Guest Post By Elana Natker, MS, RD
Eating well during pregnancy is important for a healthy birth and healthy baby – makes perfect sense, right? But emerging research suggests that mom’s diet may have lifelong effects on the baby – such as increasing risk of heart disease and other later-in-life chronic conditions. Known as the “Barker Hypothesis” and named after researcher David Barker in the United Kingdom, the theory is that environment – namely the environment of the uterus – plays a critical role in the development of the fetus. If the mother does not eat enough, that could activate genes to create cells in the growing baby’s body which are programmed to hold onto as much nutrients as possible. So while the baby might be born small and underweight after living in essentially a starved environment (in his mom’s belly), he might quickly catch up and then become overweight, since his body may have adapted to storing nutrients (such as fat) to draw upon later in the event of future starvation. This so-called fetal programming may also increase the baby’s risk for developing heart and coronary diseases in adulthood.
While this is still very much a hypothesis and much more research needs to be done, there is one thing we can’t argue: a healthy pregnancy resulting in a normal-weight baby is critical.
So what should a mama eat when she’s pregnant? For starters, don’t eat for two! A baby isn’t a second adult and doesn’t need the same number of calories as his mom. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a pregnant mom should:
- Not increase daily calories at all in the first trimester;
- Have about 340 additional calories per day in the second trimester; and
- Take in about 450 additional calories per day in her third trimester.
The additional calories should all be high-quality calories that promote growth and development. Foods like beans which provide folate to prevent neural tube defects, fatty fish like salmon or mackerel which provide EPA and DHA fatty acids to support brain and eye development, lowfat dairy foods like milk and yogurt for bone-building calcium and vitamin D, and lean red meat for iron which keeps blood healthy.
Of course, eating healthy foods can be challenging when pregnant and dealing with food aversions and overpowering smells (since the sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy – great for popcorn, bad for kimchi). Your best bet is to meet with a registered dietitian who can help create a plan based on your personal preferences and meal patterns. An online research I like is this meal plan developed by RDs and featured in Parents magazine: http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/prenatal-meal-plan/.
Elana Natker, MS, RD, is a nutrition communications consultant in the Washington, D.C. area. Find her online at www.enlightennutrition.com and @elanaRD on Twitter.
If you are like most parents I know, you probably strive to be perfect. Your trying to be the perfect mother, the perfect friend, perfect spouse, etc. And on top of it, you are trying to eat perfectly and be in perfect shape. STOP TRYING TO BE SO FREAKIN’ PERFECT! 🙂 It’s doing more harm than good. This is the #1 mistake I see my clients make when trying to lose weight. If you just relax, except the fact that you can’t do it all and you will never be perfect no matter how much you try, you will feel so much better! Trust me- I am farrrrrrr from perfect and I have embraced it with open arms 🙂
Think about it, how many times have you started a diet where you followed it to the letter? I mean, you wouldn’t even take a small lick of your daughter’s ice cream cone. How long did you stay on this plan? How long before you had one slip up and figured you blew it, and went right back to your old behaviors?
Don’t feel bad if this sounds like something that has happened to you over and over again. It happens to us all (myself included). It’s hard to not think of weight loss and dieting as an all or nothing approach. But do you want to know a secret? My clients that do everything perfectly all of the time are the ones I worry about the most. Why? Because no one can be perfect all of the time- especially when it comes to food! You are going to slip up at some point, and you should! I want to share a funny story with you about when my husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure. As we left the doctor’s office, he told me he wanted to go to the grocery store. So we went and as we were there, he asked me to help him find only the foods with the absolute lowest possible sodium content- we even found zero sodium bread (yummy right?).
For about a week, he lived on salads, zero sodium bread, and a few other flavorless foods. I also prepared everything from scratch for him, right down to homemade dressings and condiments, to keep his sodium as low as possible. Now, let me just interject that as I was doing this for him, I was also preaching the benefits of moderation and how some sodium is OK with high blood pressure. But he wouldn’t listen. Why? Well partly because I’m his wife, but mostly because he was in an all-or-nothing mindset. He was sure the answer to reversing his blood pressure issues was in eliminating sodium, and because of that, he couldn’t just slowly lower his intake. He had to be perfect. He had to have as close to no sodium as possible. Does this sound familiar? Can you guess the outcome? Yup- after about a week and a half he splurged on take-out pizza and some beer and gave up. Sound familiar?
Depriving yourself or trying to be perfect is, in my opinion, the #1 reason why most people are unable to lose weight and keep it off. Eating to lose weight and get healthy isn’t about deprivation and perfection – it’s about improvement! That’s it! It’s a learning process, just like anything in life. If your son came home from school and said he received a C on his algebra quiz today, would you tell him to just give up because he clearly will be unsuccessful at the class the rest of the semester? I sure hope not! Then why would you “give up” on your weight loss efforts because you had a slice of pizza last night? Are you really never, ever going to have a slice of pizza again in your life? I sure hope nope (I know for a fact my husband wouldn’t find life worth living without this staple!).
Losing weight and improving health is about improvement, not perfection! Today, just think of one simple thing you can do to improve your eating habits from yesterday. Could you eat one extra serving of vegetables, drink an extra glass of water (hello metabolism boost!), or walk for 5 minutes? Every little change really does at up to big results! What will you do to improve today?
I am thrilled to announce I will be appearing in a live streaming food segment with Al Roker Entertainment at 4pm EST on July 28th.
To view, please go to http://alroker.com/#meerkat
I hope to see you there!
As the weekend begins, you will probably be staying up later than normal. If your like me, you will try to stay up late, but being exhausted from starting the day before 5am thanks to my tiny yet loud alarm clock named Joey, I probably won’t make it very long. But what I find happens is as I start to get tired, I find myself reaching for something to munch on to help me stay awake. It’s so hard to resist late night snacking. I struggle with it and I am sure you do to! Sometimes it happens because you are too tired, sometimes it happens due to boredom, and sometimes you just can’t resist that sweet or salty craving (especially after a glass of wine, am I right?).
The urge to snack late at night can come on for many reasons, and it may not even be the same reason each night. But these excess calories can really add up. So what can you do about it? First you need to identify if you are truly hungry or if your desire to snack is coming from boredom or emotional reasons. Before reaching for that snack, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Is your stomach growling? If you aren’t sure, a good strategy is to wait 15 minutes before reaching for a snack. If you are still feeling the need to eat after this time, you are most likely hungry whereas a craving would typically pass. Another strategy is to allow yourself to snack on only vegetables or fruit. If you are truly hungry, any food choice will help to fill you up. If you are just craving a snack or “sweet treat” for emotional reasons or due to boredom, the idea of having produce may not be as appealing as the cookie you have been eyeing.
If hunger is the cause of your need to snack at night, look at your current dinner choices and see how you can improve them to make your meal more filling. Can you add an extra serving of vegetables to boost fiber without adding many calories? Can you increase your serving of lean protein to improve your feeling of fullness or drink an extra glass of water with your meal? Changes like this will not elevate blood sugar levels, but will help to leave you more satisfied so you can pass on that nighttime snack.
If you have boosted your intake at dinner and find you are still hungry at night, it’s fine to have a healthy snack. Choices that contain a balance of lean protein and healthy fat along with a complex carbohydrate are your best bet. Some options include:
- Almond butter on apple slices
- One ounce of low fat cheese with a handful of nuts
- 3 cups of air popped popcorn
- Carrot sticks and hummus
- ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with fresh berries
If you are craving something salty and sweet and just can’t shake it, try making my favorite no-guilt nighttime snack:
Chocolate Popcorn Trail Mix
- 3 cups air popped popcorn
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- ¼ cup raisins
- 2 Tbs dark chocolate chips
Mix together, serve, and enjoy! Makes 2 servings.
Whenever you snack in the evening, make sure to practice mindful eating habits to help fight against boredom eating which can lead to excess calorie intake and elevate blood sugar levels. To do this, when you snack, make sure to focus on the food you are eating and remove all distractions. Turn off the TV and the computer and sit down to eat your food on a plate. Make sure you focus on what you are eating and involve all of your senses. What does the food taste like? Smell like? What is the texture of the food? The more you ‘experience’ the food instead of quickly gobbling it up, the more satisfied you will feel and the less likely you will be tempted to go back for more.
My favorite way to tell if you truly need to eat because you are hungry or just because you feel like it is to tell yourself the only snack option available is a vegetable. If your truly hungry, that vegetable snack will sound really appealing. If you just felt like snacking, you may notice you aren’t as tempted 😉