I received a few texts this past Sunday from family and friends wishing me a happy Mother’s Day. I hadn’t thought about celebrating Mother’s Day at this point. I didn’t feel I was technically a “mom” yet. But as the texts rolled in encouraging me that I am caring for and nurturing my baby, I realized that I am at the beginning stages of being a mom!
My initial feeling: SCARED TO DEATH. Oh my word, am I really a mom right now? I don’t feel like it. I am so busy going about my life that sometimes I forget that I am nurturing a baby (except when I try to zip up my regular jeans). That’s terrible! I feel like a bad mom already. Am I really taking care of this baby? Am I really creating a safe home where he or she can grow and develop healthfully? I mean, I sometimes forget to eat breakfast!
Are you pregnant and struggling with these fears? Do you know someone, maybe your spouse or a close friend, who may be struggling with these feelings? Have these feelings made you stop and think (like it did for me), “Whatever I am eating and drinking right now is CRUCIAL to my baby’s development.” And not only is it crucial for development during pregnancy, but for the baby’s future health, as well as our own.
Eating well will help prevent gestational diabetes, dangerously high blood sugar, and preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure that contributes to premature labor). Both put a pregnant woman at greater risk for complications during labor and delivery from having an excessively large baby.
Eating well will also help prevent extra weight gain during pregnancy, thereby making it a whole lot easier to lose weight after birth.
For our baby:
Eating well will set your baby’s health up for future success. Your food choices and weight gain predispose your baby to increased risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes later in life. The baby’s pancreas develops early in pregnancy and produces insulin by mid-gestation. If your blood sugar is too high on a consistent basis (maybe from eating ice cream every night), your baby’s pancreas has to process it and can become overworked resulting in “wear and tear” even before birth.
Eating well also programs your baby’s metabolism by altering genes that dictate hormonal pathways for appetite stimulation and numerous others that affect metabolic health. Basically, what you eat will lay the foundation for how your child will digest, absorb, and use food for the rest of their lives.
So what can you do or help someone you love do to create a healthy home for a baby to grow and develop over 9 months?
Focus on the quality and quantity of your food.
How do you apply this principle everyday:
1. Eat consistently
Eating every 3 - 4 hours during the day will supply you with the energy you need to keep moving and shaking in your world, and it will supply your baby with the energy needed to develop and grow. It helps you make wise decisions at your meals and snacks avoiding hedonistic hunger that causes you to an entire bag of chips. I always say a ravenous person is not a rational person.
Tip: Keep a snack sized Ziplock bag of nuts in your bag for a quick afternoon pick-me-up. You are eating a quality snack that will enable you to eat a quality dinner.
2. Eat appropriate amounts
If you are at a healthy weight at the beginning of pregnancy, you only need an additional 300 - 400 calories every day. If you are a little overweight, you will need less. That 300 - 400 calories is equivalent to a snack of an apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter OR 1/2 cup of Haagen Dazs ice cream. So really we are not eating for two, we are eating for more like one and one-fourth.
Tip: Make 1/2 of your meal plate vegetables/fruit, 1/4 of the plate protein, 1/4 of the plate whole grains.
3. Eat mainly plants
During pregnancy, it is essential to supply your body and your baby with nutrients like folate, iron, zinc, Vitamin D, and a host of other vitamins and minerals. Most of these nutrients come from plant foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and nuts. Plus plant foods are full of fiber which help move things through your digestive system and get rid of waste. You will be thankful for that!
Tip: Drink a green smoothie for breakfast, eat a kale salad with edamame for lunch, and eat a bowl of quinoa with black beans at dinner (add chicken to this recipe if so desired).
4. Eat multipurpose protein
During the 2nd and 3rd trimester you will need around 25 grams of extra protein in your diet. Though getting enough protein is rarely an issue in the US, it is important to make it count. Choose protein foods that will also meet you and your baby’s other nutrients needs.