I’m not a “diet” follower. I don’t count calories or points or grams of stuff. Not judging anyone who does; if it helps you manage a healthy lifestyle, awesome! I just can’t find the energy, drive, or time to keep track of stuff like that. My philosophy on food is pretty basic: Try to eat real foods with the emphasis on fruits and veggies, listen to your body’s satiety cues, and indulge sparingly, but happily.
My thought is, if the focus of your plate is quality, nutritious food, you don’t have room for the junk that might try to creep in. Then, when you wish to indulge on a weekly bowl of ice cream (my fav!), you can do it without any guilt. Life’s too short to live like a monk or beat yourself up.
Once you become pregnant, suddenly the realization that you’re sharing you body with another can spur some women on to better eating. I love this! I love knowing that I can so easily feed and sustain my daughter with high quality, incredibly nutritious food, and that will start her off on a path of enjoying healthy foods. By 16 weeks gestation, babies have taste buds. Your choices can influence you child’s food preferences as they grow and develop!
(Random side note: I love strong flavors like garlic, onion, and cumin. I ate chili and black beans with those flavors in my first 2 pregnancies, and both of my boys love those flavors! We’re big chili fans here. Coincidence? I think not!)
Knowing how important quality nutrition is, I try to maintain a wholesome, real food diet. (With the occasional indulgence, of course!) One resource that I found helpful was the Brewer Diet. Looking at some of the foods that were emphasized in that diet, I realized that many were also fantastic for my overall health, and for running performance. So many bonuses at once!
Now this list is just my personal preferences. You can certainly add or trade in different veggies or fruits per your taste preferences. I often reach for organic options when I can, and try to balance quality with convenience. (Because let’s face it, sometimes paying a little more for a time-saving product is totally worth it! We’ve got kids, jobs, and a million things on our do-to list!)
- Spinach Or any dark leafy green for that matter. We should be eating greens every day. Every. Single. Day. Besides the iron, magnesium and vitamins found in leafy greens, they are an excellent source of folate, which is such an important nutrient for developing babies. I like spinach because of it’s mild flavor, soft texture, and availability. I choose organic because it’s on the Dirty Dozen list, but even conventional will give you the same great nutrition. Try throwing a couple of handfuls in a blender with a banana, some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and a scoop of protein powder for a quick snack.
- Organic Whole Milk/ Almond Milk The Brewer Diet recommends 4 glasses of milk a day. Honestly, I kind of think that’s a lot, but I do try and get my calcium in. I like to balance whole organic milk (hopefully, omega 3 enriched!) with some unsweetened vanilla almond milk throughout my day. I don’t buy skim milk because it contains a higher sugar and protein ratio, and babies and toddlers need the saturated fat found in whole milk. You can even try and mix in non-dairy calcium sources like almonds, broccoli, and leafy greens (seriously, those leafy greens!).
- Sweet Potatoes Athletes, vegans, nutritionists, and just about everyone in the know celebrates this humble, little root veggie. A nutritional powerhouse, it fulfills the orange/yellow vegetable requirement suggested by the Brewer Diet. Beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamins A, D, C, B6… the list goes on and on. And they’re delicious! Try peeling and slicing them about 1/4 inch thick, tossing with olive oil (or melted butter), salt, and pepper and roasting at 400 for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Or one of my favorites, wash and pierce with a fork, pop in the microwave for 3-4 minutes (depending on size), cut open and add a bit of organic butter and a swipe of almond butter. So yummy.
- Citrus Fruits I always crave citrus when pregnant. Oranges, lemons and grapefruit find their way onto my plate almost daily. Big deliverers of Vitamin C, citrus fruits help the body absorb iron, as well as aiding in tissue repair and boosting immunity. Not to mention of bunch of other benefits. Plus, they taste awesome.
- Organic (when you can) eggs Filled with protein and brain-boosting choline, eggs are an incredible little wonder. Even if you can’t manage organic, the benefits are still there and they are a budget-friendly wonder. The Brewer’s diet recommends two a day, which I have no problem with since I’m such a egghead anyway. You can prepare them anyway, just make sure they’re cooked through. Why not try a veggie scramble and throw some sweet potatoes and spinach in there?
- Organic Butter This one makes me happy. I love butter. The Brewer’s diet recommend three pats of butter or healthy oils. (I like olive and coconut.) Fat, even saturated fat, is important for baby’s brain development. I try to reached for organic butter that preferably comes from grass-fed or pastured cows since the omega-3 ratio is higher. Just remember that all fats are calorie dense, and while putting on weight is necessary while pregnant, that’s not an excuse to eat an entire stick of butter. (As much as I’d like too.)
- Quinoa The Brewer diet recommends plenty of whole grains, and quinoa is my favorite. It’s packed full of muscle-building protein and amino acids, which are the building blocks for our cells and DNA – nice things for growing a human. I prefer quinoa over other grains since it’s less processed than, say, whole wheat bread or pasta. Plus it’s tasty! Slightly nutty with a pleasing texture, it makes a great companion for just about everything from soups to stirfrys.
- Wild Caught Salmon Full of healthy fats like brain-building omega 3s, salmon is a great protein. Try topping with a little butter, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Just be sure to keep fish intake to about once a week, to avoid excessive mercury exposure.
- Nuts, Seeds and their butters More delicious fat sources! Full of poly- and mono- unsaturated fats, plus protein, fiber and minerals like magnesium, nuts and their butters make awesome snacks and meal add-ins. My favorites are almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds. (I seriously have an addiction to sunflower seeds; it started as a child vacationing in South Dakota.) Throw some in a salad for some crunch, or make a homemade trail mix with a mix of nuts, seeds, some dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. Again, just remember that while healthy, nuts are calorie dense.
- Avocado My love for this fruit could probably be a blog post unto itself. (Maybe I will some day.) Again, a great source of fat, plus 20 different vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Major superfood! Plus, it’s yummy! Spread some mashed avocado on a piece of whole grain bread (aka: avocado toast) with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, whipped up a guacamole and dip some veggies in it, toss some on a salad. (I’m literally starting to crave one right now.)
- Dark Chocolate Ok, ok, this is a bonus, but I had to throw it in. I buy dark chocolate regularly because, honestly, sometimes we just need a little something sweet after dinner. I buy dark (either bittersweet chips, or a package of individual pieces.) It helps satisfy cravings while giving a little antioxidant boost. Sometimes just that little taste can keep me from eating my weight in cookies. Sometimes.
I hope you find this list helpful! Nutrition is such an important ingredient in overall health, and especially when pregnant. Do you have any other favorites to add? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!