Guest Blog By: Annie Handlin, Founder of Diaita Nutrition
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant then I am sure you have thought about all of the expenses that go into having a baby, but what about the nutritional expenses?
Pregnancy is nutritionally expensive and in order to make sure you can afford the nutritional demands you will want to begin building your nutrient bank account ASAP!
As you begin searching for the latest and safest car seat, crib, and stroller you will find these essential items are not cheap! Just as those items hold their importance in keeping your child safe so does your diet during pregnancy. Your nutrient intake has such a huge influence on the health of your baby from gene expression, neurological development, tissue growth, and disease prevention.
In order to help you understand the necessary nutrient deposits and withdraws needed throughout the process we approach pregnancy in three phases – preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum.
Start Your Savings Account
The preconception phase, the year leading up to conception, is a valuable time to invest in your nutrient bank account. By focusing on your current health and the foods you consume you can begin to make deposits into this account by building up your nutrient reserves. Think of this as a savings account where your body will begin to draw the nutrients needed to fuel the growth of your baby.
By focusing on a healthy diet during the preconception phase you will not just be building your nutrient bank account but you will also be enhancing fertility, supporting detoxification, and healing your body before it takes on the responsibility of creating a new life!
When it comes to pregnancy you never know what card you will be dealt. If you are one of the unlucky ones who is plagued with morning sickness, junk food cravings, or severe food aversions then you can have peace of mind knowing your body has all the nutrients necessary to build a healthy baby when all you can only stomach is toast and crackers.
Specific nutrients you should be focusing on during this phase are Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, folate, and choline. For women who have been taking birth control pills, it is especially important to focus on replenishing your B vitamins since they leave you depleted due to the hormones interfering with metabolic and nutritional processes.
The growth of a fetus from a cluster of cells into a beautiful baby requires a huge amount of energy! Where does all the extra energy get pulled from? You guessed it, it comes right from mom! This is when your baby starts to withdraw from your nutrient bank account and your needs get placed second to your baby’s. Simply stated, if your diet is lacking then your baby will pull all the good stuff away from you and leave you hanging with what is leftover.
During the first trimester, your body is directing all of its energy to create a human being as well as a new organ, the placenta. Not only are the energy demands high during this time but so are nutrient needs.
It can be helpful to put a value on energy needs as a point of reference. Non-pregnant women need somewhere between 1,600-2,000 calories per day depending on body type, energy expenditure, genetics, and lifestyle. Toward the end of the first trimester, that caloric requirement increases by 300 during pregnancy, and 500 while breastfeeding. But not every calorie is created equal…
Counting calories is an ineffective way of approaching nutrition. This is because there are specific nutrients – such as vitamins A, D, K, B12, and B6, zinc, iron, DHA, iodine, folate, choline, glycine, and more – that are needed for proper growth and fetal development. With Diaita, we aim for each calorie to be packed with goodness to ensure your baby every opportunity for maximal growth! Our approach does not focus on aesthetics and counting calories it is about building a healthy body from the inside out.
That leaves us with the beautifully complicated phase of postpartum spanning the 3 months after birth plus the length of time the mother breastfeeds. During this phase is when our energy needs are the highest and we often find ourselves in “nutritional debt.”
Your body is healing from a traumatic event, your nutrient bank account is close to empty, you are lacking sleep, learning to care for a new baby, and producing food for your baby through breastmilk. That is a lot for one body to handle on top of the stress of entering the new role of motherhood. Therefore, your nutritional intake needs to be dialed in like a high performance athlete!
That’s right, another vital phase in the pregnancy process! Even though you no longer have any advised “dietary restrictions” you are still responsible for providing nutrients to your baby. The magic of breastmilk is that it contains the nutrients your baby needs even if you are not getting enough through your diet. So without putting any emphasis on your diet, your baby will get what she needs to grow but there are a few important nutrients that depend on your diet: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and thiamine. These nutrients are important in supporting your baby’s immune system, bone formation, eyesight, and brain development. Your baby is rapidly growing and developing during this time and you have the power to provide your baby with quality fuel!
It is never too late or too early to start making changes to your food choices. The sooner you begin building your nutrient bank account the less of a hit your body will take when your tiny miracle inhabits your belly. We have just briefly skimmed through these important phases but there will be more posts diving deeper into each of these topics!
There are so many things that are out of our control when it comes to pregnancy but empowering yourself with the knowledge on how to choose the best foods to feed yourself and your baby is one thing you can control!
It can be overwhelming to know where to start but Diaita Nutrition is here to help guide and support you!!