Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life where she has to be aware of what she puts into her body, not just for herself, but for her baby as well. So it it okay to stay Paleo while pregnant?
Once you become pregnant, your nutritional needs change, including caloric intake, micronutrient needs, and even sometimes macronutrient ratios. The lifestyle you stick to during pregnancy can alter how you feel during pregnancy, how much weight you gain, how morning sickness affects you, and can even set the stage for your baby’s health.
If you want to stay Paleo while pregnant, you’ve probably already come into some clashes with your doctor — unless you’re lucky. The USDA recommends a diet very different from what Paleo provides.
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to staying Paleo while pregnant, including diet, exercise, and even what you put on your body when it comes to personal hygiene.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “eating for two” during pregnancy. This isn’t exactly true, though, as a woman only needs about 300 calories extra starting in the second trimester. In addition, a woman’s weight gain is really dependent upon her body composition before she got pregnant. A woman who is overweight to start with can get away with gaining a lot less than a woman who was underweight before becoming pregnant.
Eat Enough for Your Activity Level
Pregnancy is not the time to diet. Your actual intake requirements will change depending on your activity level. If you have a desk job, don’t work out, and are pretty much sedentary, then your caloric intake should be a lot less than someone who has a strenuous job or works out a lot. Basically, if you figure out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, you can eat at maintenance during the first trimester and add 300 calories per day during the second and third trimester.
Standard Nutritional Recommendations vs. Paleo
The USDA and its infamous Choose My Plate recommendations are pretty outrageous. They suggest looking for low-fat and fat-free options over butter and fatty meats, and even recommend “healthy” oils like soy, corn and canola! For a woman who is almost 18 weeks pregnant, the Choose My Plate recommends nine ounces of whole grains per day!
Paleo nutrition, of course, follows suggestions almost completely opposite from what conventional “wisdom” recommends. For example, whole milk (if you do dairy) is not only healthy, but ideal. Low-fat is most certainly not. Healthy oils are those like coconut and olive, not canola, soybean, corn, and other vegetable oils.
A typical Paleo breakfast for a pregnant woman might consist of two or three eggs scrambled in raw milk pastured butter, some cooked chicken, fish, or seafood, some fruit, and some wilted spinach or other greens. There’s absolutely no need for toast, a bagel, or other grain.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet During Pregnancy
Women who were following a low-carb diet pre-pregnancy should probably increase their carb intake during the first trimester. The placenta grows best when fed a good diet with moderate protein, moderate carbs, and high fat. This can also help prevent low blood sugar, which is thought to contribute to morning sickness.
If you find yourself with lots of carb cravings, listen to your body. Just make sure to pick healthy carbs, like those from sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beets, and other root vegetables. Fruit like berries are also a great choice. Pick those that are local and in-season, and try to avoid those on the Dirty Dozen list unless you get them organic. Eat as much from the Clean 15 list as you want, of course.
Most doctors will recommend a prenatal vitamin to pregnant women, and for good cause. Most women simply don’t eat a diet sufficient in all of the micronutrients needed to grow a healthy baby. Even women who eat a strict Paleo diet probably could benefit from a good-quality prenatal vitamin, or various vitamins separately depending on what is lacking in their diet. Make sure if you do choose a multi, that you pay close attention to the amounts of each micronutrient. Most have too much of some things (like Iodine or Folic Acid) for women who eat Paleo, and not enough Vitamin D or Vitamin K (if it even has Vitamin K in it at all). A great source of Vitamins D and A is fermented cod liver oil, particularly if you don’t eat organ meats.
Exercise is another of those sensitive subjects where a lot of people will think that just because you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t work out. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, but of course, it all depends upon your activity level before pregnancy. If you never did any cardio or lifted weights before you got pregnant, pregnancy is not the time to start. If you worked out regularly before, there’s no reason to stop just because you got pregnant (unless there’s a medical reason).
General tips would be to make sure your core temperature stays below 102F, avoid high-risk or contact sports, and don’t allow your heart rate to stay above 140 for more than a few minutes at a time. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids before and during, and stop immediately if you feel lightheaded, nauseous, or dizzy.
Natural Hygiene Tips
Being Paleo isn’t just about the foods you eat; it should also address what you put on your body, like personal hygiene products. Natural hygiene items will help reduce your exposure to toxic substances, and thereby reduce your developing baby’s exposure as well. Read the ingredients on labels and try to avoid as many chemicals as possible.
You might even consider switching your household cleaning products to natural ones like vinegar and baking soda. You’ll not only be making the best choice for your baby, but you’ll save money, too.
(Read This Next: 7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises for Every Trimester)