My Pregnancy Diet | Part I
This is not a disclaimer or a justification but I feel it needs to be said. First of all I want to say parenthood and pregnancy are difficult enough at times without having to complicate matters even more so by having unreal expectations, excessive stress and judgement from others. We are all trying to find our own way in the world and with scientific research changing every moment it’s not only hard to keep up to date with ‘what the right thing to do is’ but also you will always find evidence for and against every study under the sun. We are all striving to do what is best for our own families.
Every situation, circumstance, environment, culture and prior and present health issues are very unique to those going through them, and whilst I am a nutritionist, I do not practice (my job is as a raw chef to make the food taste great!) and all the information I share with you here is according to my experience and research. Please seek professional advice for your situation. This here is to merely share with you what I have learnt through my own research, experience and mistakes and celebrations for you to make your own informed choices.
I also feel at times that TOO much emphasis can be placed on what we are feeding ourselves with a lack of confidence in our own intuition. Also I see plenty of healthy babies and children everyday, with whom their parents have taken very little or NO attention to nutritional needs, so I think like everything in life we need to have a very balanced approach to life, food, love, stress and environment. Let’s not get too crazy worked up about what we are doing, it’s all about awareness & love, not judgement, or beating ourselves up, because ultimately the stress from doing all of the above can be worse than eating that piece of chocolate cake or french fry, in my opinion.
As a long time raw enthusiast and raw chef, one of the questions I get asked almost daily, is “Now that you are pregnant, will you change your diet?”. Well first of all, no I haven’t, not intentionally anyway, and why would I change from one of the healthiest ways to eat when I am growing a baby inside me?
Now let’s rewind to my prior first pregnancy a couple of years back, which occurred by surprise a month after I finished my raw culinary training in the USA. I had been eating 100% raw (except for one vegan pizza lovingly created for me by a friend’s mother I was visiting for a weekend) all through my month training at Matthew Kenney Academy (formerly known as 105 degrees) as it was just too easy not to.
The food we were creating every day was what we would eat for lunch and dinner, and if our food was yet to be complete that day, I would work my way through the amazing raw food menu at the adjacent cafe. When someone else is making it for you, or you are spending all day creating it, it’s a no brainer.
At this time I had been vegan for almost two years, and except for my training at culinary school I only aimed for a 50-70% raw diet, which is easy if you eat raw until dinner. Being an Australian transplant in Saudi Arabia, where our summers are sometimes in the 50°C range, you can see it’s not that difficult to be raw all day sometimes. Also eating high raw (50-70%) is also considered to be as health inducing as 100% raw, so why give up my cooked dishes either.
When I fell pregnant, with Manus, 2 years ago, the main indicator I was pregnant was my sense of smell had become so heightened I couldn’t bare to spend much time on the aircraft I was working on at the time as a flight attendant. The jet fuel fumes gave me terrible headaches and I had to go home sick one day.
Also a massive sign was my love of my beloved smoothies had gone out the window. None of my favourite foods seemed to appeal to me to my disbelief and I was losing weight from the little nausea I had and not eating much food.
Come 2nd trimester, my appetite had returned, but salads, smoothies and anything raw and cooked, really turned my stomach. All I craved was white bread, cheese and salt and vinegar chips.
This period happened to also coincide with me having to return home to Australia, whilst my husband had to remain at work here in Saudi Arabia, and we waited for my new dependency visa to be processed. We were told at worst it would take 2 months. We were prepared for this. We were not mentally prepared for the 4 months apart it actually did take.
Living with my mum, who was thrilled to:
1. have her eldest daughter at home and
2. soon to be welcoming their first grandchild into the world,
did what all good mums do (and all good pregnant lapping it up daughters do) she catered to my hungry and not so hungry needs and enjoyed cooking me everything and anything I wanted. Childhood favourite dishes, scrummy cupcakes, taking me for trips to the store to get salt and vinegar chips, white bread with cheese sandwiches, shortbread biscuits and lots of cups of tea. As well as some raw food creations thrown in, but you can see the emerging pattern here.
Also, with the emotional turmoil of being a part from my husband, who I had only just tied the knot with 1 month prior to leaving, my eating was very different from my 100% only months earlier at culinary school. My girlfriends who had been pregnant years prior would meet me for lunch and tell me to enjoy this time, it’s the only time you can be gain weight and get away with it, as I would be the only one to order dessert Vegan, what vegan? Although I was still creating and eating (and blogging about it!) plenty of my raw food favourites, my cooked and processed foods were starting to take a starring role.
My doctor, started to make comments about how rapidly I was gaining weight and I should keep it a little under control. It wasn’t until my glucose testing for gestational diabetes at 28 weeks test came back a little questionable, and a subsequent re test that I realised I shouldn’t have pigged out on those mint leaves and jaffa lollies my mum was using to make Christmas holly gifts out of the night before. Oops.
The last thing I wanted to deal with was gestational diabetes so I got back on track with my healthy eating as I had realised I did in fact like my salads and smoothies now, and I had since my 1st trimester had ended, but I had just formed some unhealthy habits, and needed to consciously adapt them back to the foods I truly enjoyed eating.
Fast forward to months later, and between sleep deprivation, learning to be a new mother, bonding with my new child and supporting a husband who was also working and studying full time I slowly returned to my high raw eating habits and only up until just falling pregnant again this time, 12 months after my last baby was born, was I starting to get my groove back on – having to adapt my usual pre baby high maintenance raw meals which sometimes took days to prepare with dehydrating, fermenting etc, to a more simplistic quick and easy format, which I am still perfecting!
I am now 34 weeks (8 months) into my second pregnancy and so far, I can tell you, it’s completely different. Not only am I armed with a heightened confidence of what’s is in store but my emotional state is completely stable compared to previously being a hemisphere away from my partner whilst hormonal!
Funnily enough too, I’ve had no morning sickness this time around, no aversion to my favourite foods of green juices, smoothies, massive meal sized salads and have been enjoying large plates of fruit. Gone are the cravings for bread, cheese (but I have been enjoying my delicious herbed nut cheese) and butter icing. I really could care less for these foods.
I’ve known plenty of raw foodists to go back to a heavier cooked diet when falling pregnant purely due to not being able to keep anything else down, and I really think that is fine too. However watching what those cooked foods are is where it’s important. Quite often the body is craving what it needs and associates the cravings with foods we are most familiar with. For example, my cravings for cheese may have been a calcium need, which I now recognise and enjoy instead tahini, sesame seeds or black strap molasses or am LOVING nutritional/savoury yeast on EVERYTHING.
My salt and vinegar cravings are now satiated with delicious home made vinaigrettes and dressings on bowls full of dense salads. Hot salty crunchy cravings are satisfied with seasoned kale chips or crackers I make in the dehydrator, or green smoothies with plenty of greens to take away cravings for fatty spicy foods.
I’m more aware this time around too of what I am feeding my baby, and myself, which sounds crazy coming from a health educator. With less emotional distraction this time around of having my family separated, I can devote more time to remaining healthy through food and stress levels (just as important).
Another difference with this pregnancy is my activity levels. Other than a few random days of day time naps throughout my 1st and 3rd trimesters, I have been super active, with my usual body pump (group weight classes) and spin still taking priority. In fact on low energy days I feel that after a good exercise session, my energy levels are renewed and I know my baby is benefitting and hopefully so will my labour. With my 1st pregnancy, I was exerted after walking up the staircase at only 3 months pregnant. And that is coming from a previously very active mama. Obviously please see check with your doctor if you are pregnant and want to engage in physical activity.
More on what I on my pregnancy diet specifics and book recommendations in Part 2.
Love to hear your feedback, comments, questions & experiences with your own change in diet during pregnancy down in the comments below.Share on Facebook