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Diet

Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin

Pregnancy is a time when most every woman decides to start taking prenatal vitamins.  But there are so many choices out there.  How do you decide WHICH prenatal vitamin to take? 

Of course, you should consult your health care provider first.

Many woman prefer to take a prenatal that is whole food based and doesn’t upset their stomach.  Pregnant women need extra iron but sometimes iron supplements or prenatal vitamins with cheap iron in them cause nausea or abdominal discomfort.

Looking for a vitamin that has absorbable iron in it and is whole food based (rather than chemically manufactured) can help you find something that is easier on your body and more likely to be used .

Some other whole food supplements that pregnant women report improve their pregnancy well being include:

  • Brewers yeast- Brewers yeast can be purchased in bulk at your local health food store in flakes.  It tastes great on air popped popcorn with a little melted butter or olive oil.  It adds flavor, amino acids, protein, and B-vitamins.
  • Vitamin C Powder- Many pregnant women experience  symptoms during pregnancy such as varicose veins or bleeding gums that can be an indication of a vitamin C deficiency.  A good quality vitamin C  powder can be mixed into your morning orange juice right along with your  yeast supplement for a powerful morning start.
  • Blackstrap molasses- Unsulphered Blackstrap molasses is full of iron and potassium and can naturally increase your intake of these important vitamins in pregnancy.  It can be poured on top of cornbread or biscuits or mixed in milk instead of less healthful chocolate for a protein and vitamin rich snack. 

Eating well through pregnancy includes not just prenatal supplements but a nutritious diet rich in naturally occurring vitamins.

Protein in Pregnancy


Does protein matter in pregnancy?  Many women and care providers feel that it does.  Any body builder knows that to build a healthy body he or she must get adequate protein.  Some feel that the same is true for a woman building a baby body. 

Many women report that when they get adequate protein in pregnancy (about 80 or 90 grams) that they feel much better.  Some things that they report:  decreased nausea, increased energy, fewer or no headaches, less sugar cravings, healthy but not excessive weight gain, and much more.

But how do you get enough protein in pregnancy if you are used to only eating 30 or so grams a day?

Childbirth educators recommend the following to their students:

  • Snack healthy- Pregnant women get hungry often.  If you have healthy snacks with you at all times, then you are less likely to get junk from a vending machine.  Healthy nuts, trail mix, celery and nut butter, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, and dairy in any form are all ways that experienced mothers sneak protein into their everyday snacking.
  • Record your eating- Many people simply have no idea what they eat in a day.  Often a good birth class will incorporate a dietary journal into the curriculum because they know that how you eat while pregnant can impact the birth itself.  Start recording your food and your protein intake to see where you stand and what you need to work on.
  • Get your protein early in the day- Starting your day with a protein rich breakfast can make all the difference in the world to how you feel and how you eat for the rest of the day.  A boiled egg, a small bowl of oatmeal with some raw sunflower seeds and fresh berries and a small glass of milk is a healthy, tasty, and protein rich way to start your day.

Educating yourself about proper pregnancy protein intake can have an invaluable impact on your labor and birth.  You and your baby are worth it.

Getting Enough Iron in Pregnancy

Many women struggle during pregnancy with anemia or iron deficiency.  Diet can often be helpful in improving this.  Having adequate iron is important for lots of reasons.  Women who have low levels of iron are often tired.  In addition, very low iron levels can impact your labor and birth and even increase postpartum hemorrhage.  Here are some simple tips to up your iron intake. 

A)  Get your leafy greens-  Foods that are dark green usually have iron in them.  Not only do greens help you get iron, they can help you absorb nutrients from your protein rich foods.  Some great choices are: spinach, kale, collard greens, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli, dark salad greens, and the like.  Being sure to eat a salad daily, drink a green smoothie in the morning, or incorporate collard greens into your meatloaf or other meat dishes are easy ways to sneak in these vegetables that you may not be getting.

B)  Combine foods properly-  Calcium is known to inhibit iron absorption, so eating your calcium rich foods SEPARATELY from your iron rich foods can help your iron absorption improve.  For instance, have the burger without the cheese, take your iron supplement with an acidic drink rather than with milk.  On the flip side, vitamin C is known to help iron absorption, so adding some tomatoes to  your salad or burger may help improve your absorption.

C) Overall Nutrition- Simply understanding which foods are rich in iron can really improve your ability to make good choices.  Red meats, yams, some organ meats, greens (as mentioned above), shellfish, eggs and dried fruit are all rich in iron.  Knowing this and choosing to eat and snack accordingly can really improve your overall nutritional intake.

Part of a great birth education begins with proper nutrition throughout your entire pregnancy.  You might be surprised what a difference it will make in your health and your birth.

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