I practice what I preach. I have a mound of vegetables with every meal (including breakfast!). In addition to this, I include high quality protein and plenty of healthy fats alongside my veggies. Starchy carbs are based around training.
When I fell pregnant, however, I was in for a rude shock. My body no longer wanted to comply with the nutrient dense whole foods I was feeding it. Here is what happened and a theory on why…I’m sure other pregnant mamas out there can relate! (For everyone else, I hope it is mildly interesting!)
Side note: The images below are very scrappy as I didn't intend to share them on here! Please forgive me.
6 -12 WEEKS
Week six was where it all started to go down hill. I can’t say it was a very gradual process either. One day I felt fine, the next I was constantly nauseous, exhausted and headachey. This is common for around 70% of pregnancies. I don’t know why they called it Morning Sickness as it is definitely All Day Sickness. Ok, that’s it for the whinging and to be honest, I was almost happy I felt unwell as I believed it to mean pregnancy hormones were high and things were ticking along. The biggest change though was that I no longer felt like eating any of my usual foods and meals!
I went completely off meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and anything fatty or spicy. What is left? Bread. With lots of butter. And vegemite. Basically, all I felt like was plain carbohydrates. This became a staple for the four weeks I really felt like rubbish. Before this, I rarely ate bread because it just didn’t make me feel great. Now it was a life-saver!
Now, if I’m going to eat bread, it’s going to be GOOD QUALITY bread. I bought Elwood Sourdough (made in the house behind us). ELWOOD SOURDOUGH is seriously good stuff, perfectly dense and chewy. You know it’s good quality without all the crap because it is stale the next day. In saying that, I did sneak in a couple of toasted cheese sandwiches with fluffy white bread and tomato sauce..everything was ok with sauce.
Most of the time I was just so confused about what I felt like to eat. But when my husband brought home some spaghetti bolognese on a Friday night, I tried some and the heavens opened. Again, pasta is not something I eat much at all (ever) but this was my saving grace. It was also a good way to get some meat in for iron because that was completely off the agenda. I made my own spag bol and snuck in a few veggies like mushrooms and carrot because, yes, even vegetables were a major struggle! I ate spaghetti three nights in a row because it was all I could think about eating.
Given veggies were off the list, I started to think of ways I could disguise vegetables in meals so I was getting some sort of nutrition with my plain diet of carbs. It was like I had reverted to a fussy child!
My Paleo shepherds pie was a good one to do this with. To the mince, I chopped up very finely some zucchini, eggplant, onion, garlic, mushrooms, grated a carrot and used sweet potato mash for the topping. Sounds pretty good so far – but I would have to eat this with tomato sauce of course!
Not only was I like a child and couldn’t eat veggies but I also craved a lot of the meals my mum made me as a child. I made an old favourite pasta bake, salmon patties (with tomato sauce) and chop suey! You either had Chop Suey growing up or have no idea what I am talking about. It looks like this:
Next came the vinegar cravings – a whole jar of mini gherkins and cocktail pickled onions could be consumed whilst standing at the bench unpacking the shopping. At least I was getting some vegetables in! (We won't mention the salt and vinegar chips...)
Coffee was the last thing in the world I felt like but I think this is just a sign from my body that is doesn’t want the caffeine. I even went off water for a while and lime sodas were the only thing that made me feel better!
The one thing I didn’t go off, thank goodness, is eggs. I still managed to have eggs and avocado, sneaking in a bit of spinach each morning.
Once I started to feel a bit better, I began making myself a slow pressed green juice with lots of ginger and lemon.
Funnily enough I haven’t really had many cravings for chocolate (except chocolate milk!) or overly sweet foods. I’m sure that will come at some point!
The theory on why I only felt like carbohydrates? They are safe foods. In the first 12 weeks, you are at a very vulnerable stage and at much higher risk of miscarriage. This is your body’s way of saying stick to foods that are safe. If we look at it from an ancestral point of view or ‘hunter gather’ times, we had to kill an animal and often eat meat straight from a carcass. This is could be riddled with bacteria, parasites and other pathogens which would be very hazardous in early pregnancy.
An aversion to vegetables in the first trimester is also very common. Particularly your more bitter vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. In plants, bitterness would signal that the plant is full of toxins. Although this is not the case for modern vegetables of today, we still have this aversion and it’s the body’s way of saying avoid these plants during early pregnancy to keep the baby safe. It really is amazing how the human body works! For those that might be going through the same thing, my advice to you is just roll with it! Don’t stress, you have plenty of time to get those nutrients in once you start to feel better.
I am very lucky to have a best friend who is also pregnant so we can constantly share our weird food cravings and give each other ideas of things that will “go down well”.
I have found the last twelve weeks to be a truly fascinating process. It really is amazing what the human body tells you. You just have to learn to listen to the signals as your body always knows best.
Although I'm not quite there yet, I certainly am looking forward to getting back to a nutrient dense diet.
For the ladies out there that might be going through the same thing, these are things that helped me the most:
- Eating regularly, every 2-3 hours - do not get to a stage of hunger as this makes you feel worse. When nausea was really bad, I liked nibbling on RITZ crackers
- Eat protein - this curbs nausea. Scrambled eggs first thing in the morning with avocado is great - you could also have boiled eggs at lunch if you are off meat/chicken etc
- Toasted wraps for lunch with zesty vinagrette tuna - not the healthiest tuna but I found I could only eat the vinegar one and it was a good way of getting protein in at lunch. I had cheese, tuna, avocado, lettuce and sweet chilli sauce. Yum!
- Plenty of mineral water - don't get dehydrated! It makes you feel so much worse. If you need that sugar hit, Bickfords lime cordial is great. I then switched to fresh lime once I started to feel a bit better. Oh and lots of ice!
- Salads - although veggies are a struggle, salads seem to go down ok. Shredded cos lettuce with avocado, goats feta and a dressing made with Apple Cider Vinegar. I'd often have this with some veggie patties with tomato sauce for dinner.
- Fresh juices - make your own or just buy one with lots of lemon and ginger. Green ones and beetroot juices are my favourite.
- Chocolate milk - Rebel Kitchen Chocolate Mylk made with coconut milk and sweetened with coconut nectar.
- On the days you feel horrible, eat whatever you are craving! Plain foods like bread and pasta always seem to be a good option. On days that you are feeling ok, try and sneak in some healthier meals.
- Apple cider vinegar in water before meals. I find this really helps with the bloat. Some professionals may warn against ACV because it is unpasturised but I'm happy to take the risk
- Magnesium and Vitamin B6 can also help with pregnancy sickness so look at taking a good quality supplement.