How to Pick Egg-celent Eggs

Grocery stores are now so full with SO many different options for eggs: cage-free, organic cage-free, omega-3, pasture-raised, free-range … AHHH! It can make anyone feel overwhelmed. This is why I am getting into what the different classifications mean and how each one changes how the chickens were treated, the nutrient value of the eggs for YOU etc.

Pasture-Raised:

One of my favorite things to make with pasture-raised eggs is shakshuka!

One of my favorite things to make with pasture-raised eggs is shakshuka!

This means the chickens are allowed to eat what they want while roaming around outside. It is the only classification that tells you how a chicken was fed, and thus, how nutrient-dense the egg is. Pasture raised chickens are let out of the barns early in the morning and called back in before nightfall and each chicken must have at least 108 square feet to roam in. They eat healthy diets that consist of things like bugs and seeds they find on the ground - foods they are biologically meant to eat (from a pasture) (1). Pasture-raised chickens also live a nicer life roaming around and are overall healthier and not inflamed. As compared to conventional chickens who are often stuffed into cramped and brutal conditions called “CAFOs” (concentrated animal feeding operations) (4). This is one place I think the extra $ to buy pasture-raised is DEFINITELY worth it! As you will read below, most of the other classifications, that are still a markup from conventional eggs, do not offer many health benefits to the end consumer of the eggs or the chickens. We vote with our dollars! We vote for our own health and also we vote for the farming conditions. See benefits of pasture raised eggs below:

  • Pasture-raised eggs have yolks with healthier fats. A 2003, study showed that pasture-raised egg yolks contained 3 times more omega-3s than their conventional counterparts (2). If you remember my fat blog, these are ANTI-inflammatory fats. Because their diet is full of anti-inflammatory omega 3s rather than pro-inflammatory omega 6s that will result from a diet full of corn/grains/soy, fillers and antibiotics given to conventional chickens.

  • Pasture-raised egg yolks are also richer in other fat-soluble vitamins like A&E. In fact, they are about 40% higher in these vitamins than conventional egg yolks. The longer the chickens are on the pasture, the higher these percentages (2).

  • Pasture-raised egg yolks have half the omega 6:3 ratio of conventional eggs, which, is beneficial because omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory and omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory (8). This we want a LOWER omega 6:3 ratio to improve inflammation. You can read more about these fats in my fat blog post.

  • The signifiant sunlight exposure that pasture-raised hens receive, from being allowed to roam outside all day, translates to as much as 4 to 6 times more vitamin D than conventional eggs (3)

  • Pasture-raised eggs are often superior from an agricultural standpoint too. When hens graze, manage their own feed and spread their own manure, farmers have less work and need less equipment, which translates to a smaller bio footprint (1).

  • Pasture-raised, organic eggs are also 7 times less likely to contain salmonella than conventional eggs. And actually, the salmonella risk in conventional eggs is pretty low as it is (about 1 in 12,000 to 1 in 30,000) so the risk for pasture-raised organic eggs is about 1 in 84,000 to 1 in 210,00 (5).

  • Pasture-raised eggs are also one of nature’s best sources of choline! Choline is a crucial nutrient that makes up our cell membranes and helps our neurotransmitters function (this means it helps our memory, muscle control, mood and more) (6). This nutrient is also extremely important for pregnant women, and about 94% of pregnant women don’t get enough! (7) To read more about what this nutrient does for developing babies, read my prenatal nutrition blog post here.

Free range:

Don’t forget to read my prenatal nutrition blog post on why eggs, specifically pasture-raised, are so important during pregnancy!

Don’t forget to read my prenatal nutrition blog post on why eggs, specifically pasture-raised, are so important during pregnancy!

This term is regulated by the USDA but has vague standards and only means chickens had access to the outdoors but does not say if they actually went outside at all/ for how many hours a day and completely ignores what they were fed. The chickens could be in a coop with a screen door and technically could leave that but do not have any minimum outdoor time so sometimes they are actually kept in cages all day (9). They must have 2 square feet to themselves outside, but again, may not have actually gone in those 2 feet. They also could have been (and often are) fed a corn and soy and/or an antibiotic rich diet. And also that corn and soy and grain-based diet is most likely GMO unless it says otherwise. GMOs are not bad in of themselves but they are sprayed with glyphosate (also known as Roundup) which is a known carcinogen that has been proven to increase cancer risk by over 40% and causes other widespread bodily harm (10). 94% of corn and soy in the US in 2018 was GMO so you can pretty much bet your free-range chickens ate GMO feed unless otherwise specified (see below on non-GMO). Therefore, these eggs are much less nutrient-dense and higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6s and lower in anti-inflammatory omega-3s than pasture-raised eggs. This is a classification that you will pay extra for that doesn’t say all that much.

Cage-Free:

These hens don’t live in cages but that doesn’t exactly mean they are “free” like the name implies. They are usually raised in aviaries and they are only required to have about 1 square foot of space to themselves, so their living quarters are often very cramped. This classification is also USDA regulated but again, does not say anything about what the hens are fed (1, 9). Their lives are not usually much more pleasant or healthy than caged hens given how cramped the quarters usually are. If the cage-free has an organic or non-gmo verification ALONG with the cage-free verification, then of course, it tells you more about what the chickens were fed. But in the absence of that, you can assume it’s GMO corn and soy, the most common and cheapest feed for farmers to feed chickens. Therefore, these eggs are much less nutrient-dense and higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6s and lower in anti-inflammatory omega-3s than pasture-raised eggs. Another classification that does not really improve anyone’s quality of life much but still does cost extra.

Caged:

These chickens are confined to cages with 67 square inches of space per chicken. They often never see the light of day and are confined to these cages for their entire egg laying lives. The classification does not inherently say anything about what the chickens were fed, but in these situations it is usually a corn and soy diet (again, GMO unless otherwise specified) (1). Therefore, these eggs are much less nutrient-dense and higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6s and lower in anti-inflammatory omega-3s than pasture-raised eggs. About 90% of the eggs sold in the US come from caged eggs (10).

This chart shows you how much room the chickens get in each classification.

This chart shows you how much room the chickens get in each classification.

organic

This is another USDA regulated term. This means that the hens that laid the eggs must come from a free-range environment (described above) or better and fed organic feed not sprayed with synthetic pesticides and that they were not given hormones or antibiotics (9). This is another certification that I DO believe it is worth to pay extra for, since it ensures a healthier egg. However, if you see a pasture-raised egg that is not organic but is non-GMO project verified, I think that’s just as good. So it’s worth it to weigh your personal budget and egg availabilities with the available certifications. Personally, we usually buy non-GMO project verified pasture-raised (but not organic) eggs in our house since we go through a LOT of eggs and that’s more budget friendly and basically as nutritious in my opinion.

Some additional third-party verified classifications

Non-GMO project verified

This neon yolk tells you this egg is pasture-raised!

This neon yolk tells you this egg is pasture-raised!

This means the farm that raised the hens has to go through a third party approval process through the Non-GMO project verification committee. If eggs contain the Non-GMO project verified logo on them, then it means that the chickens were not fed GMO feed (11). If you see this verification on one of the less stringent egg certifications (free-range, cage-free etc.) it definitely makes it a better choice. Probably not better than pasture-raised but if comparing two different free-range brands, and you see the non-GMO on one, I would pick that one to avoid glyphosate contamination (explained above). This certification can be layered on top of any of the above certifications.

Certified Humane

This third-party seal means that the hens have very specific pasture requirements and can be given on top of a certification like free-range or pasture-raised. Hens raised with this certification were allowed to roam freely on the pasture during the daylight hours. Hens forage, run, perch, bathe and socialize as much or as little as they choose. The farms give the hens tents for shade, water coolers and, in some cases, trees where they love to hang out. Every farm with this seal is audited by an inspector who must have a master’s degree or a doctorate in animal science and be an expert on the species he or she inspects. Additionally, there is a traceability audit done for every egg that has this seal to make sure it came from a farm that was certified humane (1).

Classifications that don’t mean anything

Natural:

This classification literally means nothing, since chickens are a part of nature so any egg could be considered “natural”(9). However, it says nothing about the conditions the chickens were raised in and often that can be extremely UN-natural conditions (cramped, cages, no sunlight or movement etc.) I’d ignore this classification in the absence of another classification.

Hormone-free:

It’s illegal to give chickens (not cows) hormones in the US, so this label also doesn’t mean much (9) since your eggs should be hormone-free as long as you are just following the law. Not something to pay extra for, bare minimum.

Farm Fresh

This claim is not regulated and therefore means nothing. Any farm can write “farm fresh” on their eggs but it says nothing about how the hens were raised, the health of the chickens or how “fresh” the eggs actually are (time from hen to store shelf) (9). I’d ignore this claim.

Vegetarian Diet

This is a very confusing claim, that once again, does not make for a better egg. Chickens are not meant to be vegetarians (9). They are only forced to be vegetarians when they are not allowed to roam and graze naturally (as mentioned in the pasture-raised section, chickens love to eat all types of insects). Chickens fed an 100% corn or soy diet are vegetarians, but again, this will lead to a more inflammatory fatty acid profile of the egg yolk and also less nutrient density AND with more corn and soy in the chickens diet, it is more likely that they are fed GMO food (again glyphosate concern). So I would avoid this label. Chickens are omnivores!

so what eggs should i buy?

More yummy pasture-raised eggs! These are non-GMO project verified but not organic. And you can still see a bright orange yolk (which means healthy chicken and nutrient-dense egg!)

More yummy pasture-raised eggs! These are non-GMO project verified but not organic. And you can still see a bright orange yolk (which means healthy chicken and nutrient-dense egg!)

This will really be a decision to be made each time you are purchasing eggs based on what’s available and your budget. However, if pasture-raised eggs (whether organic or not) are available to you, I HIGHLY recommend those. It is the only classification that holds any real weight in how the healthy the chickens were, how they were raised, and HOW NUTRIENT-DENSE the egg itself is. It also is the only one that reduces some potentially unhealthy properties of eggs (pro-inflammatory omega-6s). So paying more for pasture-raised eggs is an investment in your health. It is also a vote with your dollar towards better treatment of chickens!

While free-range and cage-free are almost always cheaper than pasture-raised, these certifications are not extremely useful. If you look at the treatment requirements and the chart above about the space the chickens get, you can see they are not THAT different than caged eggs. And the only reason the price is so much lower, is because it’s cheap to raise hens in confined spaces with little access to the outdoors. Also, you will SEE and TASTE the difference between pasture-raised eggs and other eggs. Allowing chickens to eat what they want (an omnivorous, nutrient-dense diet) will give the yolk a deep dark yellow or orange color. Chickens fed primarily corn or soy, do not have this color and have a pale yellow yolk that shows there are less nutrients in there. If you do a blind taste-test, I guarantee you’ll choose the pasture-raised egg over the conventional egg.

All that being said, just DO YOUR BEST. If your grocery store only has cage-free or conventional as the options, definitely go for cage-free. It is still better than caged. Also, adding “organic” or “non-GMO” onto any of these classifications definitely makes it better for the chicken and you (no bad pesticides on their feed and thus in the egg). Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. When you go out to eat, and order an omelet for brunch, chances are it won’t be a pasture-raised egg unless you’re eating at a super “conscious” restaurant in somewhere like Portland or Brooklyn. So just eat your omelet and enjoy it. BUT when it comes time for you to go to the store and vote with your dollar and make an investment in your health, you CAN make a better choice. It’s really what you eat most of the time that will make the biggest impact, so now that you are armed with knowledge stock your home with egg-celent eggs but don’t stress out if you can’t get that 100% of the time when you are on the go.

This post is in no way sponsored, I merely want to shed some light on what may be confusing a lot of people at the grocery store.

PS eat the yolk, it’s the most nutrient-dense part of the egg and dietary cholesterol is NOT what raises blood cholesterol… but that’s a whole other post :)

References

  1. https://certifiedhumane.org/article-explains-difference-pasture-raised-free-range-eggs/

  2. https://news.psu.edu/story/140750/2003/05/01/research/pasture-ized-poultry

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24607306

  4. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/livestock/afo/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11028959

  6. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26886842

  8. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems/article/vitamins-a-e-and-fatty-acid-composition-of-the-eggs-of-caged-hens-and-pastured-hens/552BA04E5A9E3CD7E49E405B339ECA32

  9. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/23/370377902/farm-fresh-natural-eggs-not-always-what-they-re-cracked-up-to-be

  10. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/22/egg-makers-are-freaked-out-by-the-cage-free-future.html

  11. https://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/

A Plea to Stop Counting Calories

I do not take a calorie based approach in my practice. I encourage my clients to focus on eating real, wholesome foods and to listen to their bodies natural hunger and satiation signals. I find clients THRIVE on this method and many are relieved to be freed from years of feeling like a slave to a specific number of calories or “points”. The reason I have people completely ignore calories is because they really are not useful information. Read on to find out WHY they often give us a false sense of control and security that we are making good choices but can actually lead us astray.

You are not getting to the right number

In the United States, there is a 20% margin of error allowed on the calories on nutrition facts labels (1). That’s pretty huge. If you think something is 200 calories, it could be anywhere between 160 and 240 calories. If you extrapolate that margin of error through out your whole day, you could be over 100% wrong in your calorie calculations at the end of the day. Not to mention, this 20% only applies to foods that HAVE a label. But many people track the calories of foods without labels, like an apple for instance. Well if you are logging calories and say you ate an apple, whatever calorie app you are using might tell you that an apple is 80 calories. Which, it might be. But a small apple could be as low as 65 calories and a large apple could be 110 calories. Not to mention, did you eat the entire apple down to the core or was there some left on the core? So there goes that margin of error again. Long story short - it is near impossible to count your exact calorie intake each day, you will end up with a number at the end of the day, but it is not correct. So why spend precious time on earth counting?

Even if you were getting to the right number (which you are not) there is no perfect number

Let’s pretend you could calculate your EXACT calorie intake each day (which you can’t, I don’t care how diligent you are, based on the reasons above there will be some error) what will you do with that number? As much as online calculators and online macro coaches (who often do not have an education in nutrition) will promise that all your problems will be solved if you stick to a certain calorie and/or macro ratio every day, this magic number actually does not exist. Why? Because there are SO many factors affecting your calorie and nutrient needs. EveryDAY and everyBODY is different! So there truly is not a perfect number, it is just another construct created to give people a false sense of security and achievement, or, in other cases, cause unnecessary guilt and shame.

Like I said, every day is different. How much sleep we got the night before (2), our hormone levels (which are CONSTANTLY fluctuating) (3), our activity level (4) and so many factors will impact our daily food needs. Each of these factors changes on a daily basis, and thus, so does our nutrient needs. Also, I didn’t even mention the biggest, but least visible factor on our metabolism/calorie/nutrient needs … our microbiome. I know I might sound like a broken record with my gut talk but it truly impacts almost EVERY part of our wellbeing!

We have about a 10:1 ratio of microbial genes to human genes in our bodies (9). This means that we are more our microbiome (bacteria living in and on us) than ourselves. So it’s no wonder this plays a huge role in how our body functions including our metabolism and daily calorie and nutrient needs. There have been countless clinical studies on how shifts in the microbial community change metabolism and how many calories an individual even extracts from a given food (5, 6, 7). So back to that hypothetical situation where you are able to accurately calculate how many calories you eat in a day, you don’t know how much your body is EXTRACTING. Two specific strains of bacteria that are particularly important to this, are firmicutes and bacteroidetes. The higher the F/B ratio is, the more calories someone extracts from food and the higher their BMI and propensity towards obesity (8). As with most things in the body, gut health plays a HUGE but invisible role. I recommend everyone take a good prebiotic and probiotic like Just Thrive (code PRESS15 to save $$) to help optimize gut health (of course there is much more to this but Just Thrive is a good starting point).

Again, my point is don’t get caught up on a specific number because there really isn’t a perfect number.

not all calories are created equal

Different foods, even of equal calorie amounts, have completely different effects on the body. For instance, some foods have a higher thermic effect of feeding than others. Thermic effect of feeding (TEF) refers to the calorie burn (or diet-induced-thermogensis) caused by eating a food (11). Certain foods like, protein rich foods, have a very high TEF, while other foods have almost no TEF (10). So while two foods may have the same exact calories listed on the label, let’s say 100 calories for the purpose of this example, you may burn 20 calories eating a high protein food that has a high TEF, so you are only absorbing 80 calories, and you may absorb all 100 calories of a food with a low TEF, like a refined carbohydrate. So this goes back to the “you aren’t getting to the right number” argument I made at the beginning of this post. But foods have effects beyond calories too.

Different TYPES (not amounts) of calories/foods have different impacts on our hormones that regulate appetite, metabolism, body fat stores etc. Many people count calories as a means of weight control, but this ignores these hormonal effects. For instance, pure fat has no effect on insulin (13), which, is a blood sugar regulating hormone that can cause excess body fat storage. Fats often get demonized in the diet world because they are calorie-dense. But insulin will play a much bigger role on whether our body stores extra fat tissue than number of calories (12). When people are trying to stay within a certain calorie range, it can often encourage them to opt for “low-calorie” foods, like 100-calorie packs of cheek-its or low-calorie bread or peanut butter, when in fact these foods are much higher in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are what cause the biggest insulin spike, and thus body fat storage. If these same people did not make their decisions based on calories, and incorporated some healthy fats, which, have no effect on insulin, they may actually lose weight by eating more calories. In fact, this study showed that by pairing potatoes (simple carb) with butter (simple fat), subjects were able to significantly lower their insulin response after eating (14). So by adding calories (in the form of butter) they lowered their insulin and reduced their chance of body fat tissue storage. Thus proving calories are not the best tool for weight management.

Ghrelin is another hormone impacted by the TYPE of calories eaten. Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone, increased ghrelin will increase appetite. Studies have shown that eating more fat (again, calorie dense) can reduce ghrelin production (15). So eating calorie-dense fats can actually just reduce appetite naturally. Many low-calorie foods do not have this ghrelin-suppressive effect, and in fact, when your body is in calorie restriction mode, it upregulates ghrelin production, thus increasing appetite. If you haven’t yet, you might enjoy my “don’t fear fat” blog post! More proof that a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie.

calories don’t tell us anything about the long-term benefits or implications of eating a food

Calories tell us nothing about the nutrient value of a food. For instance, any brightly colored fruit or vegetable is loaded with phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are basically plant superpowers. They help the body do all sorts of incredible things: fight off free radical damage and inflammation, improve eyesight, improve metabolic function, balance hormones, detox harmful substances, make hair shinier and so much more (16)! Also, foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (yep high calorie fat again) have been proven to have beneficial effects on the brain including improving brain development, preventing Alzheimer’s and more AND have been shown to reduce inflammation (20). This has nothing to do with their calorie count, in fact, most foods that contain omega-3s are high in calories. Calories tell us nothing about the phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and long-term benefits that foods can provide our bodies. Additionally, calories don’t tell is which foods can help or harm our gut bacteria (microbiome), which, plays a major role in our immune system, serotonin production, skin health, metabolism and more!

Often, when we get focused on counting calories, we actually choose foods that can be harmful to overall health and avoid foods that are beneficial. I have seen clients, before they started working with me, so laser-focused on a calorie number that they often choose “sugar-free” foods. These foods usually use fake sugars like aspartame, neotame, sucralose etc. Although they are low-calorie, these artificial sweeteners can completely wipe out strains of good bacteria in the microbiome (17, 18). This reduces metabolic function (causing someone to think they need to cut calories even more and probably choose more of these foods with artificial sweeteners and avoid healthful but high calorie foods like those containing omega-3 fatty acids mentioned above). These artificial, low-calorie sweeteners also can be carcinogens, endocrine-disruptors and cause so much more damage (19). So while you may be hitting your calorie goal short-term, they can cause some real long-term damage behind the scenes. These are just a few EXAMPLES of how properties of a food can benefit or detriment our overall health, but how these properties have nothing to do with the calorie count.

calorie counting takes us away from mindful eating

When we get too focused on calorie counting, we forget to think about how foods make us feel and what foods we really enjoy. Counting is truly the opposite of intuitive eating. This goes for both the physical health aspect of food (like I mentioned above calorie counting can discourage health-promoting fats while encouraging low-calorie processed junky carbs) and the mental health aspect of food. Food is emotional and should be enjoyed. When we get too caught up in the calorie count, we often forget to savor and ENJOY our food, which, contributes to our physical satiation and leptin release (fullness hormone) (21) and our happiness, which, is a huge part of overall wellbeing! Also, calorie counting can strip us of our natural skills that help us internally judge portions. When we are too reliant on a number, we forget to queue into our body’s natural signals that tell us we are hungry or full. This can cause both over and undereating. Our bodies know best but we need to listen to them and TRUST them! And remember, they are not calculators! PS - you might like my blog post on the terminology “cheat meal” and why this is not always healthy.

but so and so lost a lot of weight counting calories, what’s up with that

Yes, you can lose weight by calorie restriction but this is a short-term weight loss. Not only does losing weight this way ignore all the underlying health factors we talked about above (gut health, missing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients etc.) but it also can down-regulate your metabolism if you consume too little calories daily (22). This means, too much calorie restriction tells your body it is in “starvation mode” and thus tells your body to “slow down on burning”. So eating less calories actually causes your body to burn less calories and thus slow down metabolism (23). Once you go back to eating a normal amount, people often gain back lost weight plus more. Unfortunately, like I said, I have seen many frustrated clients come to me after having this happen on “diet”programs.

Often diet programs* that encourage calorie restriction without paying much attention to the TYPES of foods people are eating cause rapid short-term weight loss (to keep customers happy), which is followed by a slowed metabolic rate (which can frustrate customers and make them think they need another “diet”), which can then be followed by either further calorie restriction to maintain the same weight, or the customer gains the weight back plus more since their metabolism is now slowed so eating the same amount of food they used to eat causes them to gain weight. I won’t mention any names, but I have seen some very popular and common diet programs do this to NUMEROUS of my clients, who have come to me frustrated and discouraged, understandably so. Which, is why I want to change the conversation around calorie counting and show the science behind it!

*There is one program in particular that I have seen do this most frequently and it does pretend like it pays attention to type of food, but really the designations of types are mostly determined by calorie count and thus it is a low-calorie, low-fat diet. However, that program is not the only offender of this mindset so just be wary when taking on a new “diet”!

eating whole, unprocessed foods is naturally satiating, so there is no need to count

Finally, calories say nothing about food QUALITY! If you improve your food quality, you should not need to count calories. What do I mean by this? I mean, eating whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible. These are naturally satiating and self-regulating so you don’t need to count anything! If you picture yourself eating salmon, sweet potato, and broccoli, you will naturally get full and there is only so much you can eat. Your body will tell you, and you’ll stop eating. If you think of eating a bag of “reduced-calorie” chips or crackers, it is EASY to eat the whole bag (maybe four servings in one sitting) without giving it a second thought. The first meal is higher quality food, less processed and thus, there is no need to count. The second example is of highly processed foods that contain multiple ingredients, many of which actually interfere with our natural hunger and satiation signals (even if the packaging advertises it as low calorie). And don’t forget, eating unprocessed foods most of the time, does not mean you don’t get to eat foods you enjoy. I like to recreate all my favorite treats using only unprocessed ingredients (that link goes to my sweet treats recipes) PLUS indulging in some processed foods here and there won’t kill you and can only contribute to your mental health. And if you’re not counting calories (which by this point, I hope you are not) who cares?!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

references

  1. https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-guide-developing-and-using-data-bases-nutrition-labeling

  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161102130724.htm

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2937064/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5555889/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601187/

  6. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912125114.htm

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK154093/?report=reader

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440985/

  9. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-human-microbiome-project-defines-normal-bacterial-makeup-body

  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/

  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC524030/

  12. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose

  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=American+Journal+of+Clinical+Nutrition%22%3B+An+Insulin+Index+of+Foods%3B+Susanne+Holt+et+al%3B+1997

  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7882816

  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3237920/

  16. https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/phytonutrients-faq#1

  17. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/10/suppl_1/S31/5307224

  18. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181001101932.htm

  19. https://academic.oup.com/annonc/article/15/10/1460/170200

  20. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3

  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17212793

  22. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/88/1/14/2845989

  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2204100

Second Trimester Recap

I can’t believe my second trimester is already over. And I have to say I truly loved this trimester. Everyone’s experience is so individual with this, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on my experience and share it with you guys.

baby

My husband and I at our gender reveal when we found out we were having a boy!

My husband and I at our gender reveal when we found out we were having a boy!

One of the craziest things about the second trimester for me, is that it really started to feel like there was a HUMAN inside me. During the first trimester, I barely had a bump and I couldn’t feel the baby at all. So I knew something was different but it definitely didn’t feel like I was carrying around a little buddy all the time. This changed second trimester. Bump kept growing and we found out his gender at our gender reveal party at 15 weeks, which, made him seem so much more real. By about 18 weeks, I could also FEEL him. At first, when he was kicking and moving it just felt like bubbles in my stomach or little flutters. These could almost be mistaken for gas or something in my tummy but I knew they definitely weren’t. The technical term for this is “quickening” (2). By about 20-21 weeks I could feel full on kicks, which, was so amazing. I remember the look on my husband’s face the first time he got to feel a kick and it was truly magical. Our little babe stayed pretty active through out the second trimester and I continued to feel kicks, punches, rolls etc. get stronger and stronger. After about 25 weeks sometimes I could even see him moving in me if he was pressing up against my abdomen.

3D image of our baby’s face from the 20 week anatomy scan!

3D image of our baby’s face from the 20 week anatomy scan!

When I was moving, baby was usually still. When a mother is moving, it usually creates a rocking motion in the uterus that lulls the baby to sleep (1). However, if I was lying down (AKA every night when I went to bed), sitting on a plane or in client meetings, or even laying down in a workout class (he did this a few times when I was doing something like chest presses) he would wake up and let me know he was in there! I did not notice any kind of schedule or regularity with his movements other than that it was most prevalent when I was still. Some days he would definitely move more than others regardless of my movement patterns so I tried not to stress if I felt him less on any given day. From what I read, all his moving around is to strengthen his bones and muscles!

I also got to see baby in the ultrasound a few times during this trimester. Even though he already started taking the shape of a human during my first trimester ultrasounds, he was so much more developed by the second trimester anatomy scan, I had mine at 20 weeks. Our obgyn even did a 3D image of our ultrasound so we could get an idea of what his face will look like! I think he looks a lot like my husband did as a baby. Of course, the anatomy scan is for so much more than seeing the baby’s face and luckily everything has been right on track with him. Overall, baby definitely became like a part of the family during the second trimester because we thought about him and his needs more (present and future), we called him by name and we could see and feel him.

physical body changes

This was 14 weeks, 20 weeks, and 27 weeks. The beginning, middle and end of second trimester.

This was 14 weeks, 20 weeks, and 27 weeks. The beginning, middle and end of second trimester.

Although my belly grew a LOT during the second trimester, I actually felt like the rest of my body changed less than it did in the first trimester. Personally, I gained more weight in the first trimester than I did in the second. I think this is because of the increased blood volume that my body needed to carry a baby and overall just increased fluid everywhere. So the scale went up more first trimester than second and I felt like my legs/arms/face changed more then too. Second trimester those other things seemed to stabilize other than my rapidly growing belly.

I bring this up just to remind people not to get too caught up in the weight gain guidelines for pregnancy. Weight gain will not always be linear, it is not necessarily predictive of future weight gain (I know some people who will calculate what they’ve gained so far and try to extrapolate what the future weight gain will be), and finally it does not always tell much about your health or the baby’s health.

Again - 14, 20, 27 weeks. Beginning middle and end of first trimester.

Again - 14, 20, 27 weeks. Beginning middle and end of first trimester.

Back to my body changes: My hair continued to thicken. However, my skin and hair remained dryer than usual (this started first trimester and I have heard it is more common in boy pregnancies, but not sure if there is evidence on that. I used these pregnancy-safe products to keep everything feeling soft and hydrated: body lotion, face lotion, hair mask. My boobs did grow more (unfortunately since I really did not want to buy a second set of bras). However, I don’t think everyone’s do, according to my mom she also went from very small to very large during pregnancy so it may be somewhat genetic (sorry mom for putting this in here). I also started experiencing edema, or fluid retention, in my ankles and lower legs. Edema accounts for about 25% of the weight gain during pregnancy and about 85% of women experience some form of it (8). This was better some days than others and I tried to relate it to weather, humidity, how much I walked but I really couldn’t find a direct correlation so I think some days were just worse than others. I did buy several pairs of compression socks to help with this (putting links and descriptions below, not at all sponsored but I have gotten a few questions about this on instagram so I figured it could be useful for other). And I also bought a magnesium lotion to rub on my feet at night (which can sooth the muscles, and also promote sleep). And yes, I checked the ingredients on Environmental Working Group to make sure they are safe!

Compression sock guide:

These go all the way up to the knee and definitely work the best but are hardest to get on. I literally need my husband to help me at this point with my belly in the way. I wear them around the house or under long dresses so you can't see them.

These are similar to the above in that they are nude and have no toe so can be worn with sandals (I wear them with Birkenstocks) but they only go a little above the ankle so it kind of just pushes the swelling up but does make your feet feel better.

These are my favorite for athletic stuff. I've worn them to work out and on a hike, which, definitely helped on the hike. They're not cute (well none of them are) but they have toe coverage so are good to wear with sneaker.

On a hike on our baby moon at 26 weeks - wearing my super awesome compression socks (but they helped so much!)

On a hike on our baby moon at 26 weeks - wearing my super awesome compression socks (but they helped so much!)

I was really in love with my body and the changes it went through during the second trimester. The first trimester was a little harder since I felt like I had an awkward in between stage where I didn’t look pregnant but also didn’t look like myself. In the second trimester I was able to embrace the appearance changes that came with pregnancy. And overall I think I really practiced body love! However, there were definitely times I would see myself in a photo or mirror and think “wow I’m HUGE!” and wonder how much bigger I would get since I still had a long ways to go and a lot of baby growing to do. It was also frustrating towards the end of the second trimester when trying to do something like tie my shoe got difficult. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes I felt self conscious about my edema. But overall, I felt a new appreciation for my body and it’s ability to know how to grow a human… I mean that’s crazy! It knows where to put all the parts and organs and help them communicate to one another without me doing anything, so it is worth getting bigger.

going potty :)

This subject really shouldn’t be taboo because it’s an important part of daily life and can change a lot during pregnancy! Both number one and number two can change a good bit during pregnancy! See my experience and tips below:

Having my walking buddy, Claudette, definitely helped with regular bowel movements but also was a hassle when I had to pee constantly. This photo was at about 20 weeks.

Having my walking buddy, Claudette, definitely helped with regular bowel movements but also was a hassle when I had to pee constantly. This photo was at about 20 weeks.

Many women experience pregnancy constipation. I am now almost 30 weeks and have not had this one bit. The pregnancy constipation is said to be caused by a lot of things: increased relaxin hormone makes intestines work less hard, expanding uterus on the intestines and synthetic iron supplements (3, 4). Here are my thoughts on those: I definitely had increased relaxin as does every pregnant women, and my uterus was definitely crowding my intestines, I have such a small torso I feel like everything crowded EARLY on me, but I was not on synthetic iron supplements. My prenatal supplement does contain iron, but it is a whole foods based supplement so it is not in the synthetic form. I think this helped prevent constipation and also prevented anemia.

At my 28-week appointment, my obgyn was pretty surprised to report that I was not anemic at all since overall pregnancy anemia rates are about 25% of women but are usually higher than that in the second and third trimester (5). I also ate iron rich foods daily like dark leafy greens and grass-fed beef.

Back to constipation… what I truly think helped the most with my regularity throughout my first and second trimester (in fact, I would say I was even more regular than before!) was diet and lifestyle. I continued eating fiber rich foods daily: mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and hydrating tons. And I also stayed active, whether that was a workout or walking or both. Activity improves blood flow to the colon (6), improves motility and increases the gut’s production of a bacteria called Akkermansia, which improves overall gut health (7). Finally, I stayed on the best quality prebiotic and probiotic supplement! I had switched probiotics in my first trimester to Just Thrive (code PRESS15 to save) and stayed on it through out my second trimester and I truly think this made a huge difference. Just Thrive has external studies showing 100% survivability through the gastric environment, which, almost no other probiotic on the market has, and thus is truly EFFECTIVE.

I somehow made it through my entire Boston baby shower (where this photo was taken) without peeing! Huge win. Also loved when Claudette and Matt came at the end.

I somehow made it through my entire Boston baby shower (where this photo was taken) without peeing! Huge win. Also loved when Claudette and Matt came at the end.

So long story short, my pooping was great and yours can be too! Just make sure to eat plenty of fiber, hydrate like it’s your job, stay active, switch your prenatal iron supplement if it is the synthetic form and get on a good prebiotic and probiotic (this will also help your baby’s gut microbiome!) see recommendation above.

My peeing, however, was a little annoying. I think there was a combination of factors contributing to my excessive pee trips and they started at about 20 weeks, which, I think is pretty early. They weren’t unmanageable but I am definitely sick of peeing! One factor is my small torso. Like I said, everything crowded on me early, including my bladder. If you are taller or have wider hips you may not feel crowding as soon as I did but baby had nowhere to go! Another factor is that I consciously worked to maintain hydration, which, I definitely think helped prevent any constipation, but it came with a cost. I actually felt my excessive pee trips subside for a bit at the beginning of the first trimester when the uterus goes from sitting very low (on the bladder) and rises up a bit to give some bladder relief. But as soon as baby and uterus started growing significantly (18-20 weeks for me) the pee trips started coming.

appetite

Through out my whole pregnancy I have really listened to my body when it comes to eating. I truly always try to practice this but I knew it was especially important during pregnancy. Hunger is a message from our bodies (and in this case also our babies) telling us it needs fuel so there is no reason to ignore that even if you feel like you’re eating more than normal (you should be) or gaining more weight than you anticipated. As long as you are making mostly healthy choices, see my prenatal nutrition blog post here, I wouldn’t stress about it!

This photo has nothing to do with appetite but we had the best time (and ate the BEST food) on our babymoon in Ojai Valley during our second trimester and I’m so grateful for it! You can also see the edema in my ankles in this photo.

This photo has nothing to do with appetite but we had the best time (and ate the BEST food) on our babymoon in Ojai Valley during our second trimester and I’m so grateful for it! You can also see the edema in my ankles in this photo.

Anyways, my hunger has fluctuated a lot. I really never experienced a loss of appetite like some people but my extreme hunger from first trimester subsided weeks 12-16 and I felt like I was back to my usual eating amount. However, my appetite picked back up weeks 16-19 and then again stabilized for a bit. I’m not sure if these appetite shifts were due to baby’s growth spurts or what but there were definitely days and weeks I was pretty ravenous and then days that I felt like my usual self in terms of hunger.

Something that started to happen during the second half of the second trimester as the baby got bigger and my stomach began to crowd, was that I got full much more easily. I found myself eating smaller meals through out the day since large portions really felt uncomfortable. The crowding in my stomach also sometimes prevented me from noticing I was hungry and I didn’t feel hunger until I was truly starving. For the most part, I was pretty proactive about snacks so this wasn’t a huge issue but it was interesting sometimes feel completely fine and then the next moment notice my stomach was grumbling. This was because I couldn’t really feel that in between stage.

getting used to being pregnant

Embracing my bump and the fact that I “looked pregnant” was a big part of the second trimester for me.

Embracing my bump and the fact that I “looked pregnant” was a big part of the second trimester for me.

During the first trimester pregnancy is usually mostly “secret” so it partially doesn’t even feel real. This changes a lot during the second trimester. It was really nice to be able to share the exciting news with the world, and also random strangers started being extra nice to me. However, I also noticed that around 20 weeks random strangers would ask things like “when are you due” “boy or girl” etc. I know they meant well but you really never know if someone is pregnant or just appears pregnant because of some other condition. So I think it’s a little rude and presumptuous to ask things like this when you don’t know for sure the person is pregnant. I also think some (not many by any means) other pregnant women got comparative/competitive during this time about who looks like what and everyone’s body is going to go through this process SO differently.

These comments from strangers did make the pregnancy feel more real and like I was sharing it with the world. Sometimes, because I’m in my own body, I just feel like me and can forget about the pregnancy but all these external things definitely made it feel more real in the second trimester. Strangers and casual acquaintances also love to give advice about the pregnancy and being a parent. So that’s something I have gotten used to. In the first trimester pregnancy is so new and any changes you might make to your life feel new and temporary (changing the way you eat, drinking alcohol etc.) but by the end of the second trimester it just becomes your new normal.

One part of pregnancy that a lot of people struggle with is sleep. Again, I am lucky not to have had this problem very badly yet. However, I’ve heard that by the end of the third trimester that will definitely change. I haven’t invested in a “pregnancy” pillow yet. I just take my magnesium at night, put a pillow between my legs, put my eye mask on and I’m good to go. My body temperature is way higher during pregnancy so I’ve had to be mindful of that to ensure I can sleep. I pump the AC way up in our house or else I will lay there restlessly.

energy

Definitely felt my best when I could stay active! I am grateful to have had plenty of energy this trimester.

Definitely felt my best when I could stay active! I am grateful to have had plenty of energy this trimester.

Everyone told me that second trimester is the best for energy and so far I will agree with that. I was finally able to get up a little bit earlier. However, knowing this is the last time I will be able to sleep on my schedule for about 18 years (or more), and also knowing that my body is doing a lot of behind the scenes work to grow a baby, I have given myself grace with getting up and still have allowed myself to sleep in a bit every day. Since I create my own work schedule, I have had the luxury to do this. I also don’t usually feel as exhausted at the end of the night as I did first trimester. I have been getting about 9 hours of sleep nightly, sometimes 10, and once in a while 8 and that has been leaving me feeling great and energized during the day. I have been able to travel tons (10 plane trips in 3 months), go on hikes, maintain my workout schedule, cook and have plenty of play time with Claudette! We’ll see how this energy lasts into the third trimester.

emotions and preparation

Enjoying some time as adults with no baby (Claudette was at camp) in Ojai at 26 weeks.

Enjoying some time as adults with no baby (Claudette was at camp) in Ojai at 26 weeks.

I have felt a huge sense of gratitude in the second trimester. There was a time when my husband and I did not know if we would be able to have kids of our own and every time I looked down at my belly or felt the baby kick I was reminded how special he is! There were also certain times that it was like holy *@#&$ this is happening! And we would both realize that this is the last time it will be just the three of us (Claudette counts too). It made me really want to appreciate the right NOW.

I have been slightly more emotional as well… hello hormones. For example I started balling during the first episode of Pen15 and also throughout the entire remake of Dumbo. Neither one really is so sad to elicit that amount of tears but what can I say? But overall, I don’t think I have been especially moody. If anything, I’ve been a little more chilled out and relaxed than my usual self.

During the second trimester I started thinking about preparing for baby and birth more. This is when I really started doing research about different types of births, methods, interventions etc. I started interviewing doulas (at the time I am writing this blog I still have not picked one because I liked all of the ones I interviewed), and looking into birth classes and infant CPR classes. I also started to think more about the nursery, but still have not started it. Birth preferences are such an individual decision so I encourage you to do your own research. However, these are some books that really helped me through this exploration process:

  • The Ina May Gaskin Guide to Childbirth - this book is really empowering for women and I think helpful to read even if you don’t want a natural childbirth. It helps women realize that their bodies are capable of so much more than they think!

  • Cribsheet - another book by Emily Oster (who wrote Expecting Better, which, I have referenced numerous times in my pregnancy blog posts). This is a completely data driven book about what comes after pregnancy. It starts with birth but most of the book is spent on infancy and early childhood. I really appreciated that it is unbiased and just gives you the EVIDENCE so you can make decisions for yourself.

  • How to Have a Natural Hospital Birth - this book is more for people who want a natural birth but are not giving birth at home. It is written by a doula and I found a lot of helpful, practical information.

clothes

Second trimester is when it started to get really tricky to fit into my non-pregnancy clothes. Obviously as the trimester progressed this became more and more true. It can be super expensive to buy all new stuff so I thought I’d share what I liked to hopefully save someone some $$ on stuff that won’t work. However, obviously everyBODY is so different so these suggestions may not work for you but at least can be a starting point:

  • Cute clothes for going out to dinner/vacations etc. - I splurged on a few staple items (nice jean shorts, nice jeans and some white jeans), a few cute tops and a few dresses. I got most of my items at A Pea in the Pod maternity (favorite jeans were Paige and Joe’s) and also found a cute maxi dress at Old Navy. I also found some cute staples at H&M maternity but the sizing was very strange so I had to order a ton of sizes and just return whatever didn’t work. However, to be honest most of the maternity stuff I tried from Old Navy and Gap did not work for me so I ended up deciding to spend more per item but just buy less items since fit is so important.

  • Workout tops - I was lucky that a girlfriend loaned me a lot of her maternity workout tops so I didn’t have to buy a ton. However, here I did find some great ones at Gap Athletic and they always have sales so were pretty reasonable!

  • Leggings - I wear leggings to workout and most days to work (since I work from home and especially now comfort is so important)! My favorites were Love and Fit (use code PRESS10 to save $$) and Lulu Lemon Align leggings. The love & fit shop leggings are amazing because they are also meant for postpartum. However, they did stop fitting me around 25 weeks (although I’ve heard some people wear them all the way through second trimester). I will definitely be rocking them again postpartum since they have a super suction waist band that I think will help hold everything in. Also, got some of the Love and Fit nursing bras and nursing sweatshirts that I will definitely be using a lot! The lulu lemon aligns are not technically maternity leggings but are super stretchy and comfortable and I have still been able to wear them through 32 weeks. I did order some Gap maternity leggings that did not work for me at all, they stretched out a lot and were “saggy” as soon as I moved.

  • Bathing suits - I got one great one-piece at A Pea in the Pod which was more of a splurge and then a really cute bikini at Old Navy which was super reasonable. For the bikini, I got maternity bikini bottoms in my regular size and then sized way up and got a non-maternity bikini top.

references

  1. https://www.webmd.com/baby/fetal-movement-feeling-baby-kick#1

  2. https://www.oviahealth.com/guide/10207/week-16

  3. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/constipation-during-pregnancy/

  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007478.htm

  5. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-concerns/anemia-during-pregnancy/

  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/intestinal-ischemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373946

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6188999/

  8. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/swelling-during-pregnancy/

What You Really Need to Know about Prenatal Nutrition

I have seen several types of doctor’s regarding my fertility, and then later, my pregnancy, and I truly loved all of them. However, none of them spoke to what to eat when you are pregnant. I know most medical programs require only a few hours in nutrition training, but pregnancy is a crucial time to be choosing the right foods. The only guidance I personally received were a few handouts about what to avoid (the typical deli meat, raw eggs, certain fish) etc. Many of these guidelines are actually extremely outdated and not necessary to be avoided AND can cause women to miss out on important nutrients for their growing babies (more on that to come in a separate blog post). However, I really did not receive anything that even had basic nutrition advice like to eat lots of fruits and vegetables!

I think there is also the general inclination that if you are taking a prenatal, everything is ok. This is flawed thinking for several reasons - 1) not all prenatal vitamins are created equal, some are synthetically created in labs and will act differently in the body than those from whole food sources and different ones just have different nutrient profiles, synthetic or not and 2) you can’t out-supplement a bad diet. A 2019 study of 1,000 pregnant women in the US found that a majority of pregnant women are not receiving enough of certain nutrients despite being on a prenatal vitamin, the most deficient were Vitamin D, Vitamin E, magnesium and iron. By contrast, most pregnant women were getting too much sodium (6). Given that over 75% of sodium intake is from processed food not table salt, it means many pregnant women in the US are eating too much processed food, and relying too heavily on prenatal vitamins that aren’t holding up .

Many people take the 10 months of pregnancy as a free pass to forget nutrition since they aren’t trying to fit into their skinny jeans… so why eat healthy right? This is really unfortunate, and I am not trying to blame anyone. I think most people are genuinely trying to do their best with the information they are given. However, the information they are given is, unfortunately, not very complete. So, I’m trying to correct this by highlighting a FEW of the most important things to consider when eating while pregnant. Please note this blog post is not all inclusive, it is just a few topics that I think are not mentioned enough in the mainstream, so if you are pregnant or looking to become and want to optimize your nutrition, I recommend working with me or someone else on a one on one basis or reading a book about prenatal nutrition or a combination of the above. My two favorite books on the topic are Real Food For Pregnancy by Lily Nichols and Expecting Better by Emily Oster (this second one only has a few chapters on food but it does go into the data behind food borne illnesses and pregnancy so you know what’s actually important to avoid and what isn’t). Hint: a lot of the stuff we are told to avoid is not supported by the clinical evidence!

Vitamin A

It’s important to look closely at your prenatal and your diet to ensure you are actually getting enough of this important nutrient since it can be confusing. Many people think vitamin A is found in beta carotene rich foods (brightly colored vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers). However, this is actually provitamin A, or carotenoids (5). There is nothing wrong with carotenoids but most people have a very low conversion rate of provitamin A to preformed vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is crucial for fetal growth and gene development and specifically impacts the heart, eyes, ears, limbs and immune system (7). Lack of vitamin A (this is PREFORMED vitamin A) can lead to serious malformations of the head, face, limbs, and internal organs (8).

So back to where you can get your vitamin A. Since our conversion of provitamin A or beta carotene is low and even lower in individuals who eat a lot of beta carotene (unfortunately, since I am one of those people) (9). I actually had my conversion rate tested and assumed since I ate so healthy it would be high, but actually my healthy eating worked to my detriment since I do not convert much betacarotene into preformed vitamin A so I must eat my preformed vitamin A. Even if you don’t eat a lot of sweet potatoes and carrots, the maximum conversion rate in any human is pretty low so it’s important to get your vitamin A in it's usable form.

I always think the best source for anything is food, preformed vitamin A can come from things like pasture-raised egg yolks, grass-fed beef, full-fat grass-fed dairy and liver (be careful with liver since too much vitamin A in pregnancy can have detrimental effects and this one is the most concentrated sources). But you can also check your prenatal vitamin to see if it says the form of vitamin A. Mine says “vitamin A …. beta carotene, carrot”. This is not preformed vitamin A, I know I must eat some sources of preformed vitamin A, which, is why I’ve made sure to eat properly raised meat and eggs through out pregnancy. You can read more about what to look for in meat in blog post here.

Calories

My personal opinion is that calories oversimplify things. I don’t believe in counting calories as a means of healthier eating ever, let alone in pregnancy. Our bodies are not calculators or machines and there are SO many factors that will impact your overall nutrient need each day. And by the way calories totally ignores nutrients, it just tells you how much energy is required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram 1 degree celsius… so really calories are not important, but the types of foods we eat are. And then in terms of quantity, I am a big believer of listening to your body. Hunger is a message from your body telling you to eat more. When you are full stop eating. This same principle applies to pregnancy.

Yes, you will need more calories when pregnant. Even when your baby is just a few cells, your body is doing A LOT behind the scenes, so you may experience increased hunger. In these cases, the calorie guidelines can seem too low. Personally, I was hungriest first trimester and was eating more than the “zero” extra calories (1) recommended by the American Academy of Dietetics, but it didn’t seem like the right time to ignore the signals from my body and stay hungry so I did not surpass recommended calorie guidelines.. However, some women experience nausea and food aversions that counteract this hunger in the first trimester. So for these people, the zero extra calories in the first trimester may work. Also each pregnancy is different. So I don’t necessarily think a very specific calorie number (340 calories in second trimester and 450 in third) is helpful (1). Like I said, each day is different and counting calories can be tedious and distracting from making healthful food choices.

Long story short, I don’t think anyone should get too hung up on the calorie guidelines during pregnancy (or ever). I will repeat it again, we are not machines or calculators and there are too many factors to count that will impact our daily nutrient needs. A much better policy, is to focus on getting a diversity of real whole foods that will nourish ourselves and our growing babies and to listen to the signals our amazing bodies will give us!

Carbohydrates

This is the only non-essential macronutrient. There are three macronutrients - carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Of these three, there are essential amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins), essential fatty acids (fats) but no such thing as essential carbs (2). Essential nutrients are ones that your body cannot produce itself, but needs to survive. I am not saying everyone should go 100% carb-free, or even low carb. However, there are lots of non-nutritive carbs in the modern diet. So I am definitely saying be wary of these. And also noting that if you don’t include as many carb-dense foods, it won’t necessarily be detrimental.

One of my favorite colorful, unprocessed ways to get carbohydrates and load it up with fat, fiber, protein and other nutrients is sweet potato toast. Recipe is on my website!

One of my favorite colorful, unprocessed ways to get carbohydrates and load it up with fat, fiber, protein and other nutrients is sweet potato toast. Recipe is on my website!

In fact there is lots of data to support that too many carbohydrates can have detrimental outcomes for pregnancy. Most people know about gestational diabetes as one of these risks but there are risks even before women reach the gestational diabetes threshold. I think processed carbohydrates are overemphasized during pregnancy, which, inevitably crowds out more nutrient dense items from people’s plates and causes chronically spiked insulin levels (which, is problematic even if one does not have gestational diabetes). As my clients and those who follow me closely know, I always recommend colorful carbs first (carbs that come from whole foods like fruits and vegetables) since these are rich in phytonutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc.) and are naturally paired with fiber. I also recommend avoiding “naked carbs” to help manage blood sugar, by pairing carbohydrates with a quality protein and/or a fat. You can read more about this in my balanced plate blog post here.

Now, back to what can happen when you don’t manage your blood sugar in pregnancy. Reminder: the food that will impact blood sugar/insulin the most is carbohydrates, so you can manage it by choosing whole foods carbs and pairing them with protein, fat and fiber. A 2015 Stanford University study that shows that elevated blood sugar far below the threshold for gestational diabetes is linked to significantly higher risk of congenital heart malformations in the babies of those mothers (3). Another study shows that high insulin levels in early pregnancy were linked to significantly higher risk of neural tube defects in babies (4). A higher carbohydrate diet during pregnancy is also linked to a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure), gall bladder diseases in pregnancy and for your baby to grow unhealthily large (macrosomia) and increases baby’s chances of having heart disease, diabetes and impaired lung development (5). A little processed carbs won’t kill you or your baby or give you a completely unhealthy baby. I don’t think it’s a good use of time to stress about every morsel that goes into your mouth. However, I do think we need to all take our carbohydrate consumption during pregnancy a little more seriously given that they are non-essential, so there is in’t a minimum required for life AND there can be detrimental outcomes of eating too many, especially of the non-nutritive ones.

My favorite sources of carbohydrates for anyone, pregnancy included, are COLORFUL whole foods sources. Whole foods means unrefined carbohydrates as close as possible to their original source. So if you look at the label on whole wheat bread, there are usually 20 plus ingredients and each of those ingredients may be processed. That’s not necessarily very close to the source. However, if you look at a sweet potato or some lentils those ARE the original source so they are great whole foods carb sources. And nature is so smart it filled these foods with nutrients that are important for the developing baby. The things that gives fruits and vegetables their colors also have so many health benefits. The phytonutrients are what gives these fruits and veggie carbs their colors (and yes white is a color so I’m pro potatoes, cauliflower, coconut, garlic etc.) Plus, the less processed the carb, the more it will allow your blood sugar to remain balanced (which means it is less likely to cause the complications mentioned above with gestational diabetes or really just high insulin variability even before GD kicks in. So moral of the story here is to choose your carbs wisely (whole foods carbs) and if you don’t choose to eat that many every day, you may just be fine, as long as you are eating enough overall since carbohydrates are not essential.

Choline

One of my favorite choline-rich meal prep recipes is my easy frittata! This is a version of the one on my website in the recipes section.

One of my favorite choline-rich meal prep recipes is my easy frittata! This is a version of the one on my website in the recipes section.

This nutrient is very often forgotten or not mentioned when it comes to prenatal nutrition but it is extremely important. Choline is required for fetal brain development, prevents neural tube defects and helps with placental function (23). In fact, some of its functions are actually similar to folate, which is commonly discussed, however, choline is rarely discussed.. One of the best sources of choline, and my personal favorite is egg yolks. Beef liver is also rich in choline. However, it is very hard to get choline from a plant-based diet. The recommended minimum of choline in pregnancy is 450 mg a day. One egg with the yolk provides 115 mg, by comparison 1/2 cup of cooked pinto beans, brussels sprouts, or broccoli provides 30 mg (30 mg). So you could have 4 eggs with yolks and get to your daily choline requirement, or have 8 cups of broccoli, pinto beans or brussels sprouts. I LOVE broccoli and that even seems like a lot to me. Feel free to get your choline how you want, but in my opinion it is easiest to get enough choline when eating animal foods. I also specifically picked a prenatal for myself that contained some choline as insurance for if I’m not eating 4 eggs a day, which let’s be honest, I definitely do some days (I LOVE eggs), but there are days I don’t eat any eggs.

Although 450 mg is the minimum required amount of choline (I made sure to find a prenatal that includes choline, this is honestly pretty rare!) and also ate a lot of eggs during pregnancy (those who follow my social media probably noticed this), studies have shown that the optimal amount of choline is more than 900 mg per day. This level is specifically beneficial to fetal brain development and placental function (24, 25). A 2018 randomized, double-blind, controlled study (AKA the gold standard when it comes to clinical studies) tested the effect of a prenatal diet containing 480 mg of choline per day compared to a diet of 930 mg per day on infant brain development. The infants of mothers who were given both the 480 mg and 930 mg choline per day during the third trimester were tested at 4, 7, 10, and 13 months of time for visuospatial memory and information processing speed. The infants born to the mothers who got 930 mg of choline per day had significantly faster reaction times at all four age testing intervals (26), thus showing that perhaps our current choline guidelines are not enough or mothers do fine with the current choline recommendations but would do better with more choline.

Vitamin D

Here I am shading myself from the sun (so therefore reducing my vitamin D exposure) and hence why supplementation is often necessary. I’m also snacking on nuts and fruit! Great, portable, unprocessed combo that hits PFFP.

Here I am shading myself from the sun (so therefore reducing my vitamin D exposure) and hence why supplementation is often necessary. I’m also snacking on nuts and fruit! Great, portable, unprocessed combo that hits PFFP.

Most prenatal vitamins only contain about 400 IU of vitamin D but at this level most pregnant women are still deficient in vitamin D. 40-60% of the pregnant population in the US is deficient in vitamin D (6, 10). That’s a lot! So additional supplementation clearly seems necessary or making sure to eat lots of vitamin D rich foods (or both). Studies have shown that 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily is ideal for both mother and baby during pregnancy (11). Unfortunately so many of our modern diet resources tell us to avoid naturally vitamin D rich foods (ex: eat only low-fat dairy when vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and will be more bioavailable and present in full fat dairy, or eat only egg whites even though the yolks contain the fat necessary to absorb vitamin D and vitamin D itself). But by sticking to a more whole foods based way of eating we can make sure we are getting more usable vitamin D, whether we are pregnant or not. I consider full fat dairy to be more of a whole food than reduced fat, since they replace the fat with sugars, chemicals etc. and it decreases the nutrient value of things like vitamin D, and same with eating whole eggs vs. egg whites.

Since vitamin D is so important for the mother’s health, and there are increased needs during pregnancy, it is related to immune function, healthy cell division, bone health, metabolic function, insulin sensitivity, good sleep and brain health and has even been shown to be preventative for many types of disease such as cancer (11). That being said vitamin D is super important for mama and she has increased needs because baby is taking some, so I don’t think 400 IU cuts it!

Another factor to consider when thinking about vitamin D, is vitamin K2 since vitamin K2 will impact the absorption of vitamin D and also vitamin A (all fat soluble vitamins). Vitamin K2 is different from the plant form of the vitamin (vitamin K1) which does not help with vitamin D and calcium absorption and therefore bone health in the same way. Vitamin K2 is important for mineral metabolism in the body (making sure all the minerals get to the right place, i.e. making sure baby’s skeleton, teeth etc. are all formed correctly and are strong!) It is also important for mother’s bone health and if she does not have enough to provide for baby, her body will leech vitamin K2 from her bones and tissues to give to baby, which, is a good thing for baby but can leave mom with all sorts of complications postpartum, like maternal osteoporosis (5). So the solution here is to get a vitamin D supplement that also includes K2 (I like this one) and/or eat vitamin K2 rich foods such as full fat dairy, egg yolks (yep the same ones that include vitamin D, how smart is nature!?), liver, grass-fed butter and ghee, grass-fed beef, dark chicken meat (12). Finally, vitamin D can be absorbed from the sun. However, if you live somewhere with short days part of the year and do not spend the majority of your day outside and/or avoid sun exposure, you can’t rely on the sun for your vitamin D. Again, I’d look at your total intake and assess how much supplementing you think you will need, but most people need at least SOME.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - DHA

One of my favorite meals during pregnancy was salmon with zoodles and my avocado pesto (SO creamy and decadent!) Recipe for the pesto is on my website. This salmon is Sizzlefish of course! See link and discount below.

One of my favorite meals during pregnancy was salmon with zoodles and my avocado pesto (SO creamy and decadent!) Recipe for the pesto is on my website. This salmon is Sizzlefish of course! See link and discount below.

There are several types of omega-3 fats: ALA (the plant-based form), EPA and DHA. DHA is by far the most important for brain health and baby’s and toddlers brain development, in fact the plant-based form has almost no impact on baby’s brain development because the conversion into the usable form of DHA is so low (5). These important DHA fatty acids are found almost exclusively and most prevalently in wild caught seafood. Unfortunately, many pregnant women have been told to avoid seafood or to limit it to very small amounts. The reasoning behind this is mercury toxicity which could be a very harmful neurotoxin, however, if you are smart about your fish consumption this should not be an issue (more on this below). Avoiding fish can have a detrimental effect on their baby’s developing brain. A study of over 1,200 mother-infant pairs looked for a correlation between fish consumption and IQ and eating over 12 oz of fish per week correlated strongly with the baby’s with the highest IQs and actually the babies with the lowest IQs came from mothers who consumed no fish at all (13).

Well if mercury is a neurotoxin and some fish contain mercury, how can eating fish be good for you? First of all, fish are also naturally high in selenium (even more so in their raw form so the sushi off limits thing does not make total sense either but again that’s another blog post). Selenium helps the body detox mercury (14). Mother nature at it again with how amazingly smart she is! So the net effect of any mercury should be minimal especially if you are choosing the right type of fish. Fish to avoid:

  • Farm-raised fish, these are usually given antibiotics and hormones that you and baby don’t need in your body, and also can be hosts to antibiotic resistant bacteria that can be harmful (15, 16, 17). Additionally, farm raised fish are also proven to have higher levels of mercury than wild-caught fish.

  • High mercury fish like tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish and shark. The amount of mercury is pretty directly correlated to the size of the fish and if it was wild caught or not (5).

  • What about tuna? Skipjack is one of the smallest kinds and therefore contains way less mercury, this is mostly what I ate during pregnancy. Larger breeds like bluefin and albacore have much higher mercury ratings (22), the recommendation is to keep this to less than 6oz a week. Also wild caught is still important here! That will greatly reduce mercury amount.

More Sizzlefish wild caught salmon, cooked with avocado oil and Trader Joe’s bagel seasoning (another one of my fave combos)

More Sizzlefish wild caught salmon, cooked with avocado oil and Trader Joe’s bagel seasoning (another one of my fave combos)

Now, back to why DHA is so darn important! If the study above didn’t convince you that DHA helps the baby’s brain develop and have a higher IQ here are some more facts. DHA is incorporated into the rapidly developing brain and eyes of the fetus in utero where it forms neurons (brain cells) and protects the brain from inflammation and damage (18). It is crucial during pregnancy, and remains crucial during the first two years of life. If you are planning to breastfeed, it is important to get enough DHA since the amount of DHA found in breast milk is directly correlated to mother’s consumption (19).

So where to get your DHA? Personally, I have been eating a lot of wild caught salmon. Not only is it delicious but it’s loaded with DHA. It’s the top pregnancy-safe fish source of DHA (20). I like to order mine from Sizzlefish (code PRESS10 to save 10% on any non-subscription order). Other good sources of DHA are trout, oysters (these should be completely safe during pregnancy if from a reputable source (21) but if you don’t feel comfortable I totally understand, cod and other smaller whitefish, sardines, shrimp. Some of these are also available on Sizzlefish if online ordering is your thing (it’s mine). I also have been eating low mercury tuna as I mentioned, like skipjack and also have been keeping this to wild caught.

Folate vs. Folic Acid

You have most likely heard of folate and/or folic acid and the importance of this nutrient in preventing neural tube defects in the baby. Folate deficiencies can also lead to problems in mother's during pregnancy too (like anemia and peripheral neuropathy) (30, 31). Most sources suggest supplementing at least 3 months before you plan to get pregnant. This is one nutrient that supplementation is definitely necessary for since folate in foods diminishes the longer they are on the shelf, and the needs during pregnancy are high. However, many practitioners do not distinguish between folate and folic acid. And the truth is, these two are not exactly the same thing, as you may have been told.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. The fact that is synthetic is not the problem, it's the fact that most people's bodies just can't use this synthetic version quite as well. In fact, 40-60% of the population can't convert folic acid properly to folate. And with this being such an important nutrient during pregnancy, I'd say use the most bioavailable (usable) form for your body and baby. Additionally, unconverted folic acid in the bloodstream may also cause problems (29). So if you are among the half of the population that does not convert it well, not only might your baby not be getting enough folate, but you might run into other problems for your own health.

Some of the best food sources of folate are dark leafy greens like spinach, lentils, beef liver and some nuts and seeds. However, like I mentioned, we actually need about 800 mcg per day during pregnancy, which would mean several cups of one of the above foods (29). This is also assuming those foods kept all their folate content, which, is rare unless you are picking the spinach right from your garden with perfect soil. So what should you look for in your prenatal vitamin? Look for folate, not folic acid, but also make sure that folate is not misrepresented. Sometimes it says “folate” with an * that says something like “as folic acid”. So it’s really just the synthetic form. Other terms for folate that you may see on a prenatal or another supplement are: L5MTHF, Methylfolate, 5-MTHF, Quatrefolic (a brand name of methylfolate). For instance, the prenatal I take says “Folate… L-5-MTHF as broccoli”.

Glycine

Glycine is conditionally essential during pregnancy. This means that when you’re not pregnant your body may be able to make enough glycine to support your bones, skin, nails, dental health & gut lining on its own. During pregnancy, this changes. Your body’s demand for this amino acid increases so much that you must consume glycine from food sources to support a healthy pregnancy. While there is no RDA for glycine, researches estimate that the minimum amount of glycine needed in the diet (this is in addition to what your body is able to make itself) for non-pregnant adults is 10 grams or 10,000 mg (27, 5). So even when you are not pregnant, it's advisable to eat glycine-rich foods in addition to just relying on your body's natural production.

I have been sneaking in collagen peptides (one of the best sources of glycine) EVERYWHERE. Especially places like home-baked goods. I made so many loaves of my no-sugar added paleo banana bread and would usually put about 1/4-1/2 cup of collagen in each batch. Recipe is on my site!

I have been sneaking in collagen peptides (one of the best sources of glycine) EVERYWHERE. Especially places like home-baked goods. I made so many loaves of my no-sugar added paleo banana bread and would usually put about 1/4-1/2 cup of collagen in each batch. Recipe is on my site!

During pregnancy, glycine supports the growth of the baby’s teeth, internal organs, skeletal system, hair, skin, nails and is important for mama’s growing uterus and placenta and stretching skin. Glycine is the simplest amino acid structure so it serves as the building block of SO many parts of our bodies and our fetuses. It is also an important metabolic precursor (28). Since glycine is a structural amino acid, found mostly in connective tissue, skin and bones, it’s not actually contained in high amounts in most usual animal protein sources such as muscle meat, and is contained in very low concentrations in any form of plant-based protein. The best sources for glycine are connective-tissue based which may not be a part of everyone's diet.

My favorite source during pregnancy was a grass-fed collagen protein supplement (I actually take this when not pregnant too since it is one of the best ways to support a healthy gut and your own connective tissue - skin elasticity, nails etc.). I use Further Food (code START10 to save). Another great source is bone broth, since this is made by soaking connective tissue (bones and ligaments) it will contain some of those amino acids. Also eating any animal connective tissue is also a great source, for instance pork rinds or eating chicken or fish with the skin on will give you some glycine.

Magnesium

About half the American population is deficient in Magnesium (31). So I think we ALL need to consider this mineral a little more, not just pregnant people. As I mentioned previously, magnesium was one of the top nutrients that pregnant women who ARE on a prenatal vitamin supplement are still deficient in(6). Additionally, women with gestational diabetes are more likely to be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can also be made worse in the presence of excess calcium and this combination can make pregnant women more susceptible to conditions like preeclampsia (32). I think the importance of calcium is often over-emphasized at the detriment of magnesium. Magnesium is also essential for many metabolic functions, nerve and muscle communication, protein synthesis and and regulations body temperature (36). These functions are all important in pregnancy or not but pregnancy is a good time to get your ducks in a row, since postpartum can be a little hectic and adding a magnesium supplement to your regimen may not be top of mind.

This picture doesn’t have much to do with magnesium but pregnancy overalls are the best and so is Claudette the frenchie!

This picture doesn’t have much to do with magnesium but pregnancy overalls are the best and so is Claudette the frenchie!

Magnesium has particular importance during pregnancy. It helps reduce muscle cramps during pregnancy, reduce the risk of high blood pressure/hypertension and preeclampsia in pregnant women. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to reduce or prevent these medical complications in over 50% of those who supplemented with additional magnesium (33, 34). Magnesium can also prevent fetal growth restriction and prevent small for gestational age babies (35). A 2017 study showed that pregnant women who supplemented with 200 mg of magnesium daily had significantly lower risk of numerous complications including: intrauterine growth retardation, preterm labor, maternal body mass index (BMI) that was too high, neonatal weight, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, cramps (36).

Anecdotally, I have been supplementing with magnesium glycinate (there are many kinds of magnesium so I would check with a practitioner to see which one is right for you before supplementing) orally since the beginning of my pregnancy, and have not experienced any of these symptoms. The nausea was to my particular surprise. I’m not sure if the magnesium is the cause of my minimal nausea during the first trimester, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. Now that I am in my third trimester and it’s the middle of summer and my feet and ankles are swelling, I have been using magnesium topically in the form of a lotion in the evenings on my feet.

Probiotics

Probiotics are the “friendly bacteria” that live in and on our bodies (no they are not a traditional “nutrient” like many of the other things we discussed but they are still very important for prenatal, or any health). They actually outnumber our own human cells (and genes) in a 10:1 ratio. So we are 90% probiotics. Whoa, that’s a lot. Many of these good bacteria, funghi and single-celled organisms live in our digestive system, but they are also on our skin (our largest organ), our mouthes and in our vaginas. So they will have an impact on far more than just gut health. They impact our skin (acne, exema, rashes can all be because of probiotic dysbiosis or imbalance), our oral health (these play a huge role in propensity to get cavities and other oral diseases or not) our vaginal health (yeast infections are also when the bad bacteria outgrows the good bacteria), and of course our digestive health (everything from our metabolism, how many nutrients we are able to extract from food, how many calories we extract from food, whether we have bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea etc.) These, among other reasons I will discuss below, are all great reasons to make sure our bacterial population are in balance.

This bowl I ate on our baby moon in Ojai, CA was loaded with probiotics (there were several types of fermented veggies in there and not to mention all the different colors) and other pregnancy-friendly foods (hello grass-fed bison burger).

This bowl I ate on our baby moon in Ojai, CA was loaded with probiotics (there were several types of fermented veggies in there and not to mention all the different colors) and other pregnancy-friendly foods (hello grass-fed bison burger).

Shockingly, this is another supplement that I have heard many prenatal practitioners say is “not safe” during pregnancy. There is no clinical evidence to show that probiotics are not safe, and in fact they are extremely important during pregnancy. I would say, don’t go taking a “homemade probiotic” from an unreputable source, but other than that, make sure you are getting a good source of probiotics. This is another one I recommend supplementing with to ensure survivability through the gastric juices in the stomach. Early in my pregnancy, I actually switched to Just Thrive probiotic (and prebiotic) supplement because they have the strongest clinical evidence to support 100% survivability through the gastric juices. You can use code PRESS15 to save on your own, whether you are pregnant or not.

Now back to probiotics and pregnancy. First of all, we populate our baby’s microbiome (friendly bacteria population) when they pass through our birth canal and even those who give birth via cesarean pass on bacterial populations through the placenta and also breast-milk if breastfeeding (29). So if we want to give our baby the best start at life, I recommend taking care as to what bacteria is living in and on you. In addition to the important roles I mentioned above, our gut is home to our enteric nervous system (ENS) which plays a huge role in how our brain functions and our mood. In fact, 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut (37, 39). Happier gut = happier moms and babies! Additionally, our guts are home to something called GALT, or gut activated lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissue refers to immune tissue. So this is a fancy way for saying our gut health plays a huge role in our immune system. About 75-80% of our immune system is actually controlled by our gut (40). Additionally, our gut helps our bodies detox harmful substances like small particle LDL cholesterol and can help prevent things like the onset of cardiovascular disease (38) and, when in the right “balance” can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is the root cause of almost every disease (41). However, when not in “balance”, or when the gut is in a state of “dysbiosis” it can cause widespread inflammation in the body, which can cause many diseases. So by taking care of your gut, you can stay healthy during pregnancy and give your baby the best chance at starting life out happy (serotonin) and not sick (immune system) and so much more.

Our microbiome, or bacterial balance in our bodies also has some other direct impacts on pregnancy outcomes. Studies have shown that dysbiosis (imbalance of unhealthy and healthy bacteria in the gut) can increase the mother’s risk of excessive weight gain during pregnancy, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm birth (42). Probiotics can actually help prevent mother’s who do have gestational diabetes for having a too large baby (which is common in this population) and can help balance blood sugar in both mothers with gestational diabetes and without (see carbs paragraph for why balanced blood sugar is important) (44). Additionally, a good probiotic supplement can reduce inflammation in the placenta, which, can prevent many other conditions. In fact, the placenta has recently been discovered to have its own microbiome (or bacterial population), which, of course is entirely populated by the mother in utero (43). In addition to a quality probiotic supplement that will survive (see above, most do NOT survive gastric juices which is why I have carefully chosen mine), it is important to care for our microbiome and thus our baby’s micro biome by eating a diversity of colorful, whole foods, and avoiding things that harm gut bacteria such as traditional cleaning chemicals, phthalates, BPA and BPS, many compounds in traditional beauty products, antibiotics (such as those in conventionally raised meat and seafood), gluten (to the extent possible) and much more. If you want more guidance on this, please contact me.

summary

Another plate loaded up with the pregnancy goods! Eggs (hi choline, protein, DHA, vitamin D, vitamin K) and sweet potatoes for those unrefined carbohydrates and green veggies for folate. So you don’t need to eat out of the ordinary foods, just be mindful of what you’re taking in!

Another plate loaded up with the pregnancy goods! Eggs (hi choline, protein, DHA, vitamin D, vitamin K) and sweet potatoes for those unrefined carbohydrates and green veggies for folate. So you don’t need to eat out of the ordinary foods, just be mindful of what you’re taking in!

Whoa, that was a lot of information. If you made it this far, thank you for reading! Like I said, this should not replace working with a practitioner to optimize your prenatal nutrition, but hopefully, can teach you some new things to at least look into for your own prenatal diet and care. I always advocate for a diverse diet of whole foods (minimally processed). But I also think pregnancy is as good a time as any to listen to your body. So I am not trying to impose guilt or shame on anyone who ate some bread or pasta or candy during pregnancy, but rather trying to clue you in on what other things you might want to consider including, whether that’s a supplement or a food group or both. And finally, I will put a link to the main prenatal vitamin that I took during pregnancy again here since I know I will get questions about it. However, please note that this is NOT the only supplement I took, and I still recommend working with someone to see what you might need in addition. And finally, if you are mama to be reading this, CONGRATS and try to enjoy the process!

References:

  1. https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/prenatal-wellness/healthy-weight-during-pregnancy

  2. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/75/5/951/4689417

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26457543

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11679789

  5. Nichols, L. (2018). Real food for pregnancy: The science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. {United States?: Lily Nichols.

  6. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pregnancy-diet/average-pregnant-woman-in-u-s-may-have-poor-nutrition-idUSKCN1TM2KL

  7. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/57/11/350/1812707?redirectedFrom=fulltext

  8. Ross, A. Catharine. “Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease / Edition 11|Hardcover.” Barnes & Noble, barnesandnoble.com/w/modern-nutrition-in-health-and-disease-a-catharine-ross/1118877753.

  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855261/

  10. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/2/447/4664564

  11. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/vitamin-d-and-pregnancy/

  12. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060113p54.shtml

  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17307104

  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20561558

  15. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/203640

  16. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(16)00100-6/fulltext

  17. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095671351400632X

  18. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/4/855/4664682

  19. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323144.php

  20. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323144.php

  21. Oster, Emily. Cribsheet: a Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool. Penguin Press, 2019.

  22. http://seafood.edf.org/tuna

  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23637565

  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22549509

  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23195033

  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29217669

  27. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12038-009-0100-9

  28. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/90/3/1594/2836828

  29. Wolfe, Liz. “Baby Making & Beyond.” Baby Making & Beyond, Dec. 2018, www.babymakingandbeyond.com/products/bmb-core-four.

  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30976786

  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22364157

  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7892840

  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7631676

  34. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210778914004115

  35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24696187

  36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5590399/

  37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28164854

  38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579652/

  39. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

  40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28164850

  41. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28089638

  42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4658310/

  43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24848255

  44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20128938

Why I hate the word "cheat" when it comes to food

The concept of “cheat meals” and “cheat days” have become more common in our society. However, I don’t like using these words, nor do I encourage others to use them (when it comes to food) because I believe it fosters an unhealthy relationship with food and here is why:

it perpetuates diet culture

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The idea of eating in a restrictive way, then “cheating” on that “clean” diet perpetuates diet culture. Diet culture is rampant these days, every season there is a new reason and way to “drop pounds fast” with the newest “cure-all” diet (that is usually not at all beneficial for long-term health). This often involves juice cleanses, miracle pills, restrictive calorie counting etc. Again, none of these have long-term physical or mental health at their core intention. However, they all have in common that people are usually not physically or mentally satisfied eating in this manner. This then leads people to feel they need to “cheat” on their diet which often contributes to the binge-restrict-binge yo-yo hamster wheel that so many people are caught on. If we re-framed the way we thought about food, and perhaps did not go on unsustainable diets, I don’t think we would feel the strong urge to “cheat”.

it implies most of the time we should eat in a way that’s not enjoyable

Most people eat at least three times a day, every day… which, is over 1,000 meals a year. Don’t you think we should enjoy these meals? So why are we choosing ways to eat on a daily basis that don’t make us happy and satisfy us and therefore we need to “cheat” on this way of eating? Beats me… I am not saying everyone has to eat the way I do. However, I truly believe healthy eating can taste amazing and make you feel amazing inside and out. I also believe that there is a balance for everyone, and it will be different for everyone, of healthy foods and perhaps “less healthy” foods that still contribute to our mental health. Once we find this balance, we won’t need to “cheat” on anything. We can just incorporate all the different types of foods we love. Additionally, by calling an indulgent meal a “cheat” meal, we are taking the enjoyment out of that meal itself. Why not just enjoy the meal and not call it anything in particular and move on with it.

it gives food and eating behaviors a moral value

I often hear from clients that they feel “so guilty” because they ate “horribly yesterday”. If what you eat gives you a stomach ache or puts you in pain, that’s one thing. But there is no reason to feel guilty about eating food. If we are not on a diet, and we are not “cheating” on anything, there should be no moral value attached to food. Foods can evoke different feelings and memories for sure, but I think there is no reason to waste mental energy regretting food you ate. Each time you eat is a new opportunity to eat again. No reason to dwell on the past, just move onward and upward and make the best choice for you at the next meal/opportunity.

it does not allow room for balance

Cheating implies extremes when it comes to food, not balance. The connotation with cheat meals and cheat days is that they are all out junk food fests, and that the rest of the time we should be eating 100% in a strict “clean” way. I don’t think either is healthy. Like I mentioned above, everyone should find their own balance of healthful foods and indulgent foods and that balance most likely will vary day to day and that’s ok. But as long as you are eating in a way that makes you feel good overall, that’s what matters. Not eating in a way where you feel extremely deprived in one instance and then sick from over-indulging in another instance. Everything should even out to somewhere around Goldy Locks’ porridge…. just right :)

What do you think about the word “cheat” when it comes to food? Let me know in the comments below!


Let's Talk About Meat Baby

I think a lot of people are confused about meat, especially red meat. One day it’s bad for us and clogging our arteries, and one day it’s bad for the environment. Just like anything else, these blanket statements are not telling the whole truth. We really need to take a deeper look at where and how your meat was sourced to know about it’s impacts on you and the environment. While I don’t advocate for a vegetarian or vegan diet, because as a nutritionist, I understand it is impossible to get enough of certain essential nutrients like vitamin B12 (1), omega-3 fatty acids in their most usable form (DHA) (2), heme iron (3) without supplementing, and hard (but not completely impossible if you are very diligent about it) to get nutrients like vitamin D3, iodine (4), and amino acids that make up our connective tissue and gut lining like glycine, glucosamine, L-glutamine and proline (5). However, I have vegetarian and vegan clients and I support them in their decision and will always try to use my knowledge to help them optimize their health on a plant-based diet. I am also not trying to convert vegetarians or vegans into meat-eaters… do your thing! This post is to educate any meat consumer on how they can make sure the meat they are eating is good for them, the animals, and the environment.

plant-based vs. plant-centric

This is an example of a plant-centric meal, not plant-based. There is a diversity of plants, but also some 100% grass-fed meat.

This is an example of a plant-centric meal, not plant-based. There is a diversity of plants, but also some 100% grass-fed meat.

I am also not advocating for a meat-centric diet in this post. There are actually some cultures who live off exclusively animal products, like the Maasai in Tanzania, and have very low incidences of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, obesity and live long and vibrant lives (10). So it is possible that eating only meat can be good for you. However, these cultures eat the whole animal (blood, bone marrow, organ meat) etc. so it is like they get the nutrient diversity of eating plants as well. I digress… what I am advocating for is voting with your dollar to do yourself and the entire market a favor by purchasing quality meat.

The last P in my PFFP magic foursome (read more about that here) stands for phytonutrients (which are the compounds that give plants their colors and have amazing super powers for those who consume them). Clearly, I am a big fan of plant foods! I think they should make up the majority of your plate at every meal and snack if possible. And therefore meat/animal products should not be the majority of your plate. This is a plant-centric diet. A diet centered around plants, but that includes animal products as well. I believe this is optimal from a nutrition standpoint because of some of the nutrients mentioned above, protein absorbability and other reasons, which, I can get into in a separate blog post (11). A plant-based diet differs in that it does not include any animal products. However, it is really important to talk about and take a deeper look at the types of animal products we consume.

myth 1: meat is bad for us and red meat specifically causes heart disease

When eating properly raised red meat (not CAFO raised pro-inflammatory meat) in the context of a diet with diverse nutrients and without inflammation, meat does not increase risk factors for heart disease. It’s about WHAT meat not no meat.

When eating properly raised red meat (not CAFO raised pro-inflammatory meat) in the context of a diet with diverse nutrients and without inflammation, meat does not increase risk factors for heart disease. It’s about WHAT meat not no meat.

The problem with most of the studies that demonize meat in terms of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, is that they are correlative studies that rely on food frequency questionnaires. However, there are several large issues with relying on this data: 1) correlation does not prove causation and 2) food frequency questionnaires are not accurate, people either forget or lie about what they eat and 3) a lot of these correlative studies took place in the era when meat consumption, specifically red meat was being recommended against by health officials, so people who were eating red meat were in fact less healthy. And any CVD or other diseases they had were not necessarily caused by the meat (however, the quality of meat is VERY important, more on that to come), but other confounding factors (they exercised and slept less, they smoked cigarettes, drank more alcohol etc.) There are actually no strong clinical studies that show causation with saturated fat (which often comes from meat) and heart disease (6).

In fact, saturated fat, which, can be found in fatty meat, dairy, eggs etc. is actually important for overall health, and if we eat the right kinds it is great for us. It makes up all our cell membranes, is vital for brain health, can improve HDL cholesterol, and is the building block of hormones and neurotransmitters (7). By the way, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of CVD is to increase your HDL cholesterol. A high HDL has actually been proven to be a better predictor of lower CVD risk than a low LDL (8). LDL cholesterol really becomes a problem in the face of inflammation, which, can often result from a diet high in processed foods and yes this includes conventional meat, however, it is not the meat inherently causing the problem. More on what type of meat to buy below. Inflammation can damage our arteries, which is where LDL cholesterol comes in to patch them up. When there is too much LDL patching them up, it can cause a clog and therefore contribute to CVD (7). None of this will happen without the arteries being damaged in the first place (which can be caused by a pro-inflammatory diet). ….So that is the truth behind where LDL got such a bad name.

**Since writing this blog post two important studies came out, one comparing the effects of white meat and red meat on CVD risk factors (they are equal and neither one had a significant impact on CVD risk factors even when including saturated fat) (27). And the second is a meta analysis looking at red meat compared to other diets and the impact on CVD risk factors, which, also did not show red meat had a significant impact on increased risk of CVD, the only diet that did have a significant impact was a high carbohydrate diet (26).

Moral of the story, it’s important to recognize the studies that link meat consumption to heart disease are not telling the whole picture and we really need to update how we look at cholesterol since it is outdated and is not doing a good job of preventing CVD.

truth 1: conventionally raised meat can wipe out our micro biome and throw off our hormone balance but properly raised meat can be extremely nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory

Cows are ruminants, their stomachs have 4 compartments, and the way their digestive system works, actually more efficient at converting certain vitamins into the usable form. So cows take foods we can’t eat, like grass, and get all the nutrients out, and then we benefit from those nutrients when we eat grass-fed/pasture-raised meat (9). In many cases, we can actually get more of vitamins A, D, and K than we can from just eating the plants themselves. Most of the nutrients are stored in the fat tissue from meat, so eating fatty cuts of meat can be great for us, as long as we are picking the grass-finished stuff (12). The fat in animals is also where the toxins (like antibiotics and exogenous hormones) are stored (this includes dairy fat), if you are not choosing properly raised meat.

When poultry/fish/cattle are raised in factory farm settings (also known as CAFOs, confined animal feeding operations) (19), they are not raised in conditions natural to the animal’s optimal health. What happens? The animals get sick. To combat this, the farmers need to give them antibiotics to fight off the illness, these antibiotics also make the animals grow larger than they naturally would (but they also use growth hormones for that) (13). Then, the consumers eating the meat are getting unwanted antibiotics, and guess what this does? Wipe out their good bacteria (in their gut, on their skin, in their mouths). Since our gut is in charge of our immune system and is where most of our serotonin is produced, this can have unwanted negative implications on our immune systems, our anxiety/happiness, and wiping out our oral micro biome can impact oral health (hello cavities).

Factory farmed cattle are also given hormones to grow faster and produce more dairy. The FDA has approved many of these hormones so they are totally legal and could be hiding in your conventional meat and dairy (13). However, legal, does not mean good for us. I think most of us would say “thanks but no thanks” to the exogenous cow hormones if we knew we were eating them.

So what can we do?

We can vote with our dollar! The more we all purchase properly raised animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) the more the demand for these products will go up, The more the demand goes up, the more the market will have to respond to the demand and increase the supply, hopefully pushing some of the CAFOs which are the worst offenders to the environment, the animals, and to our own health, to change their practices to become more sustainable for all parties involved. As the supply for properly raised animal products increases, the price will also go down, so the consumers will be rewarded in the long-run.

What to look for:

Some good ol’ organic poultry (with the fat/skin on) since I knew this chicken was raised properly, the fat tissue is actually more nutrient dense. Again, in the context of plenty of plants!

Some good ol’ organic poultry (with the fat/skin on) since I knew this chicken was raised properly, the fat tissue is actually more nutrient dense. Again, in the context of plenty of plants!

Poultry:

Looking for “organic”, “hormone-free”, “antibiotic-free” are all important. There are several different types of ratings and classifications for poultry, so see which ones you can find at your local supermarket. The USDA has a branch called the Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) which has the following ratings for poultry:

  • Free Range: This just means the chickens were allowed out of the coop at some time. There are no guidelines for how long they get to be out or what they are fed. It also does not say anything about antiobiotics and hormones.

  • Cage Free: The cage-free label is something that is relevant only for egg laying hens, which, are caged to make egg collection more efficient. It has nothing to do with raising poultry for meat and yet you'll still find the cage-free label on a whole lot of poultry products. It may sound more humane, but it's really just an advertisement of the practices all poultry producers are already employing anyway. Under the AMSdefinition, cage-free simply means that the birds were able to "freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area." So they can be out of a cage but still in a coop the whole time.

  • Antibiotic Free: The AMS identifies this as birds who were not given antibiotics from birth to harvest. When you find this label, it is much more likely that the birds were raised in better conditions than a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation). Since animals raised in these large factory settings are subject to getting sick, and cannot make it to harvest without antibiotics. Many farms also use antibiotics to make the poultry grow bigger even if they are not sick, as I mentioned, antibiotics will be passed on to the end consumer.

  • No hormones: Hormones for poultry has been illegal since 1959, after it was discovered that humans consuming the poultry were having numerous side effects from the poultry. However, you will still see a lot of manufacturers put this on the label.

  • Naturally Raised: this means the poultry was not given hormones or antibiotics AND was only given vegan feed. Vegan feed is not always necessarily better for the poultry (for instance pasture-raised poultry will eat bugs that aren’t vegan) but that is what this classification means. These chickens were only fed corn/grain/soy/wheat/barley/oats etc.) This is different than “natural” poultry which just means that the poultry you are buying is only poultry and no additives (but says nothing about how it is raised). This classification also does not specify that the feed is non-GMO (and 95% of corn and soy in this country are GMO)

  • Organic: like other farm animals covered under the national organic program (17), this means the poultry are “naturally raised” and have not received antibiotics or hormones AND their feed is all organic and therefore non-GMO and not raised with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. To qualify, birds must be raised this way from their second day of life until slaughter (18).

You can also look at the GAP (global animal partnership) step rating (this is in addition to the USDA rating). The GAP rating will only appear on poultry raised by GAP standards, and lots of poultry on the market is below GAP standards, so if you don’t see it, that’s most likely why. Here are the ratings and what they mean:

  1. Step 1: No cages, no crates, no crowding - baseline standard of 100+ standards to meet. Includes things like space to be chickens and items like straw or bails attached to their barns for pecking and exercise.

  2. Step 2: Enriched environment - this includes everything from step 1 and more. These chickens have two different types of enrichments like straw/bails and hanging branches for pecking and exercise. These chickens must also have natural light.

  3. Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access - these chickens are given different types of enrichments in their barns and have natural light and go outdoors seasonally.

  4. Step 4: Pasture raised - chickens have access to pasture and the outdoors all year round.

  5. Step 5: Animal centered - these chickens are kept in small groups and are always on a pasture.

  6. Step 5+: Entire life on the farm - exactly the same as step 5, except the birds are processed on the farm (14).

In my opinion, if you can buy organic poultry, that’s your best bet. If it’s also step 3 or above I think that’s even better. It is hard to find step 5/step 5+ poultry but not impossible. Remember, it will cost you a little bit more now, but you can save a lot of money down the line in medical bills.

I took this photo while on a bike ride in Stowe, Vermont, where I got engaged and married and revisit all the time. Stowe is all about sustainable agriculture and livestock and grass-feeding is extremely common there.

I took this photo while on a bike ride in Stowe, Vermont, where I got engaged and married and revisit all the time. Stowe is all about sustainable agriculture and livestock and grass-feeding is extremely common there.

Beef:

the classification system can also be confusing. The USDA grades beef as prime, choice, or select, which, just tells the type of beef and not the manner in which it was raised (15). Within these classifications, the beef can be further classified to tell you more about how it was raised:

  • Certified Beef: this just says that whatever the classification is, it has been certified by the USDA.

  • Certified Organic Beef: means the USDA has certified that this beef has not been subject to the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified feed, or animal by-products in raising the livestock.

  • Grass-fed Beef: Without human intervention, cattle would eat grass their whole lives. However, these days, most cattle—including those raised to qualify for the organic label—are brought to feedlots and fattened up on grain and other feed (their stomachs are not meant for grains and soy, so this is another reason the animals can get sick). Cattle that are exclusively grass-fed, have a more nutrient dense meat that is actually lower in saturated fat and higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Grain-fed cattle have a higher proportion of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

    • The USDA labeling for grass-fed is voluntary. Anything that says “USDA grass-fed” has only been fed grass and hay. Cattle farmers can also voluntarily do third party verification for "100% grass-fed” or “grass-finished” beef. This is required to be verified by a third party like the American Grassfed Association, which, is not a government association but still guarantees that the cows have only been fed grass and hay their entire lives.

    • Feeding cows what they are meant to be fed means a healthier animal, more nutrient dense meat (as I mentioned) AND less need to give them antibiotics and hormones, wow, what a concept!

  • Natural Beef: The USDA defines “natural” and “all natural” as beef that has been minimally processed and contains no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Since this should be true of all fresh meat, this label is relatively meaningless.

  • Humanely Raised Beef: Different groups have developed standards for the humane treatment of animals. Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) have the strictest standards and are the most transparent. USDA/Organic, American Humane Certified, and Global Animal Partnership are other organizations issuing humane treatment labels.

  • No Antibiotics and No Hormones: Producers must submit documentation to the USDA that the cattle were not administered any antibiotics or hormones to use these labels. Note that there isn't any third-party verification or testing for these labels (16).

My recommendation is to look for 100% grass-fed or grass-finished organic beef. This way you know you are doing the best thing for yourself and the cows and like I said, you can think of the incremental difference in price as an investment in your health as well as the health of our planet earth (more on that below). However, if that’s not available to you, do the best you can using your new knowledge. Knowledge is power!

myth 2: producing meat is bad for the environment

I agree with the statement that CAFOs and other factory farming methods of raising meat, are terrible for the environment (as well as the animals and the consumers). However, raising meat is not necessarily worse than harvesting plants. A pound of traditionally raised beef (not 100% grass-fed) takes about 410 gallons of water per pound to produce, this is the exact same amount of water as it takes to produce a pound of rice, and very close to a pound of avocados and cane sugar (20). However, the amount of water required to produce a pound of grass-finished beef is only 100 gallons, less than a quarter of traditional beef and many crops (21).

Rotational grazing, which is how cows should be grass-fed (not left to eat on one pasture and deplete it) can actually improve soil health, and cow manure is an important fertilizer to grow healthy crops. Scientists are actually developing a microbe that can be put into soil to mimmick the benefits of cow manure for growing any kind of plant. When cows go to the bathroom, it adds microbes to the soil, the microbes increase biodiversity underground and help carbon sequestration. Cattle walking on ground can make holes in it for water pockets and allow for natural seed germination. Cattle grazing stimulates grass growth, which is also good for the pasture. Dr Jason Rowntree of Michigan State University reported that regenerative grazing of cattle can produce a 30 – 40% improvement in soil carbon compared to where there was no grazing at all. He also cites that more intensive grazing proved better for soil health than less intensive (22).

The Journal of Soil and Water Conservation actually published several articles and figures that showed if more people employed AMP (Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing) which is a type of rotational grazing, it would actually greatly contribute to a large net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (23). Meat production is not the only place where we need rotation, crop rotation is extremely important for greenhouse gas reduction and overall health of the planet. Our current abundance of mono-crops (mostly corn and soy) are producing emissions just as bad as many livestock operations, however, studies have shown this can be reduced with rotational cropping (24).

truth 1: crops can be just as bad for the environment as meat and when meat is raised properly it can actually be good for the environment

Another pretty picture of meat with plants to leave you on a positive note :)

Another pretty picture of meat with plants to leave you on a positive note :)

I am not saying we should stop eating plants! Like I said, I encourage people to get many diverse, colorful plants on their plates when they can. If you are able to shop seasonally and locally, even better. However, plants can be just as detrimental to our environment as raising animals (if not done properly) and unfortunately so much of the United States is now mono-cropped. A recent study done at Tufts showed that a plant-only diet is not the best environmental use of land nor the most efficient to feed a growing population, since some land can only be used for grazing and is not suitable for crops (25).

As meat has been vilified in recent years, we have spent less and less of our grocery money on meat, but is this really making us healthier? In 1982, about 31% of the average American grocery bill was spent on meat vs. 21% in 2011. Where did that extra 10% go? Well the 1982 grocery bill was about 12% processed foods and sweets vs. 22% in 2011… there is your 10% right there (22).

Conclusion

Hopefully this post will make you think twice and do your research on where you buy your meat. Again, I want to emphasize I am not trying to say anyone’s values are wrong if they decide not to eat meat, everyone can make that decision for themselves. However, knowing that part of the population WILL eat meat, let’s make it the right stuff! One of my absolute favorite resources on this topic is Registered Dietitian and sustainable farmer Diana Rodgers, here is a link to her website.

references:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/getting-enough-vitamin-b12

  2. https://chriskresser.com/why-vegetarians-and-vegans-should-supplement-with-dha/

  3. http://www.irondisorders.org/iron-we-consume/

  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-supplements-for-vegans#section6

  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm

  6. https://sustainabledish.com/coconut-oil-wont-kill-listening-american-heart-association-might/

  7. Axe, J. (2019). Keto diet: Your 30-day plan to lose weight, balance hormones, boost brain health, and reverse disease. London: Orion Spring.

  8. https://chriskresser.com/the-diet-heart-myth-cholesterol-and-saturated-fat-are-not-the-enemy/

  9. https://sustainabledish.com/am-i-less-woke-because-i-eat-meat/

  10. https://www.livestrong.com/article/293306-masai-tribe-diet/

  11. https://sustainabledish.com/protein-better-protein/

  12. Hyman, M. (2018). Food: What the heck should I eat?New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

  13. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-drug-resistant-bacteria-travel-from-the-farm-to-your-table/

  14. https://globalanimalpartnership.org/5-step-animal-welfare-rating-program/chicken-standards-application/

  15. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/01/28/whats-your-beef-prime-choice-or-select

  16. https://www.thespruceeats.com/types-of-beef-what-beef-labels-mean-4159782

  17. https://www.ams.usda.gov/about-ams/programs-offices/national-organic-program

  18. https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/what-is-organic-free-range-chicken-usda-poultry-chicken-labels-definition.html

  19. https://www3.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/sector_table.pdf

  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8478283

  21. Niman, N. H. (2014). Defending beef: The case for sustainable meat production. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

  22. https://sustainabledish.com/meat-is-magnificent/

  23. http://www.jswconline.org/content/71/2/156.full.pdf+html

  24. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167880918301221?via%3Dihub

  25. https://www.elementascience.org/articles/10.12952/journal.elementa.000116/

  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30958719

  27. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ajcn/nqz074/5494814

Top 7 Nutrition Books of 2018

There is always new research going on in nutrition, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming to keep up with. One day canola oil is the most “heart healthy fat” the next day we find out that’s a lie the food and marketing industries have fed to us and that canola oil is GMO, inflammatory and should be avoided (1, 2) but butter is good for us, even though we were told not to eat that previously. AH! It can definitely be confusing.

That being said, I think there are a lot of junk nutrition books out there, mostly people who just write about their own opinions without references to the peer-reviewed clinical research. So just because something is in a book, does not mean it’s true. However, there are a lot of amazing books out there trying to make people LESS confused about nutrition and basing their claims on FACTS. So here are some of my personal favorite nutrition reads of 2018 (note: not all of these books were released in 2018, they were just books I read during the year).

Oh and PS… I usually listen to my books so that I can “read” while I’m driving, taking Claudette for a walk, doing dishes, cooking etc. So if you don’t have time to sit down and read, all of these came in audiobook form too! And none of this is sponsored, just my favorites. See below in alphabetical order.

The Big Fat Surprise by nina teicholz

big fat surp.jpg

The author of this book was formerly a journalist who reviewed restaurants. However, as she aged and felt pounds packing on, she began avoiding the foods that all the best restaurants used (butter, meat, and cheese) only to find her weight increasing. This was frustrating to her, and once she started embracing the fatty foods in high end restaurants, she actually began losing weight. This prompted her to investigate the science between the low-fat-diet theory and whether saturated fat is really that bad for us.

Nina takes a scientific approach at analyzing fat in the diet throughout history and throughout cultures and gives solid evidence as to why so many of our current dietary guidelines are misguided. It’s interesting to hear the evidence from a former restaurant-reviewer’s perspective. I personally loved a lot of the evidence about different tribal cultures, that I never would have known about, that live off of mostly fat and their various health markers. This book challenges conventional wisdom and is definitely worth a read!

Brain Maker by dr. david perlmutter

brain maker.jpg

This book is admittedly the most “science-y” of the reads on this list. So if you aren’t into nerding out over nutrition science, I don’t recommend it. Perhaps this is why I loved it so much, but I admittedly had to take breaks while listening to it, and have “podcast days” where I’d listen to one of my favorite nutrition podcasts because my brain just could not handle the information in this book.

Anyways, the book in a nutshell, is an in depth look at the gut brain connection. Perlmutter goes into what’s in our gut, how it works and how that impacts the brain. The book goes into everything from depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s, dementia and other brain related disorders and how these relate to what’s going on in our gut. Perlmutter also offers actionable items about how to make sure your gut is in tip top shape! Reader beware - you will learn a lot but the information is dense.

Perlmutter (who also wrote Grain Brain) is a renowned neurologist, lecturer and has been published extensively in peer-reviewed scientific journals (gold standard for research). So the guy is smart. Which, is why this book can be a little too “brain-y” for some people.

Eat Dirt by dr. josh axe

eat dirt.jpg

This is definitely my favorite book I’ve read so far on gut health. As most of you have heard me say, the gut is truly the root of all health so it’s an important one! The book is not as science-y (I know that’s not a real word but hey, you know what I’m talking about) as Brain Maker or some of the other books on gut health. Axe makes the gut and gut health easy to understand for the average individual who does not have a science or nutrition background but he also offers a ton of great information so if you do have a background in either of those fields, you will learn a lot from the book.

The book starts out with a personal story about how Axe helped his own mother beat cancer by giving her a gut-healing protocol. Josh also goes into a lot of the everyday things we do as a society to make us “healthier” and shows how these are actually harming us (hello hand sanitizer and avoiding dirt from pets). He gives actionable things anyone can implement through out the book, as well as little quizzes to help you evaluate your own gut health. I think most people could learn a lot from this book.

Dr. Axe is a chiropractor, doctor of natural medicine and certified nutritionist. He’s young, vibrant, and knows a ton! I also love his products Ancient Nutrition (you have probably seen me post about them on instagram). Mainly, I trust his products because I know there is science behind them!

Eat The Yolks by liz wolfe CNTP

eat yolks.jpg

This is another super informative book that starts with the author’s personal health journey. Liz takes you through her teens and twenties and a history of trying every fad diet, counting calories, hiring trainers, but nothing working. She then discovered the paleo diet through a trainer, and began feeling great. This prompted her to do her own research on our current national nutrition recommendations and what is truly healthy for us. She goes into the research and proves wrong so many conventional guidelines and tells you what you should eat and why. The book is in no way restrictive or didactic, it’s just informative and relatable. Liz also is hilarious (anyone who has listened to her Balanced Bites Podcast) knows this. So you’ll be learning and giggling the whole time.

Liz Wolfe is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, co-host of the Balanced Bites Podcast, mother and creator of the Balanced Baby-Making and Beyond program (which I have also done). This book is another great read for anyone, whether you are in the field of nutrition or not, you’ll get a lot out of it and laugh while doing it.

Food - What the Heck Should I Eat? by dr. mark hyman MD

If you are going to read ONE book on nutrition in your entire life, make it be this one. Dr. Hyman takes a no nonsense approach to clearing up all the confusion about nutrition. Each chapter covers a different topic and tells you what you should know about it. The chapters include “meat”, “poultry & eggs”, “milk & dairy”, “fish & seafood”, “vegetables”, “fruits”, “fats & oils”, “beans”, “grains”, “nuts & seeds”, “sugar & sweeteners” and “beverages”.

food.jpg

Dr. Hyman tells you what you should look for, what you should avoid etc. and he does everything in laymen’s terms. This is the holy grail of eating for optimal health, in my opinion. The book shows you food is medicine, which is one of Mark’s core principles, but it also shows you how many of our modern food choices are perpetuating disease. He backs up all his claims extensively with research yet keeps it easy to understand (as I said). Dr. Hyman is opinionated, and that is a criticism of his work sometimes, but he backs his opinions up with facts so I like that he takes a stance on everything. I’ve recommended this book to clients, family members and friends and have gotten great feedback from all of them. You won’t leave feeling like you can’t eat anything, you’ll leave feeling empowered with knowledge. And, it’s a great resource to reference back to.

Dr. Hyman is a practicing family medicine doctor, functional medicine doctor, and founder of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, The UltraWellness Center and is on the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine. I also love his podcast, “The Doctor’s Pharmacy” in which he interviews guests that talk about various topics that show food is medicine.

Genius Foods by max lugavere

genius.jpg

Another book written with a personal agenda at heart. Max Lugavere was formerly a film-maker and political journalist working for Al Gore’s TV station. However, when his mother’s neurological health started to degenerate (they later found out she had Alzheimer’s), he decided to switch gears and use his investigative background to research brain health and what the average person can do to preserve theirs.

This book takes you on an informative narrative that might make you cry (hearing about him watch his mother decline) but at the same time gives you information about what you can eat for your own future as well as your loved ones. Lugavere specifically drills into what dietary patterns make our brains work, what can stop them from working, and how you can improve your own cognitive function even if neurodegenerative diseases run in your family. Max gives you his 10 genius foods that anyone can incorporate and even gives you some genius meal plans at the end of the book. Max’s narrative voice is young, and relatable. He teamed up with a neurologist to write the book, so there is plenty of scientific data backing everything up. Max also has a podcast, The Genius Life, that is one of my favorites.

Real Food For Pregnancy by lily nichols, rdn

real food for pregnancy.jpg

I have read this book two times in entirety and have gone back to reference it countless more times. It is a refreshing break from the outdated, under-researched, overly-restrictive nutrition guidelines given to pregnant women today. I really like my Obgyn, but I have to say I was extremely underwhelmed with the advice they gave to me around eating. In fact, I think it was just a sheet of paper with, you guessed it, some outdated advice that is not based on research (don’t eat sushi or deli meat or raw eggs) … well turns out not all of these things are bad for pregnant women, and many of them are actually good for pregnant women. There was also no information on what you should be eating during pregnancy (aside from folic acid, which is actually a less bio-available form of the B vitamin folate) more on all this to come in a separate blog post (3).

If there is one thing Lily is good at, its RESEARCH. You can trust this book (probably more than your OB) because she gives you all the scientific data behind every single thing she recommends. I know my doctor doesn’t do that. Although Lily is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, she goes by the data, like I said, which means she often challenges the advice given from the American Dietetics Association. Her unconventional approach is refreshing but also full of truth. So whether you are pregnant, or think you might like to be some day, you will learn a ton from this book. She goes into a whole foods approach for pregnancy (and provides meal plans at the end) and also has a chapter on exercise, which, I found extremely useful.

Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator and mother herself! I felt like Lily was a friend of mine after reading the book twice, and to be honest, I wish she was. Goals…

references:

https://www.canolawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/20110309_FPJ_Aut11_Beckie.et_.al_.pdf

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/2190-4715-23-10

https://chriskresser.com/folate-vs-folic-acid/

My First Trimester

Pregnancy is such an exciting time, and like I said, I did not have an easy time getting here, so I have truly felt grateful for every second that I have been pregnant. I wanted to take some time to write a little more about all the intimate details of my first trimester for those who are curious. Of course, every person and every pregnancy is SO different, so I don’t expect any of this to determine how I will feel in my next pregnancy or how you will feel in yours. Just reminiscing about and documenting those first weird/exciting/transitional 13 weeks.

Physical Body Changes

The first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the word “pregnant” is a huge belly. And while your belly definitely changes, it’s not one of the first things to change. During the first few weeks, I’d say my belly was very slightly bloated. I definitely didn’t have a bump and all my pants still fit, they were just a little more snug. I kind of had a weird feeling of being “fake pregnant” since I didn’t look pregnant but knew there was something tiny growing inside me.

I am wearing the exact same sports bra in these two pictures, so you can see the difference in fit. Image on the left was week 4 (AKA the day I found out I was pregnant), on the right was week 14 (so technically right after the first trimester)

I am wearing the exact same sports bra in these two pictures, so you can see the difference in fit. Image on the left was week 4 (AKA the day I found out I was pregnant), on the right was week 14 (so technically right after the first trimester)

One unexpected change I noticed was that my skin was way more dry. I felt like I needed to constantly put on lotion (so I did). But my body had that feeling where it is just “sucking up” lotion, that you usually have after you are sunburned or something. My eyes were also more dry. I wear contacts most days and can usually get through the entire day without feeling uncomfortable but as soon as I got pregnant, I had to remove them at about 8PM (after about 12 hours of wear) or else my eyes would feel dry and itchy. My optometrist said this is common during pregnancy.

Another change I noticed almost immediately, was my boobs (not sure if it is unprofessional to talk about that on here but, hey, we are all adults). I went from about a B to a large C in the first two weeks and after about a month, I was already a D. This sounds great, but, my boobs were super painful. Any touch or slight bouncing during exercise HURT. I had to continually buy new bras, since the ones I bought for the first few weeks, I grew out of quickly. I have remained in my second set of bras through the beginning of the second trimester (although I’m already starting to outgrow them).

Image on the left was week 4 (AKA the day I found out I was pregnant), on the right was week 14 (so technically right after the first trimester) but you can see my “bump” developing.

Image on the left was week 4 (AKA the day I found out I was pregnant), on the right was week 14 (so technically right after the first trimester) but you can see my “bump” developing.

I did start developing a small bump around week 7/8, but again, looked more like bloating. This really developed into a “bump” around week 12 at which point it “popped”. This may be because I’m so short and the baby has nowhere to go but out, so even though the baby was the size of a lime, my body didn’t have much space to hide the lime (plus it is surrounded by an enlarged uterus and placenta).. I didn’t truly need maternity clothes at this point, but my old pants and leggings were definitely starting to pinch and pull more than I wanted so I started researching maternity wear and bought it around week 13/14.

Another fun side effect of the the first trimester was that I peed ALL the time. At this stage, the uterus is sitting lower (right on the bladder) and I felt like I literally had to go every 5 minutes or at least multiple times an hour! This definitely let up for me around week 12.5/13 as the uterus raised in my body. I have heard it will get bad again in the third trimester when the uterus is pushing on the bladder the most, but that hasn’t happened yet so I am enjoying this second trimester pee break.

Although a lot of people are frustrated by the early body changes, since many people feel like they are in an awkward in between stage where they don’t look pregnant but they don’t look like their normal selves, I was so grateful for what was happening inside me, that I really didn’t mind that awkward stage.

Appetite & Nausea

I was SUPER lucky to have very minimal nausea. I am not sure what to attribute this to, so unfortunately I don’t have any tips for any of you queasy mamas to be. Some people theorize it’s because I’m having a boy, some people theorize it’s my diet, and I personally have read that vitamin B6 helps with nausea (1), and I stayed on my vitamin B complex (which has plenty of B6) through out my first trimester. When I did feel nausea, it was usually when I was hungry or tired. So eating was a pretty good solution for me. Exercising or even going for a walk also helped. I never threw up, my nausea was more like a “hungover” feeling in my throat". I would say my peak “nausea” was from weeks 5-8, and after this it started to diminish (it was still there through about week 11). But, like I said, it was pretty minimal compared to what I have heard from friends and clients. I guess it could have just been luck.

Speaking of eating, I was STARVING from the moment I knew I was pregnant, which was the earliest time you can take a pregnancy test, so I was 4 weeks pregnant at this point. I basically felt like I did a really intense workout every day (since I am always hungrier on those days) but I was actually taking it a lot easier with exercise and took quite a few days off but was still super hungry every day despite my activity level. I definitely ignored the calorie guidelines of not needing ANY extra calories during the first trimester (2) plus you guys all know how I feel about calorie guidelines (eye roll). If your body is growing a baby, and you are HUNGRY then I think your body needs extra food to grow that baby. And since I was not nauseous like many women are, I was still eating very balanced meals of properly sourced protein, healthy fats, and tons of veggies, so I wasn’t starving because I was filling up on empty carbs, my body truly needed more fuel. I basically had 4 meal sized portions a day with at least 2 snacks. My extreme hunger began to let up around week 12 and I felt like my appetite went back to what it usually is.

Now that I’m in my second trimester, and the guidelines say I need around 350 extra calories, I actually feel like eating my regular amount. Moral of the story is listen to your body, those guidelines are based on averages and are, in my opinion, outdated and oversimplified. If you are eating real, good foods, I think your body knows better than some number, granted, it’s doing all the human-growing work!

Food Aversions & Cravings

A lot of pregnant women who followed my instagram asked me if I was really eating all those veggies in my first trimester, and the answer is yes. I completely understand, not everyone is able to do that, but this was my experience. I still loaded my plate up with PFFP (protein, fat, fiber, phytonutrients) which you can read more about in my balanced breakfast blog post. I felt even more motivated to get as many nutrients as possible in my body since I knew these nutrients would be helping to build my baby. I have done multiple pregnancy nutrition certifications and read numerous books on the topic, so perhaps in this case, ignorance is bliss and I subconsciously did not want to put “non-nutritive” food in my baby. The other possible reasons I was able to maintain my normal eating habits were 1) because I did not have crippling nausea that made vegetables and meat seem repulsive and 2) because healthy food is my comfort food, I grew up eating that way since I was a kid so that’s truly my craving food.

The only real food aversion I had was to shrimp. One night I decided I wanted cauliflower pizza and picked shrimp as the topping (I was trying to mix up the protein sources we ate and also get in lots of omega 3 fatty acids for my baby’s brain development) (8). However, as soon as we cooked up the shrimp and put it on the pizza, I took one bite and could not eat any more. I picked off all the shrimp and haven’t eaten it since. Something about the smell combined with the taste was truly repulsive to me (this was a food I used to LOVE).

This was Claudette the frenchie helping us with our pregnancy announcement to our friends and family.

This was Claudette the frenchie helping us with our pregnancy announcement to our friends and family.

I also haven’t had any crazy cravings, or strong desires for foods that I would never desire when not pregnant. But there have been some foods that I have had a stronger affinity for than usual. First of all, I usually am an exclusively sweet for breakfast person. I don’t start my day with a bowl of sugar but I love a berry smoothie or paleo baked good with some yogurt. However, during my “peak nausea” weeks (5-8) I was really craving savory for breakfast more than sweet. I had more eggs, grainfree pizza, even salmon and veggies, but I still had some sweet for breakfast days too.

Another food I really wanted was dairy. My body doesn’t usually digest dairy well, but I had read the hcg hormone can help certain women tolerate dairy better during pregnancy (3) so I decided to try reintroducing it since my body was wanting it (and I do think the body knows best). Sure enough, I did not experience the usual digestive symptoms I experienced when eating dairy, so I decided to add it back in. I focused on full fat dairy (since this is less processed and helps your body absorb the vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin found in diary) (4) and fermented dairy, since this improves digestion (5). When it came to cheeses, I picked either cheeses made in the USA specifically labeled grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free (I don’t want GMOS, antibiotics or hormones going into my tiny baby!) or imported cheeses from Europe or New Zealand (since grass-feeding cattle is standard practice there). I have still been wanting and enjoying dairy through my second trimester so far.

Fatigue

There were a few days when I was extremely tired, before I found out I was pregnant. According to my calculations, this was when the embryo was implanting. I felt like I ran a marathon even though I literally didn’t move these 2 days and I napped a lot. It’s crazy to think of all the hard work the body is going through even though it’s “invisible”. My fatigue continued through the first trimester but it was not terrible like in those few days.

This picture was taken at 12.5 weeks, when the fatigue had already started to let up.

This picture was taken at 12.5 weeks, when the fatigue had already started to let up.

For the entire first trimester, I found I could not rise in the morning at my usual time (6/6:30AM) and really needed to sleep until anywhere between 7 and 8AM on most days. Since I have the luxury of setting my own scheduled, I just did not make any early client appointments and was able to let my body sleep as much as it needed to. This meant an average of 9-10 hours every single night. This sounds like a lot, but that was how I dealt with the typical “first trimester fatigue”. A lot of people complain of not being able to get through the days without a nap during the first trimester, and I definitely would have felt the same if I was only sleeping 7 or 8 hours, but this extra sleep made it so that I felt pretty much “normal” during the hours I was awake. There were a few days during weeks 8-10 when I still had to lie down on the couch for a few minutes because I felt extremely tired in the afternoons, but for the most part I managed it with my extra sleep.

Now that I’m in my second trimester, I already feel this diminishing a bit and am hoping to be able to wake up a little bit earlier soon.

Workouts & health scares

If it were up to me, I would have worked out a lot more during my first trimester. Workouts are a great stress/anxiety reliever (I was super anxious about miscarrying the entire first trimester, since it is so common) and also working out can make pregnant mom and baby healthier (6). During the first week that I knew I was pregnant, I was working out pretty regularly just keeping it lower impact and slightly lighter weight (this was probably not necessary, like I said, I was just nervous about miscarriage). However, one day when I was walking on the treadmill at the gym and went to the bathroom, I saw tons of blood. This was very alarming since almost everything you read about miscarriage says “you’re probably fine unless you see tons of blood” (yikes). I frantically called my doctor who said I should lay down the rest of the day and come in the next day for an ultrasound (I was 5 weeks at this point). The heavy bleeding continued for about 8 hours then stopped completely but I was a nervous wreck.

My husband came to the ultrasound the next day with me and luckily, the doctor was able to see the “gestational sac” right away. This meant I didn’t miscarry and there was still a little embryo growing in there (yay)! My doctor also saw a subchorionic blood clot (7), which, was what she suspected had caused the bleeding. She said these bleeds were fairly common and don’t always mean doomsday but I did need to take it really easy so another bleed din’t happen, she also said these blood clots can often go away on their own. I scheduled another ultrasound in exactly one week, and like I was instructed, I barely moved between those two ultrasounds, I walked around a tiny bit and cooked etc. but nothing you would call “exercise”.

Gym selfie at 9 weeks pregnant.

Gym selfie at 9 weeks pregnant.

At the 6 week ultrasound we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat, which was AMAZING! And also checked on my subchorionic clot, which was still there but hadn’t grown and was still small. Since I hadn’t had any more bleeding, my doctor said it was fine to resume light exercise, nothing too strenuous and no heavy weights. I took this to mean walking, yoga and barre and a few workouts I made up on my own using lighter than usual weights. It truly felt so good to move and really helped with my anxiety (which had greatly increased since the bleed). At the 8-week ultrasound my doctor saw that the clot had been reabsorbed and I was cleared to go back to exercising (which I did immediately). Of course, I put my baby’s health first when I was told not to exercise, but as I said, it was hard on me mentally since it was a very anxious time for me.

Once I was able to resume normal workouts, I did through out my entire first trimester. I definitely modified things and kept things lower impact, but generally working out actually energized me rather than make me more fatigued. My body definitely got way more sore more easily, since instead of sending resources to muscle recovery, it sent resources to the baby. I definitely took a full rest day each week and also 1 or 2 lighter intensity days (walking and stretching or yoga). Overall, I’m just doing what feels good to me and that may change as the pregnancy progresses.

Dreams & Emotions

I was 14.5 weeks in this picture, not too far out of the first trimester.

I was 14.5 weeks in this picture, not too far out of the first trimester.

Hormones are running high during pregnancy and so are emotions. For the most part, I have not been extra moody or emotional but I have definitely had my moments (you can ask my husband). However, the second I got pregnant I started having the CRAZIEST and most vivid dreams. I have heard this from other pregnant women (including my mom, who experienced the same thing) as well. Every night I remember my dreams, which I usually don’t when I’m not pregnant, and I honestly don’t even know how my brain comes up with them. Everything from seeing a pack of wild tigers outside my parents house in Boston to being stranded at sea in a kayak to a lot of other stuff in between.

Like I said, I did not have an easy time getting pregnant so the emotions I felt the most were gratitude, disbelief and giddy excitement. This was cut with intermittent spurts of anxiety, largely caused by the bleeding scare and just an overall fear of miscarriage, a “this is too good to be true” feeling. However, after about week 10, I started to lean into it and accept that my body was carrying a baby and I needed to enjoy the process rather than worry about it. I still get a little bit nervous before each doctor’s appointment but slowly but surely my anxiety is turning into pure joy. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have and I’m sure there will be lots to come on this topic!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4649576/

  2. https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/prenatal-wellness/healthy-weight-during-pregnancy

  3. Nichols, L. (2018). Real food for pregnancy: The science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. {United States?: Lily Nichols.

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234920/

  5. https://www.bewell.com/blog/all-dairy-is-not-created-equal/

  6. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/exercise-during-pregnancy/

  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323307.php

  8. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fish-oil/







Don't Fear Fat

Fat gets demonized in our culture. Both on our bodies and fat that we eat. And there is the common misconception that eating fat will make our bodies fat. I am here to tell you that neither dietary fat or body fat should be put in a blanket category as “bad”. I would also like to put out that dietary fat does not make our bodies more fat!

Fat doesn’t make us fat

The real scientific name for dietary fat is lipid (1). The real scientific name for body fat is adipose tissue (2). Lipid does NOT equal adipose tissue. End of story. So we can all get the eating fat makes us fat narrative out of our heads. In fact, eating fat can do just the opposite, if you read on I will tell you why.

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The thing, or hormone rather (since hormones control everything), that causes our bodies to store fat is insulin (5). And there is only one macronutrient that does not cause ANY insulin response when eaten - fat (3). So therefore fat is not what is making us fat. Insulin is released in response to glucose (blood sugar) (4). Carbohydrates cause the largest insulin response, and protein causes a small insulin response but as I said, fat causes none. This is not to say you need to avoid carbohydrates and protein altogether, it is merely to show that fats need not be limited and feared especially for people who are aiming for weight loss or want to avoid weight gain. In fact, this clinical study showed that by pairing a potato (mostly carbohydrate) with butter (fat), it actually lowered the postprandial insulin response of subjects (6).

Eating Fat helps our bodies function optimally

Not only is fat not to blame for if there is extra fat tissue (adipose tissue) stored on our bodies, but it actually helps our bodies function optimally:

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First of all, half of the vitamins we eat are water soluble (the B and C vitamins) and half are fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) (7). So if we aren’t eating adequate dietary fats, our bodies can be nutrient deficient, even if the rest of our diet is very nutrient dense. Because our bodies won’t be able to properly absorb , store and use these fat soluble vitamins from all the healthy foods we are eating if we don’t eat enough fat too. The beautiful thing about eating fats from nature is that you get the fat soluble vitamins WITH the fat so you don’t need to worry about anything. For example: grass-fed dairy is a great source of vitamin D (but when we remove the fat and make it fat-FREE dairy, we then have to fortify it with extra vitamin D, seems a little counterintuitive, right?). Another example is pasture-raised egg yolks are rich in all of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D , E and K) and they are also full of essential fatty acids to help your body absorb them. So why did we start eating egg whites again? A third and final example (there are many more but I want to move onto other dietary fat benefits) is almonds and almond products (butter/flour etc.) These are rich in vitamin E and guess what, they are fatty to help our bodies absorb the vitamin E! Yay vitamins and yay fats!

Fats are crucial for brain clarity, cognitive function, mood boosting and to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, ADHD, epilepsy and more. Omega 3 DHA fats are a crucial part of a developing baby’s brain (11) but their importance does not stop at childbirth. They are crucial for the rest of life and by giving the brain fuel, reducing inflammation in the body and the brain and enhancing something called “brain derived neurotropic factor” or BDNF (12). BDNF is a protein that promotes the survival of neurons (or nerve cells) to keep our brain healthy (13) (so we want more of it and thus want omega 3 fats). Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) have even been shown to help treat depression, this meta-analysis (analysis of 40 relevant studies) shows these beneficial effects (14). However, it’s not just omega 3s that have beneficial brain effects. Coconut oil can help prevent memory loss and has even been shown to improve Alzheimer’s symptoms (15). Egg yolks are rich in choline, a B vitamin, which among other things, improves cognitive function (16). Olive oil improves learning and memory (17) and avocados are rich in vitamin A & K (which help prevent blood clots and therefore strokes) and also can boost memory and cognitive function (18).

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Fats are crucial for physical and mental satiation. Just picture eating a piece of plain toast. You would probably be hungry shortly after. Now picture eating an avocado toast, or even better, an avocado toast with an egg (whole egg not egg white). Now you’d DEFINITELY be full for at least a few hours. So what’s the difference? Fat. Fat slows our digestion so other nutrients release more slowly into our bloodstream. This is especially important when paired with carbs, because it prevents a large insulin spike (AKA signaling body to store glucose as adipose tissue) and crash subsequently after (AKA cravings & jitters central, ever been “hangry”?… yeah, fats will help with that.) Fat is actually negatively correlated to post-prandial (which means after eating) insulin response (8). This means that the more fat you eat the less your insulin rises so fat has a stabilizing effect on your blood sugar! Many studies have also shown that dietary fat can increase Peptide YY (PYY, a satiation hormone), increase Cholecystokinin (CKK, another satiation hormone) and decrease ghrelin (a hunger hormone) (9, 10).

What kind of fat should I eat?

Simple answer is all types of fats that have not been chemically altered by man. For instance cold pressed olive oil or avocado oil has not been chemically altered by man. It has merely been squeezed out of a fruit without changing the chemical makeup. Canola oil, however, actually goes through an industrial extraction process using hexanes that changes the chemical makeup of the oil (19, 20). So when you are thinking about what fats to include in your diet, think of if you know how they were made. Avocado - safe, grass-fed butter - safe, egg yolk - safe, coconut milk - safe. However, removing fats from these items can alter the nutritional value of these naturally nutritious foods. Choosing fat-free versions of these foods is essentially the same as choosing fats that have been chemically altered. I will do a separate post on types of fats to avoid but for now, we can drop the fat fear and enjoy our fatty food from nature!

references

1) lipid. (n.d.) Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. (2003). Retrieved March 14 2019 from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/lipid

2) https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fat

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=American+Journal+of+Clinical+Nutrition%22%3B+An+Insulin+Index+of+Foods%3B+Susanne+Holt+et+al%3B+1997

4) https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/8812.htm

5) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose

6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7882816

7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218749/

8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=American+Journal+of+Clinical+Nutrition%22%3B+An+Insulin+Index+of+Foods%3B+Susanne+Holt+et+al%3B+1997

9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23688821

10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30550892

11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29316994

12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30867119

13) https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/BDNF

14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013121/

15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3437664/

16) https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/egg-nutrition

17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21955812

18) https://draxe.com/15-brain-foods-to-boost-focus-and-memory/

19) https://thecoconutmama.com/how-canola-oil-is-made/

20) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/04/13/ask-the-expert-concerns-about-canola-oil/

Why Safe Beauty & Self-Care Matters

These are some of my favorite brands that have cleaner beauty.

These are some of my favorite brands that have cleaner beauty.

Our skin is the largest organ in our body (12) AND it’s a part of our microbiome AKA closely tied to our gut. Skin health, gut health, and emotional/brain health all go hand in hand believe it or not. I know most of my followers and readers of this page are healthy eaters and conscious of the food they put IN their microbiome, but what about what goes ON it?

That’s where clean beauty and skincare come in. Most over the counter makeup and skincare contain tons of toxins. If you want to check your products, you can measure them on the Environmental Working Group “skin deep” database. The FDA requires no premarket review of the safety of cosmetics. Instead, the cosmetics industry is supposed to “self police” through its Cosmetics Ingredients Review Panel. Over the 36 years that this has been in place, the panel has rejected only 11 ingredients (1). In contrast, the European Union has banned hundreds of chemicals in cosmetics (2). Most of my makeup comes from Beauty Counter, which takes the utmost care in its ingredients (not sponsored), and I have an instagram post outlining some of my other favorite brands. Feel free to email me with any questions about Beauty Counter products, I’m happy to answer!

Remember, the containers we use to store food and water can contain these harmful compounds too, and they can leech into our food. This is why I recommend stainless steel and glass.

Remember, the containers we use to store food and water can contain these harmful compounds too, and they can leech into our food. This is why I recommend stainless steel and glass.

Personal care products are manufactured with over 10,500 unique ingredients, many of which are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors), known toxins and more (3). For instance, a common ingredient “phthalates”, has been shown to interfere with proper reproductive function in babies whose mothers were exposed to it during pregnancy (4, 5). Phthalates can be found in personal care products (READ YOUR LABELS), they can leech into food when microwaving food in plastic containers, they are found in soft plastic and vinyl products as well. You can read how the National Institute of Health warns about phthalates (6), and other endocrine disruptors in our environment (7).

Even fragrances, which can seem innocent, and are added to SO many products, can contain numerous hidden chemicals. Because of the labeling laws for fragrances in the United States, companies do not have to list individual ingredients of their “fragrance blend”. Therefore, companies will just lump any harmful ingredient in the category of “fragrance” so that they do not have to disclose it. A 2010 Environmental Working Group study found an average of 14 chemicals not listed on the label in the top products containing any kind of “fragrance” (10). What makes this all worse is that skincare products are not made to stay onto the surface of the skin, they seep into our skin and can even enter the bloodstream (3).

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Hopefully the above information will make you think twice about what you put on your skin daily. However, it’s not just our skin and beauty care that bad chemicals can sneak into. It can also be what we brush our teeth into, some of which, is ingested every day. Two ingredients to look out for in toothpaste are SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate), which has been shown to irritate skin and even cause cancer in multiple studies (8, 9) and fluoride, which, is also often added to water. Fluoride has been linked to everything from thyroid issues, bone and joint disorders, neurological issues such as ADHD, reproductive issues and more (11). It’s scary to think that most conventional drugstore products can actually be dangerous for us. But considering we use these products daily, it is worth another look. I use this Dr. Bronner fluoride and SLS-free toothpaste (it’s made of all ingredients you recognize) and this Hello charcoal activated mouthwash.

What now?

The point of this blog post is not to scare you or send you into a frenzy. It’s merely to educate you so that the next time you are buying a personal care item, you can make a more informed purchasing decision. You also don’t need to feel like you need to throw out 100% of your products and buy new ones overnight. This is daunting, expensive and time consuming. However, if you want to do it, be my guest. A more approachable way to conquer this task is every time you have a product you used up, replace it with a cleaner alternative. You can use the EWG “skin deep” site or app to help you. I think this is especially important if you have children or are ever planning to have children. We can give the next generation a better chance than we had because now we have more knowledge.

references:

  1. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/CosmeticsQA/ucm167234.htm

  2. http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/sectors/cosmetics/documents/directive/#h2-consolidated-version-of-cosmetics-directive-76/768/eec

  3. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2011/04/12/why-this-matters/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16079079

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19919614

  6. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/assets/docs/j_q/phthalates_the_everywhere_chemical_handout_508.pdf

  7. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/endocrine_disruptors_508.pdf

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30784350

  9. https://www.nicnas.gov.au/chemical-information/imap-assessments/imap-group-assessment-report?assessment_id=184

  10. https://www.ewg.org/research/not-so-sexy

  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154164.php

  12. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-the-skin#1




Balanced Breakfast Tips

One of the most common things I see on food diaries is missing breakfast or a nutrient deficient breakfast. For reference, I have all my incoming clients do a food diary before we begin working together. They don’t record calories or exact measurements, it’s just to see their general eating habits. This trend is not unique for my clients, only 47% of US adults eat breakfast daily (1) so that means more than half skip breakfast pretty regularly. I am not saying you have to eat the second you wake up. However, there is considerable research that shows starting your day with a balanced breakfast (see my take on this below) can jumpstart your metabolism, help muscle building over time, balance your blood sugar, fight nagging cravings later in the day, help with natural satiation and portion control and give your body the dose of nutrients it needs to start the day (2,3,4). The clinical research points positively towards breakfast as well as my own anecdotal experiences (from myself and my clients). Even if you practice intermittent fasting, which is a longer topic for another day, the first meal of the day should be balanced. So here are my tips on how to do so:

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Tip #1 PFFP:

Breakfast should include as many of the PFFP components as possible. If you can’t include all four, that’s fine, 3/4 is still great and even 2/4 is doing pretty darn good. PFFP stands for Protein, Fat, Fiber, and Phytonutrients. This combination will keep you full, satiated, energized and with your metabolism on fire. Here are some ideas of foods that contain each component:

  • Protein: comes from meat, seafood, eggs, greek yogurt/cottage cheese, and there is some in nuts and seeds and their derivatives (butters, flours), legumes, and some supplements (my favorites are Nuzest pea protein “PRESS15” saves you $$ and Further Food collagen “START10” saves you $$)

  • Fat: comes from whatever oil you cook with, ghee, butter, dairy, avocado, coconut/oil, nuts and seeds and their derivatives (butters, flours), and from meat and seafood (will depend on what meat you buy but there will usually be at least a little fat)

  • Fiber: comes from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and their derivatives (butters, flours), legumes and whole grains

  • Phytonutrients: comes from fruits and vegetables, specifically, these are the compounds that give fruits and vegetables their colors, so eat the rainbow!

As I said, you don’t need all four PFFP components at every meal, but the more the better. The thing you want to avoid is having a meal or a snack comprised of “naked carbs”. Some examples of naked carbs would be (a piece of fruit, a bagel, some juice, cereal). Ways to “dress up” those carbs so they have more PFFP components and are not naked would be a piece of fruit with some nut butter or greek yogurt, a bagel with smoked salmon or an egg, a smoothie that includes protein and healthy fats (instead of a juice), and greek yogurt or cottage cheese with a granola that includes lots of nuts and seeds instead of cereal.

Some more EASY no fuss PFFP breakfast ideas:

  • Eggs of any kind and avocado (I love having this on sweet potato toast) you can even add bacon if you like

  • Full fat greek yogurt with some fruit and nuts

  • Chia pudding & berries

  • Smoothie with protein & healthy fats

Tip #2 You don’t have to be traditional:

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The above examples all include traditional “breakfast fare”. However, breakfast does not have to include “traditional breakfast food”. It is more important to eat foods you like and will crave, are realistic and accessible to you at breakfast time. And of course, strive for as many components of PFFP as you can.

I often eat regular “meals” for breakfast if that’s what I wake up craving and I have leftovers in the fridge anyways. For instance, I love a good “breakfast salad” like the one pictured to the right. Nothing like starting your day with greens. Or sometimes I’ll have something from dinner the night before such as salmon and roasted veggies (hello PFFP).

Breakfast foods can feel constraining to people when they don’t know what’s healthy and convenient in the breakfast category, the default can be to just grab coffee and skip breakfast, or grab a packaged protein bar and be on your way. But when we think about breakfast in narrow terms we can get pigeon-holed into the naked carb items above (cereal, bagel etc.) By expanding our definition of what’s “allowed” at breakfast, the possibilities are endless!

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Tip #3 Make it easy on yourself:

For most people, mornings can be the busiest time of day. Hence the tendency to skip breakfast. Plan ahead and plan realistically. If you love a cozy bowl of oats, make a batch of overnight oats on the weekend that’ll be read for the week. If you love omelettes and bacon, make egg muffins with your favorite bacon chunks in it ahead of time. If you love pancakes or waffles, make and freeze a big batch so they can easily be reheated during the week. If you’re a smoothie and go type, put your smoothie ingredients in individual bags so all you have to do is dump them in the blender when morning arrives. You can check out more of my “meal-preppable” breakfast recipe ideas here.

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tip # 4 look forward to your breakfast!:

Waking up is hard enough, no matter how much sleep you got the night before. So why not have something to look forward to in the morning. You should always start your day with something delicious you want to eat. Not only will this set the tone for the day in a positive way, but it will make you more likely to eat breakfast. Instead of preparing foods you feel like you should eat for breakfast, start your day with foods you get to eat for breakfast!

References:

1) https://www.thedailymeal.com/news/healthy-eating/more-half-americans-skip-breakfast-least-once-week-study-says/081815

2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30373105

3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30527257

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28701389