As an expectant mother, the moment you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the very first time is truly indescribable! Your own heart meets the rhythm of your little one’s as feelings of joy, disbelief, gratitude, and amazement overwhelm you.
But, once the excitement begins to settle, the reality of motherhood quickly sets in. The surge of hormones in your body, coupled with heightened feelings of worry and anxiety, may consume you. You spend countless hours, days, or weeks researching every pregnancy topic you can imagine, only to find conflicting information. Not to mention, your friends and family continually throw unsolicited advice your way. You may begin to question if you are eating the right foods and taking the right supplements to nourish the new life growing inside of you. All you want is the very best for your precious bundle of joy. If this is you, you’re not alone.
Take a deep breath, mama, and know that, as a Holistic Nutritionist, I am here to help you. My greatest passion is to help people from all walks of life – even those who are bringing new life into this world. While much of the pregnancy information online focuses only on the physical aspects of pregnancy, my mission is to always address the whole person – mind, body, and spirit.
Therefore, I have compiled 4 holistic tips and practical steps to help you feel empowered throughout your pregnancy:
Incorporate Mindfulness Meditation
The mind is an incredibly powerful tool. Every thought that flows through your mind releases a cascade of chemicals that affect not only your physical and emotional well-being but also your unborn child’s. To protect you and your baby’s overall health, it is important to become mindful of your conscious and subconscious thoughts. Mindfulness meditation is a fantastic technique scientifically proven to reduce psychological distress during pregnancy. Not to mention, mindfulness helps to prevent premature birth and encourages healthy cognitive development in children. But what exactly does it mean to be mindful?
Mindfulness is defined as the ability to shift your thoughts away from the past or future – fully focusing your attention on the present moment and meeting yourself where you are without judgment. It is often said that mindfulness starts with becoming aware of the sensations within your body. As a mother, this means you are to focus your attention on the life growing inside of your womb.
Try this: Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying on your side. Close your eyes, and gently place your hands on your belly. Simply allow your thoughts to pass through your mind, feel the sensations within your uterus, and envision connecting with your little one – all while breathing deeply for 5 minutes.
Journal Your Emotions
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are responsible for not only helping to bring your pregnancy to term, but they also send you through a whirlwind of emotional changes. Although some women feel cheerful and optimistic during their pregnancies, many experience heightened stress, fear, anxiety, depression, and mood swings. I often tell my clients that they should expect these strong emotions, but it is important to meet them with patience and understanding. Sorting through the highs and lows of your emotions can be overwhelming. Therefore, journaling is a wonderful way to release the thoughts and feelings that arise throughout the course of pregnancy.
However, putting your thoughts on paper is much more than simply writing how you feel. Journalling can also be a practice that helps you identify and interpret your thoughts in order to control anxiety and depression. As mentioned above, our minds are powerful. What you choose to focus on impacts you and your baby’s health. By focusing on what you know to be true and identifying anxiety as an over-critical, fear-driven inner voice, you can begin to silence the negative thoughts that try to take over your mind.
Try this journal prompt: Write down your greatest fears surrounding your pregnancy. Then, next to each fear, write a mantra or what you know to be true/factual about the situation.
Eat a Nutrient-Dense, Whole-Food Diet
During pregnancy, it is essential to consume a variety of whole foods to ensure that you and your baby receive all the nutrients necessary for proper growth and development. A whole – predominately plant-based – diet emphasizes fresh, natural, minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein, legumes, nuts, and seeds. On the other hand, you want to make sure to limit ultra-processed and refined foods that are high in sugar, salt, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, colors, and bulking agents.
If you are hesitant about consuming a plant-based diet while pregnant, you can rest assured that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, [and] adolescence.” In fact, research has shown that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity for both mother and child.
Now that you are aware of the importance of a whole-food, plant-centered diet, here are a few specific nutrients you should focus on during your pregnancy:
|Calories||2nd trimester: extra 340 calories/day3rd trimester: extra 450 calories/day||Protein, carbohydrates, fats|
|Protein||1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight/day (approximately 70-100 grams/day)||Tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs|
|Iron||27 milligrams/day||Kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, spinach, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas|
|Folate||600 micrograms/day||Dark leafy greens, legumes|
|Choline||450-550 milligrams/day||Tofu, quinoa, collard greens, beans, broccoli, peanuts|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||200-300 milligrams/day||Flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans|
|B12||2.8 micrograms/day||Nutritional yeast, fortified milk alternatives, soy, tempeh|
|Iodine||220 micrograms/day||Seaweed, iodized salt|
|Calcium||1000 milligrams/day||Fortified milk alternatives, dark leafy greens, amaranth, tofu, broccoli|
|Vitamin D||600-800 IU/day||Fortified milk alternatives, mushrooms, fortified orange juice, eggs, sun exposure|
Choose High-Quality Supplements & Herbs
Choosing the right supplements to support your pregnancy can be a daunting task. Although whole foods are the priority, supplementing your diet with a prenatal can help you meet your nutrient needs and prevent deficiencies that could affect your baby’s cognitive and physical development. When searching for the perfect supplement, look for those with GMP, USP, NSF, BSCG, or Consumer Lab logos. It is crucial to look for these seals because the supplement industry is largely unregulated. Therefore, these third-party organizations test their supplements by following rigorous criteria to ensure products are free from harmful substances such as toxic heavy metals, pesticides, and steroids. Also, keep in mind that more does not equate to better, as the overconsumption of certain nutrients can lead to toxicity.
In addition to prenatal supplements, you may choose to use herbal teas, tinctures, or infusions to help you get through the various stages of pregnancy. For example, red raspberry leaf is a common herb that may help strengthen the muscles in your uterus to support labor and delivery. Chamomile is another herb used for its calming effects to relieve stomach discomfort and insomnia. One herbal remedy that I always recommended to my pregnant clients is to consume ginger to reduce nausea and vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, before adding new herbs or supplements to your dietary regimen, talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right fit for you.
Try this: My favorite whole-food prenatal is mykind Organics Prenatal from Garden of Life. It is a vegan, organic, NSF-certified prenatal that is formulated to support the health of both you and your little one.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed by your pregnancy and wish to receive individualized guidance, consider booking a one-on-one consultation with me. My number one goal is to help you cultivate a healthy (and happy!) holistic pregnancy.