First things first: I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice. However I AM sharing my journey and what has worked for me. Please do your own research, and take what you like and leave what you don’t.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into pregnancy nutrition. When I first learned that I was pregnant, I ordered Real Food for Pregnancy and Expecting Better after hearing rave reviews from friends and family who had read these books.
I knew before I was pregnant that a lot of the medical advice given to pregnant women is antiquated and is provided as an extra precaution. With my DONA Doula training and deep research on holistic health and wellness, I let my knowledge, but most of all, my gut (no pun intended!) guide me. Here’s your encouragement to be your own guru and follow your gut!
Providing my baby with the best nutrients was my #1 goal while pregnant – especially during those first few months when ALL I wanted to eat were chocolate croissants! Outside of a select few nutrients, there is so much disagreement than there is agreement on nutritional guidelines for pregnancy. Most doctors will point you in the conventional nutrition route and this refers to dietary advice based on the US government’s nutrition policies. Digging a little deeper, the government’s nutrition policies were formed from the food pyramid…which we know is antiquated. On the flip side, we have the ancestral ‘diet’ which encourages whole foods, including fatty meat, organ meats (my first doctor during pregnancy – I went through a few – basically told me I was on my own if I wanted to consume organs by way of supplements), seafood, and fatty dairy products. Think nose-to-tail.
“So who’s right: conventional nutrition or traditional cultures? As I started to meticulously pick apart the scientific literature, I came to surprising, disappointing, conclusions. In short, current research finds that the nutrients most commonly lacking in a prenatal diet – like vitamins A, B12, B6, zinc, DHA, iodine and choline – are found in the very foods you’re told to limit by conventional prenatal nutrition guidelines.” – Real Food for Pregnancy by Lilly Nichols
Okay, so you might be thinking, ‘well, I can just get those nutrients from a prenatal’. Most prenatal vitamins do not contain nearly enough nutrients needed – that your food can provide you and your baby. They’re really just an insurance policy is what I have learned. Shout out to Loren of Innate Nutrition: we discussed vitamins and prenatals on my podcast, and she also has an amazing course all about pre-conception nutrition. Loren has covered the topic of prenatals on her Instagram as well. If you’re aghast just reading this – like ‘OMG, she didn’t take prenatals?! What kind of mother are you?!’ – I highly encourage you to check out Loren’s research and advice, too.
While we’re on the topic of prenatal vitamins, I did purchase some after about 20 hours of research. I wanted a prenatal vitamin with no iron, which proved to be very difficult to find. This is the one I purchased and took – but not consistently – throughout my pregnancy. They came in especially useful during my first trimester when I didn’t want anything to do with real food. I highly recommend these prenatals if you’re in the market for a high quality prenatal vitamin.
Since a good taboo topic is right up my alley and probably yours as well, if you read my blog, let’s go over a few of big conventional no-no’s nutrition-wise while pregnant.
SUSHI AND RAW FISH
“With increased awareness about mercury and other contaminants in fish, some women have been told not to consume fish while pregnant or to limit it to less than 12 oz per week.”
“Unfortunately, this information is a little misguided. While there are certain fish that are very high in mercury and should be avoided (namely swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, and shark), many other types of fish are perfectly safe to eat while pregnant. Here’s why: fish also contains high amounts of selenium, a mineral that readily bonds with mercury and prevents it from exerting toxic effects in the human body.” – Real Food for Pregnancy
This was great information to read as I LOVE fish. Specifically sushi. Give me ALL the raw salmon. The goal with eating raw fish is to be very selective about your source. Go to a restaurant or vendor that you trust and avoid the raw fish options that are higher in mercury content. I enjoyed a poke bowl or sushi once a week while I was pregnant and my body craved it badly from about 15 weeks – 40 weeks. Interesting enough, salmon has a high bioavailability of selenium when only eaten raw. I listened to my body and so enjoyed eating what I would normally order at a sushi restaurant.
An interesting tid-bit on raw fish, excerpted from Real Food for Pregnancy:
“In Japan, consumption of raw fish is not only common in pregnancy, but encouraged for optimal fetal development.”
And it is also condoned by the British National Health Service. On their website, they state, “It’s usually safe to eat sushi and other dishes made with raw fish while you’re pregnant.”
Did you know that organ meats contain up to 200 times more vitamin B12 than muscle meats? I didn’t either, and that’s when I began consuming bone broth and liver pills daily.
Before I became pregnant, I was taking beef liver pills and saw lots of positive affects – more energy, better skin, and stronger nails to name a few. So naturally I looked up the safety of continuing to take them while pregnant. What I found were two different answers from you guessed it – conventional advice (said no) and traditional/ancestral advice said that yes, they are safe AND beneficial to take while pregnant. Even better is actually eating beef liver but there is no way I could stomach that, pregnant or not. So beef liver pills it was (and is). I have used beef liver pills from two different brands, and these are my favorite.
I took 4 beef liver capsules per day during pregnancy because it’s a super nutrient-dense little pill.
You should know that these beef liver pills in particular are sourced from 100% Australian Certified organic, grass fed cows. They are also 100% pure: no fillers, preservatives, anti-caking agents or other additives.
Everyone talks about caffeine when it comes to pregnancy, am I right?! Coffee is LIFE. It is a ritual that I love every morning – having my organic espresso in a pretty cup is the vibe. Of course I knew I would continue having my coffee but I did research it again just to be sure.
The safety of caffeine while pregnant is controversial (like everything else mentioned in this post). The answer to whether or not it is safe is so nuanced because of varying discrepancies like looking at organic vs non-organic coffee, soda with the addition of chemicals and refined sugars, and the list goes on. In Lily Nichols books, she says, “At this time, it’s wise to stay on the safe side and keep caffeine intake at or below 200 mg per day. That means up to 16 oz of coffee per day is probably A-OK”. Personally I enjoyed two espressos per day while pregnant.
There is so much more we could get into here, and if you are interested in learning more about these controversial nutritional guidelines, want to learn what NOT to eat, what IS best for you and your baby, I highly recommend reading Real Food for Pregnancy and Expecting Better.