-educate her own body to exist in a state of balance that will carry through the remainder of her life. According to Chinese Medicine, pregnancy is a time where a mother’s blood, yin, and qi or vital energy need to be plentiful and abundant in order to nourish the main organs associated with pregnancy the Spleen, the Liver, the Kidneys, and the uterus. The following Pregnancy Diet Basics and Nutrient Packed Foods for Pregnancy offer advice to help simplify your food choices and provide optimal nutrition to your body and your growing baby.
Pregnancy Diet Basics
- Prioritize the quality of your food. Although you are eating for 2, quality is as important as quantity. Avoid overly processed foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce. Choosing whole foods, organic, GMO-free, and antibiotic free produce, meat, and dairy is especially important in ensuring clean nutrition.
- Keep sugar intake low. although you may crave it more than ever, refined sugar can lead to a host of problems during pregnancy including diabetes, energy dysregulation, and indigestion. A minimal amount of natural sweetener such as maple syrup, dates, or coconut sugar will provide you with the sweetness you crave.
- Protein is what grows life! Every one of your and your baby’s tissues: skin, nails, bones, joints, organs, etc. require protein for growth and development. 75-100 grams per day is recommended for pregnant mothers.
- Focus on Fiber. Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you feel full, provide adequate vitamins, and prevent constipation.
- Supplement to meet your baseline requirements. Aim for 1000 mg of calcium, 25-35 mg of fiber, 600 mcg of folate, 27 mg of iron, and 85 mg of vitamin C per day
- Avoid spicy, fried foods, alcohol, drugs, painkillers, excess caffeine, and smoking. They are detrimental to you and your baby and increase the risk of miscarriage/ birth defects.
Top Nutrient Packed Foods to Incorporate Into Your Pregnancy Diet:
- Carrots and Sweet Potatoes- In Chinese Medicine, these foods support the Spleen and help to build qi. They are rich in beta carotene which converts to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is necessary for cellular health in a growing fetus. Carrots and sweet potatoes also provide B6, potassium, iron, and fiber. They generally improve digestive motility and help stabilize blood sugar.
- Walnuts- Walnuts are a pregnancy superfood! Chinese Medicine recommends walnuts as a warming food resource that strengthens the Kidneys and the brain. They also strengthen the back and help to lubricate the intestines. Additionally, walnuts are high in omega 3’s and rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- Salmon- Salmon is an excellent source of omega 3’s and protein. This combination is ideal, stabilizing nutrition for pregnancy. Omega 3’s in help with the brain development of a fetus. In Chinese Medicine, salmon is warming, supports the Spleen, helps build energy, and dispels dampness which accumulates during pregnancy. Generally, salmon is low in mercury. It is considered safe to eat 2 6 oz. serving per week during pregnancy
- Chicken/ Eggs- Chicken and eggs promote healthy qi, blood, yin, and yang. Chicken is rich in iron and zinc – necessary nutrients in pregnancy. Chicken is an amazing source of protein, healthy fat, and gelatin, and collagen. It is important to fully cook chicken and avoid eating chicken that has been cooked prepared as a cold food (chicken salad) during pregnancy to avoid contamination from listeria and other pathogenic bacteria.
- Spinach, Kale and Turnip Greens- These greens are strengthening for the blood and yin because of their rich nutrient profile. Spinach, in particular, is rich in folate, Vitamin C, and Iron. These greens are great in soups, stir fry, or are an easy addition to smoothies and salads in warmer months.
- Goji Berries, Cherries, Cranberries– Berries are rich in antioxidants and a host of vitamins. They help to build up the yang or active, life generating energy of the Kidneys
- Lentils and Beans- Lentils are, according to Chinese Medicine, neutral in temperature and strengthening for the Kidneys and Heart. They also help promote blood circulation and increase jing, or the precious life essence. From a nutritional standpoint lentils and beans are rich in protein, fiber, and folic acid and are thus an excellent regular addition to any pregnancy diet.
- Bananas- Bananas are sweet, cooling, and yin tonifying in Chinese Medicine. They help prevent constipation, provide a healthy dose of potassium, and provide quick energy to help prevent fatigue that is common during pregnancy.
- Oats- Oats are a low glycemic carb that provides lasting energy to pregnant mothers. In Chinese Medicine, oats help direct energy upward and thus can be important in helping to secure a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy. They also strengthen the Spleen, help to tonify qi and blood, dispel dampness, and calm the nervous system.
- Avocados- 1 cup of avocado meets the daily requirements for folic acid during pregnancy! Avocados are also rich in calcium, vitamin C, E, K, B1, B2, and B6, and iron. They provide fiber and can help to lubricate the intestines. Avocados are an amazing source of healthy fat and choline; this helps with brain development and healthy nerve development of the baby. This combination will also keep expecting mothers stable and calm, help regulate blood sugar, and stabilize cholesterol levels.
- Beets- In Chinese Medicine, beets strengthen the Spleen and the heart and build blood. Nutritionally, beets are rich in fiber and are a powerhouse of nutrients including: folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C and Vitamin B 6.