I’m going to rant a bit here. Feel free to check out now…
I am six months pregnant and have been mostly Paleo for over a year now. Over the last year I have drowned myself in nutrition information, read a dozen or so books and obsess with seeking out the most nutrient dense, nourishing foods for me and my family.
I am by no means a nutritionist or expert (yet!). But, I listen to smart people talk about nutrition, I read, I investigate, and I see positive changes in my health and the health of my family and friends through nutrition and lifestyle changes. Which makes what I learn so much more real and true to me.
I know a paleo-like “diet” and lifestyle is the best thing for the vast majority of people. Everyone needs to tweak their diet for their specific needs – food sensitivities, level of activity, chronic conditions. Paleo is a template and it might not be for everyone but there is no arguing that a Paleo-based diet is full of nutritious, healing foods and nothing processed. That can’t be bad for any one!
What makes me really sad is that most of the nutrition advice I have received from doctor’s offices during this pregnancy I know can be so much better. From what I have learned about traditional fertility diets, the advice for pregnant and nursing moms can be way more helpful at maintaining precious nutrient stores for mom while providing sufficiently for baby’s development as well.
For instance, I believe it is just silly to limit a pregnant or breastfeeding woman’s intake of saturated fat, when, for starters 50% of breast milk is saturated fat! Which suggests it is essential to growth and development of healthy cells in the human body. This is true for all other mammals as well.
Sidebar, my husband happened to tell someone the other day we cook our food in butter, lard, bacon fat, or coconut oil. Their response was “Lard?! Isn’t that like pure fat?!” GASP! My response to that is YES! It is PURE…pure, not hydrogenated and highly processed. It is a whole food source as nature intended it to be. What’s wrong with that? Nadda.
I’ll stop listening if you tell me I should limit my butter or lard while pregnant. There is a reason a lot of pregnant women crave ice cream – FAT! Since when did we stop listening to what our bodies tell us we need and started believing the mainstream media for nutrition advice? If your body is craving something, wake up and listen to it! (unless it is sugar and processed food, then you should probably tell your body to shut up)
I know for sure that eating two or more servings of fresh wild caught (sustainably sourced) fish every week is not going to give my kid autism, it is going to grow a healthy brain and strong bones instead. I also know that eating raw dairy or fish is not going to kill me or harm my baby if it is from a reliable, clean source. I have eaten sushi – raw – at least twice during this pregnancy and don’t feel the least bit worried about it.
I am absolutely positive that a lower-carb diet (in comparison to a standard America diet ) is beneficial to mom and baby, not harmful in any way.
It is very real to me that seeking out nutrients from organically grown, non-gmo vegetables and fruits is critical in limiting the amount of pesticides and other junk I am bringing into my body and therefore sharing with baby.
I know for certain that grass-fed beef liver (or pastured chicken livers) is not going to clog my arteries and it is a very beneficial addition to my diet now and a great first baby food. If you’re gagging, I am too, but I find ways to incorporate liver into my diet because I know it is a power house for nutrients, a SUPER food. Three words – frozen liver pills. Boom.
I know these foods are good for me because I crave them. I want to eat egg yolks, I want to cover everything in butter. I crave starchy vegetables from time to time. These are my primal instincts and I follow them.
I know all of these things, but I don’t stress out about eating 100% perfectly Paleo during pregnancy. Maybe the extremists will disagree with me, but I’ve never claimed to be perfect and I know 85-95% of what I eat is the best possible food I can feed myself at this critical time. I eat what is (relatively) convenient and makes me feel happy. Stress management is half the battle when you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet.
Here are some examples of how I have not been perfectly Paleo during this pregnancy:
I know a lower-carb diet is perfectly safe during pregnancy. But I listen to my body and when in the beginning of my second trimester I was craving starchy foods, I loaded up on white rice cooked in bone broth with tons of butter and I made sure I incorporated a starchy vegetable at every meal. No, rice isn’t Paleo, but if it is white rice (not brown, more on that here) I know I am not eating poison and it is better than a bowl of highly processed pasta.
I know Five Guys cooks their fries in rancid peanut oil (gag!) and their burgers are not grass-fed (probably CAFO meat) served with toppings that are likely GMO, irradiated and definitely not organic. But I eat it, not every week, or even every month, but from time to time because it is convenient and I can meet up with my hubby for lunch. 🙂
Gluten free pizza (gasp!). Yes, I do it and I don’t feel bad about it. Sometimes I get home after a long day at work, there is a sink full of dishes and cooking something from scratch is out of the question. It helps me stay sane and I am not ashamed of it.
Here is what I DO eat:
Breakfast: two whole eggs, one extra egg YOLK fried in grass-fed butter, reheated leftover veggies in the same pan as the eggs (veggies previously cooked in lard or coconut oil), fermented food – sauerkraut, pickles, carrots, etc. Recently I started frying a yellow plantain in the same pan as the eggs. ohmygod it is so good.
Lunch: Leftovers – meat, chicken, fish, or other protein. Vegetables cooked in butter, lard, bacon fat or coconut oil. Really not rocket science. Just real food…
Dinner: Something like lunch but bigger and better. If it is chicken almost ALWAYS from pastured chickens with the skin on and bones in. Rarely do I eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts unless it is not pastured. If we make a lean meat I cook it with some other form of fat – butter, lard, etc.
Snacks/sides – lacto-fermented vegetables and drinks like sauerkraut and kombucha, bone broth (chicken, beef, turkey), raw veggies like carrots or broccoli, dark chocolate, Craisins, dried fruit like banana or kale chips.
One final thing I can say about all the arguments against these real, whole, nutrient dense, traditional foods during pregnancy is that it is absolutely foolish to underestimate the importance of food nutrient synergy. It is stupid to me to think that man can engineer food that is better for you than what nature already provides. And I think it is absolutely irresponsible to neglect these traditional foods as healthy alternatives to an otherwise highly processed, man-made diet devoid of nourishing components necessary for fetal development and the health of mom during and after pregnancy.
***These are my opinions, my thoughts. I am not insisting they should be yours. But, if this stuff is interesting to you, or scares you a bit, I urge you to learn about it on your own. I can sit here and type all day, but I’m not going to try to convince you of something you won’t research yourself. So here is a short list of sources you can check out:
- The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care, by Sally Fallon Morell
- Podcast: The Truth About Toxic Mercury in Fish, by Chris Kresser
- Podcast: Nutrition for Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, by Chris Kresser
- The Healthy Baby Code, Chris Kresser
- Podcast: Women’s Wellness Episode #32, Balanced Bites
- New Study: Junk Food During Pregnancy and Lactation Can Lead to Junk Food Addicted Kids, bySarah, The Healthy Home Economist
And now, for funsies…