Healthful Pregnancy Habits

fruits-vegetables.jpgMinding your intake during the holidays can be challenging for anyone, and even more so when you’re eating for two. Yes, you’re expected to consume extra calories (thought in general, it’s only about 300 calories, which isn’t a lot when you stack it up in terms of holiday cookies), but it’s important to make the calories count in a healthful way. This month, in my role as a March of Dimes mom, the discussion is around healthy eating and weight gain during pregnancy. Here are some of my key recommendations for healthful pregnancy habits; many are applicable to the non-pregnant crowd as well.
No two pregnant women are exactly alike. The topic of weight gain typically is a source of despair for pregnant women and I always like to remind my pregnant friends that no two pregnant women are exactly alike. Yes, there are general guidelines to keep in mind (see the March of Dimes's helpful guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy) but your history, body type, baby, etc., will be different than others. Cut yourself some slack and don’t compare yourself to others who are gaining less weight than you are. Keep checking in with your doctor, and so long as you are following a healthful trajectory, let nature run its course.

Fill up on fruits and veggies. It can be harder during the winter months to be excited about fruits and veggies, but these foods are key to a healthy person (pregnant or not). Before you hit the holiday party circuit snack on fruit so you’re not visiting the buffet table on an empty stomach. Or if you can’t stand eating raw veggies during the cold months, make soup with broth and loads of cut up veggies or make a vegetable-laden stir fry (even better, add tofu to the soup and/or stir fry). Another tip: to increase my green intake, I recently started adding a big handful of mesclun to my dinner plate every day. The leafy greens prevent overloading the plate with comfort food, and the mesclun serves well as a backdrop for a variety of foods (e.g., Brussels sprouts, risotto, fish, chicken tenders, etc.).

Carry healthful snacks at all times. I am definitely one of those supremely grouchy-when-hungry type people and when I was pregnant it was more important than ever to carry snacks with me at all times. I worked right up to delivery so I found it helpful on Sunday nights to cut up a big pile of vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, etc.) so it would be easy for me to pack a container of veggies for on-the-go snacking during the work week. I ate so many cucumbers during my pregnancy that my supervisor actually called me Kohcumber. I also usually had an apple in my bag at any given moment, and a bag of dried nuts and fruit. And water, always water.

Water, water, and more water. I just mentioned water, right? It’s really important (again, pregnant or not). I’m actually primarily a water person (I don’t drink soda and rarely drink juice) and I always toted a bottle with me when I was pregnant.

Enjoy avocados. People sometimes avoid avocados because of their fat content but it’s good fat. Plus, they’re high in fiber (which, um, you really need when you’re pregnant), as well as in vitamin K, potassium, folate, and vitamin B6. I started eating avocados regularly during pregnancy and while breastfeeding (considering it my “magic mama food”) and it has since remained a regular purchase when we shop. Jon, Laurel, and I all love to eat them, whether in sandwiches or smashed up as guacamole.

Don’t deprive yourself. Having grown up in a sweet deprived household, I can speak firsthand about how deprivation makes people even crazier than if you allow for moderation. I eat healthfully and did so when I was pregnant with Laurel, and I enjoyed treats in moderation. My lifesaver as I waddled around during my last trimester in the extreme heat of summer? Soft serve twist cones.

Go organic. Regular readers know I’m a longtime proponent of green living. I know a lot of folks turn towards organics when it’s time to introduce baby to solids, and I encourage organic eating while pregnant (and beyond) too. It’s good for you and for baby. You can read a bit about the organic movement via this post, and I also recommend reading this excellent CSA 101 post, which includes leads for Boston-area CSAs.

Find fitness. In addition to being mindful about what you're putting in your body, it's also important to find fitness; being fit will help you through your delivery. When I was pregnant with Laurel I kept things low impact but was able to stay strong and toned by walking everywhere and also swimming laps (all the way up to the day before Laurel was born!). Swimming was particularly excellent in the final trimester because it offered a welcome feeling of weightlessness and was very peaceful. However, since walking outside and getting in and out of a pool probably seem less appealing now that it's winter, I recommend some light cardio, stretching, and yoga at home. I'm a big fan of the free (well, included with cable) ExerciseTV programming On Demand; you just can't beat the convenience.

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