I got an email from a beautiful and healthy lady the other day who wanted some advice on eating while pregnant. She was thin and super fit before her first pregnancy but gained quite a bit of weight, quite unexpectedly during pregnancy. Now she’s pregnant with number 2 and doesn’t want this to happen again. So she came to me for advice. Here is my answer to her:
The brilliant thing about being Primal is that one really doesn’t need to focus on ratios. The focus on macronutrient ratios is a modern response to bad food options. It didn’t apply in Paleo times and it doesn’t apply to hunter gatherers now. Native people eat what they can when it is available and they don’t get fat. So, if you’re eating Paleo, you probably won’t have much to worry about.
While you’re pregnant you should definitely be eating starch, just try to make them safe starches. Oatmeal, brown rice, and Ezekiel bread are definitely not safe starches. These all contain high amounts of anti-nutrients (very bad for a pregnant woman and bad for cravings) and the bread contains gluten. It doesn’t matter much that it has been sprouted. Plus, as you would find in the book Wheat Belly, the wheat used in “Ezekiel” bread is definitely not ancient wheat, as the name implies. It is a modern derivative of an old plant and it is problematic for our bodies, and our waistlines.
A tangent about what I eat…
These days, I eat white rice and sometimes white potatoes for my starch. Tapioca starch works well for me too. I have fructose malabsorption (which I would encourage you to look into if you suffer from a lot of cravings) and so I cannot have sweet potatoes. I have experimented with many starches over the years and ultimately settled on these. Other safe starches that I don’t eat on a regular basis include yuca and plantain. As you may know, I went through a long low carb phase. That ended right around when I nailed down the fructan issue. I knew I couldn’t eat fruit but onions and garlic (two huge offenders for me) were a mainstay in my diet. My “issues” with carbs disappeared once my gut stopped fermenting everything that passed through it.
High Fat, Low Starch or Vise Versa
Another thing that can contribute to weight gain is the combination of a lot of fat with starch. If the fat is high, keep the starch low. If the starch is high, keep the fat low. This is not what you will find in best-selling processed foods, of course, because it doesn’t taste as good as super fatty, super starchy stuff. It has been my experience that the two combined can make us gain weight, or not be able to lose weight, than if we eat one or the other. Now, while I was pregnant I ate a whole lot of fat and I did not worry about how much starch I was eating at the same time. That fat was mostly butter, fish oils, and olive oil.
I ate much more fat with pregnancy #2 than with #1 because my experience and beliefs have changed over the years. I did gain a little bit more weight with #2. With my first I gained just under 20lbs. It was a healthy pregnancy with no complications and I didn’t deliver early. With my second I gained just under 30lbs. With my first I had 0 lbs to lose after pregnancy, with this one I had 10lbs to lose, which has all burned up by now.
What About Protein?
As for protein, just eat enough. While I was pregnant I ate 2 or 3 eggs for breakfast. For lunch I might have a 1 can or maybe just ½ a can of salmon or something else like soup or chicken salad. For dinner maybe fish or raw beef. My taste for protein while I was pregnant was lower than usual but I did eat some protein at every meal. I wasn’t thinking about ratios, I was just following my senses (our senses can be quite refined when we eschew junk food). When not pregnant, I never eat more than three meals a day. And I don’t eat snacks. While I was pregnant I ate 4 meals a day most of the time.
Focus On Nutrition Not Ratios
You should be thinking more about nutrients than about ratios. Nutrient deficiencies can actually contribute to weight gain. And you should also take great care to eat anti-inflammatory as inflammation also causes weight gain.
Eat only good fats like those listed above, plus coconut oil and lard. Eat organs for a powerhouse of nutrients. This can include liver, kidney, and heart. Eat fish – the smaller, cold water fishes like sardines and salmon are considered safer to eat while pregnant. Eat some muscle meat if you so desire but don’t overcook it. Eat safe starches. Eat fermented foods. Eat veggies.
Dairy can be addicting for many of us, and so staying away from that can help keep weight under control. I don’t think I need to say that you should not over-indulge in sugar but I’ll say it anyway. Fruit is sometimes craved like crazy by pregnant women. For those trying to be healthy, it often replaces packaged junk food. That is certainly a step in the right direction but fruit does contain a lot of sugar so it should be limited to a couple of pieces a day.
In my book, Primal Moms Look Good Naked, which I promise will be published soon, there is a wealth of advice about diet, exercise, and weight loss,. The book is perfect both for the pregnant mother and for a recovering mother.