Natural Health and Wellness for the Whole Family

Nourishing the Expecting Mama

By Sarah Axtell, ND July 24, 2008


It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I was busy studying and taking my clinical naturopathic licensing boards. Thank goodness those are out of the way, and now I can focus on my last 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is pregnancy number 2 for me, and it’s been pretty similar to the first one: nauseated for the first trimester well into the second and then feeling pretty good throughout.

I recently read an interesting article on NPR entitled, “Baby’s Palate and Food Memories Shaped Before Birth.” This article has inspired me to do this post. I strongly believe in the premise of this article- that what you eat during pregnancy and lactation can shape your little one’s palate. I can remember pumping my breast milk and it would have a green tint to it. Kale flavored milk! And I can’t help but think that Cece’s love for kale chips started in the womb. Of course, palate-shaping continues well beyond birth when your little one observes what is on your plate. In other words, you can’t eat a plate filled with brown and white foods (ie. breads, pasta, mashed potatoes, chicken, etc) and expect your child to indulge in a rainbow assortment of fruits and veggies.

So what to eat during pregnancy to encourage healthy palates in your child? Here are some ideas:

First Trimester
I understand you are feeling ill and the last thing you want is a plate full of cauliflower and kale. Try to eat lots of nutrient-dense small meals/snacks throughout the day. Comfort foods during this time were my favorite. These recipes all contain tasty herbs that will not only please your taste buds but also your little peanut. Here are some ideas:

  • Goat Cheese and Pesto Quesadilla: Simply spread some pesto on a brown rice wrap. Fill with shredded goat mozarella and fresh or frozen spinach. Pan fry.
  • Sweet Potato Fries: Slice sweet potatoes and top with oil and your favorite herbs. Salt and pepper. Cook at 400 F for 15 minutes. Flip and cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Herbed Popcorn: You can make your own and top with herbs or do what I do and buy an organic bag of popcorn and top with nutritional yeast and dill, oregano, thyme, and a pinch of dried red pepper.
  • Trail Mix
  • Ginger: Crystallized ginger chews are a great remedy for minor nausea. Carry a bag with you and pop a chew at the first sign of queasiness. Sipping on fresh ginger tea can help too. Simply grate some fresh ginger and steep in a cup of hot water.
  • Zucchini Eggplant Lasagna: a gluten-free favorite, made with quinoa

Second and Third Trimester
You are feeling better now and can focus on more colorful food choices. Here are some ideas:

  • Protein is critical! You need about 70 grams of protein per day throughout pregnancy. As a vegetarian, 70 grams can seem daunting at times but I usually get in my daily quota with tempehtofu, and beans. See the recipes highlighted in the links. And don’t forget about eggs! I eat an egg a day, usually in the form of hard-boiled, which is great for an on-the-go lifestyle.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids: I have been eating salmon since I have been pregnant. This is a great option. But in addition to food sources of omega 3s, such as walnuts, ground flax seed, hemp seed, and salmon, I highly recommend a fish oil supplement high in DHA. DHA feeds your developing child’s brain. And as a bonus, it has been shown to decrease the risk of post-partum depression in new moms. A tablespoon a day of quality fish oil (free of Mercury) is a nice dose for pregnant women.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables: This is where you can get creative. You can whip up my favorite, kale chips, in less than 10 minutes total. Or you can mix in spinach to sauces, casseroles, rice dishes, and even your favorite smoothie. Here is a recipe for my power smoothie. Eating green leafies during pregnancy will shape your child’s palate. He or she will come out craving the stuff!
  • Protect your veins with blueberries: Maybe its your second pregnancy and you are starting to see those engorged veins crawling up your legs. Or maybe its your first and you have a strong family history of varicose veins and you want to prevent them from getting worse. Blueberries are full of vitamin C and flavonoids, thus increasing blood flow to your legs and strengthening the integrity of your vasculature, especially your veins. Aim for a cup of organic blueberries a day.
  • Calcium rich foods: Getting adequate amounts of Calcium in the last two trimesters (especially the third) is a must. This is a time where baby will be leaching Calcium from your bones if you don’t have enough circulating in your blood from your diet. When most Americans think of calcium they automatically think of milk. BUT, contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium out there. Green leafies can be a good source, with the exception of spinach. Spinach contains oxalates, which prevent the absorption of calcium. Here are some low oxalate sources ( ie. full of absorbable calcium) of green leafies: (The sources of calcium are in milligrams per 8 oz cup)
  • cooked bok choy 330
  • cooked collards 300
  • cooked spinach 250
  • cooked kale 200
  • parsley 200
  • cooked mustard greens 180
  • dandelion greens 150
  • romaine lettuce 40

In addition to green leafy vegetables, here are some excellent sources of non-dairy Calcium: (The sources of calcium are in milligrams per 8 oz cup)

  • Carrot juice, fresh 57
  • Fish, canned salmon eaten with bones 440
  • Fish, canned sardines or mackerel eaten with bones 569
  • Molasses, black strap 2820, 176.2 per tablespoon
  • Molasses, unsulphured 672, 42 per tablespoon
  • Sesame butter (unhulled sesame seeds) 1022, 63.9 per tablespoon
  • Sesame butter/ tahini from hulled or decorticated seeds 315.2, 19.7 per tablespoon
  • Tofu, firm, prepared with calcium 1721
  • Avoid your food allergies or sensitivities during pregnancy: You may be wondering what’s the big deal with dairy? Well, nothing if you can tolerate it. But, if you have an allergy or sensitivity to it, which can present in many ways (irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea, eczema, frequent infections, allergies, acne, etc), I recommend you avoid it during pregnancy. It’s possible to pass on your allergy to your child in the womb. In addition to dairy, gluten is a big one as well.

Overall, focus on a colorful diet, rich in deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables. And don’t underestimate the importance of fat. This is not the time to skimp on the good fat sources, such as avocados, nuts, and salmon. Nourishing YOUR body directly translates to a healthy baby!

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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