Mama Monday – Nutrition in Pregnancy Pt. 2
Happy Monday, Lovies! I hope yours is off to a good start. Mine is full of list making and crossing things off. Our Christmas shopping season is in serious crunch time, compounded by kids’ activities, Christmas parties and performances, not to mention home and work that needs to be juggled as well. Cheers to being a work-at-home-mom!
Last Mama Monday, I began a discussion about nutrition in pregnancy covering protein and water, two essential nutrients. This week, I’m going to discuss sugar and carbohydrates.
Let’s just get the hard one over with, shall we? If you don’t yet know that sugar is NOT your best friend, allow me to let you in on a little secret: Sugar is NOT your best friend! I know, I love it, you love it, we all love our sweets, and I’ve been known to make a hobby out of making cookies myself. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the occasional endulgence, but if you’re not careful about your sugar intake during pregnancy (and really throuhout your life), some serious health risks can ensue.
Some foods are naturally high in sugar content, such as starchy vegetables, fruits and juices, which are fine and should be included in your pregnancy diet, and we’ll get into that more when we discuss carbohydrates. The bad ones we’re talking about are refined sugars found in desserts (which consequently are usually also high in fat and bad carbs) and sodas.
There are a few different reasons to limit refined sugars during pregnancy. First off, consider that food is to fuel your body and provide nutrients and energy. During pregnancy, food fuels your unborn baby as well as yourself. Desserts and cookies don’t generally provide many nutrients and won’t do anything to help your baby. What they will do is add unwanted calories to your diet, and trick your mind and body into thinking you’re full when you haven’t really given your body what it needs. You only need about 300 extra calories a day to compensate for the needs of your growing child, so don’t waste those calories on foods that don’t benefit you in any way!
Also, there are some serious health risks to be considered during pregnancy. High blood sugar can lead to gestational diabetes, putting you into a high risk category of pregnancy which can lead to a cascade of medical interventions. While most women will not continue to be diabetic postnatally, once a woman has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, her odds are higher for contracting it in the future. A diet high in sugar can also cause macrosomia (large babies), thus increasing one’s odds for cesarean delivery.
Another very serious medical condition to be aware of is preeclampsia (formally referred to as toxemia). This condition affects all the organs of the body and is characterized by high blood pressure, edema (swelling), excessive weight gain and protein in your urine. A diagnosis of preeclampsia may mean your baby will need to be delivered early, and in severe cases can lead to seizures, kidney, or liver problems. While the direct cause of preeclampsia is still unknown, we do know that close and careful attention to a nutritious diet during pregnancy can greatly reduce your odds of developing the life threatening condition. Reducing your sugar intake lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight gain, thus lowering your overall health risk.
If you just must have sweetener in your coffee or tea, consider natural options like stevia or learn to drink them unsweetened. When it comes to sugary sodas, just make a decision now to cut them out of your diet or only enjoy them once in a while. Along with sugar, they’re loaded with sodium, add empty calories, and rob your (and your baby’s) body of hydration and essential nutrients. Opt for fruit if you’d like a dessert, and stock up on sugar free puddings, jell-o, and cookies. I love Paula Deen’s magical peanut butter cookies (which also up your protein intake)!
Carbohydrates, like sugar, come in two forms: simple (bad) and complex (good). Bad carbs are treated like sugar in your body, adding unwanted calories and contributing to other health risks. Good carbs add energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals and all kinds of good things for your you and your baby!
Many women are concerned with gaining too much weight during pregnancy and may consider eliminating carbs in their pregnancy diet to curb unwanted pounds. Please don’t do this! Remember how important protein in pregnancy is? If you eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, your body will turn to PROTEIN to burn for energy. Since protein is the number one thing your body needs to build a healthy baby, you can seriously harm your baby and risk your own health if you do not include plenty of good carbs in your diet!!
Usually we think of carbohydrates as they’re found in breads and baked goods, i.e. bread, crackers, pasta, rice, etc. What you may not realize is that there are lots of carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables, which are, of course, GOOD carbs! Check here for a list of all those starchy, carb rich veggies that will help fill both your need for carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals. Beans, in particular, are a great source of carbohydrates, as well as protein and fiber. And even though they’re white and considered by most to be a “bad carb,” potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.
In addition to loading up on fruits and veggies, you need to incorporate whole grains into your diet as well. This means whole wheat breads, pastas, and brown rice. Be careful when choosing breads and make sure they say “100% Whole Grain,” and list unbleached whole wheat flour as one of the first ingredients. Some baked goods may use words like multi grain in their title, but are still filled with sugar and food coloring to make them darker in color. Whole grains add needed fiber and B vitamins to your diet.
To ensure you get the vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates essential during pregnancy, make sure you include all of the following in each meal and snack you consume throughout the day: a serving of protein, a serving of whole grains, and a serving of fruit and or veggies. Don’t worry so much about the sugar and things you’re not supposed to eat; instead focus on fueling yourself and your growing baby with all the things you need. That way you won’t have room for all the junk!
Love and Honey,