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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paleo Pregnancy- Food

The first installment in our series is the most important part- food!

I chose not to title this post "Paleo Pregnancy- Diet" because really, it is not a diet. It is more like an anti-diet. As my sister-in-law has marvelling lately: "I am not even hungry!" (And she has lost 6 pounds in 10 days!).

There are many websites that can accurately explain the nuances of paleo eating. But first and foremost, just for NetRaptor, we shall start with a definition:

"In simple terms the paleo diet is built from modern foods that (to the best of our ability) emulate the foods available to our pre-agricultural ancestors: Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts. On the flip-side we see an omission of grains, legumes and dairy". -Robb Wolf, robbwolf.com

There is not a lot to it.

If you have ever thought you would like to cut back on sugar and processed foods, this is a great lifestyle to adopt. If you have never thought you should cut back on sugar and processed foods, please stop reading. It is not my intent to make you feel bad. :)

One can do plenty of research to understand the science of health and disease and how food can either positively or negatively impact the body, both immediately and long-term. But most people don't really care about all of that. They just want to feel better, lose weight, and be healthy.

So here is how you do it:

Stop eating sugar.
Stop eating vegetable oils.
Stop eating processed foods (anything that comes with its own wrapper).

And follow our definition. Consume only "Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts".

But, you may say, What about (x)? How can I give up (x)? And is (x) really that bad for me?

If you have to ask, the answer is probably: Get rid of it.

That is the beauty of eating this way. I don't count points. I don't even count calories. I just eat real, whole, unprocessed foods.

So how does this affect the pregnant mama?

I did months of research to find out. This is my fourth child and fifth pregnancy in 6 years! The outward effects of such wear and tear are definitely visible, and I was sure there were many things inside my body that were being affected as well. I wanted to make sure my baby was getting the very, very best nutrition that I could afford to give him. I wanted my to treat my own poor body as well as possible, building it back up instead of depleting it of its last resources.

I subjected you to a few posts on Dr. Cate Shanahan's Deep Nutrition, and this book served as the springboard into my research. She shows how poor nutrition now can affect one's body in the short term (e.g.- elevated blood sugar, sugar "crashes") and the long-term (diabetes, cancer). She also shows how a poor diet during pregnancy can negatively affect a growing fetus, and how that same poor diet will have lasting implications throughout the child's entire lifespan.

I came away with the understanding that I should try to follow these basic rules:

Stop eating sugar.
Stop eating vegetable oils.
Stop eating processed foods (anything that comes with its own wrapper).

It was a slow transition, and I don't perfectly follow these rules all of the time. But by drastically cutting back on my consumption of these "empty foods" and filling my body with whole, real food, I can tell a huge difference in how my body feels. I pray that this baby will be the healthiest of the bunch. I have high hopes, but only time will tell.

So how are some practical ways this plays out?

Instead of the USDA's recommended "fortified cereal with skim milk" for breakfast, I eat three eggs fried in organic butter and an apple.

Instead of the "fortified whole-grain bread" with peanut butter and jelly for lunch, I have a whole avocado, some organic roast beef lunchmeat, a few whole carrots, and an orange.

Our dinners look similar to the way they have always looked, but I just don't eat the bread. If I serve brown rice, I will occasionally only eat a few tablespoons with an equal amount of butter. Hee hee. Really. But for the most part, I eat a big serving of good protein, a big vegetable salad with a simple olive oil-balsamic-dijon dressing, and a roasted vegetable with lots of butter.

I am pretty sure that I eat between 2500-3000 calories a day, much more than the recommended 2300/ day for pregnant women in their second and third trimesters. But I have gained half the weight I usually do. I feel clear-headed and not as hormonal or emotional as I usually do during pregnancy. We will see if I struggle with the terrible insomnia I had after Roman, but my sleep even this late in pregnancy is deep, restful, and solid (oh, praise God!).

There truly are an abundance of resources online if you want to research this any further. I figured out that my nutrient/vitamin/mineral profile has far exceeded what it has in pregnancies past, just by changing my diet. I know now that I need good fats in order for my body to synthesize the vitamins it gets through fruits and vegetables. I am certain that I am lacking nothing nutritionally by cutting out breads, cereals, crackers, rice, oats, and the like.

From personal anecdotal experience and through plenty of reading, my conclusion is that this is a very healthy way to eat while pregnant and for the rest of my life. Meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It is easy. It is inexpensive. It is do-able if you just decide to do it :) Your body and your baby will be all the better for it.

I will be posting more specific meal plans and recipes in the future, but my next two posts will be on an exercise plan during a paleo pregnancy and supplements during a paleo pregnancy.

Here are some resources if you want to poke around:

What is the Paleo Diet?

What are Some Recipes to Get Me Started?

What Are Some Real-Life Stories I Can Read?


Kessie said...

I've been trying to cut out the same things--sugars, processed oils and processed flours--but it's not always easy on a tiny budget. We're working on it, though. I have found that we all feel so much better eating lard and butter and bacon. Vegetable shortening had reached the point where it tore up my stomach whenever I ate it.

The one problem I have with the paleo diet (I was reading about it), is that it's based on an evolutionary worldview. Mankind didn't start out as cavemen. Mankind was created by God. God laid down some dietary rules, too. There's books about the "Maker's Diet", and it's more or less the paleo diet. Except you're allowed to drink milk (goat's milk is best), eat grains (not our modern ones), and basically if it's mentioned in the Bible, you're allowed to eat it. Get it in its most natural form if possible because that's how God meant us to eat it. You get the idea. :-)

Jennifer said...

Yup, I love that book. There is some decent literature out there on reconciling a primal/paleo diet with a creationist viewpoint. Neither one of us obviously takes an evolutionary worldview, so I don't really buy into the fact that "our bodies have not evolved to process wheat and dairy". I do buy into the science that it is not the best nutrition for most bodies, though. Even without evolution as a backbone, I firmly believe the nutrition makes sense. Thanks for writing, dear friend :)

Vicky said...

I was paleo for a short time before getting pregnant and really saw the difference, especially when I cut out a majority of fruit, too. After getting pregnant, the food aversions pretty much ruled out the paleo staples, like meat and greens. I can't wait until the first trimester is done, I know that sugars (in all forms) affects me greatly. With the insatiable thirst I have been having, I fear gestational diabetes. The most important thing to me now is trying to beat the food aversions and returning to my paleo ways so I can beat out gestational diabetes. Any tips on beating the aversions to meat, fats, and greens during the first trimester?

Maureen Muoneke said...

An organic pregnancy has so many benefits for both mother and baby. From personal experience, I know transitioning to a lifestyle of natural foods, organic body care and household products, holistic health and joyful living made a huge difference in my three pregnancy experiences and in the health of my children.

Maureen Muoneke MD


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