I realize this is much different than my regular food based posts, but none the less one that has raised many an inbox question.
I just reached the halfway mark of my pregnancy with what we now believe to be two baby girls. We are so thrilled!
We are expecting fraternal twins which means they are not identical. Basically two babies sharing the same birthday, but unique in every other way. We can’t wait to meet them!
It was really funny and ever so slightly ironic that I had to test oodles of recipes for my recipe book in my first few weeks of pregnancy. YES! Nausea and new recipes… fun! But as they say, all is well that ends well.
1. WHY DID I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE WITH A LOW CARB LIFESTYLE DURING MY PREGNANCY?
My family has been on a fully integrated low carb lifestyle for just over 18 months now. It is our new normal. It is our lifestyle. We cannot imagine feeling tired, emotional and hungry all the time anymore, so for me it made perfect sense to keep doing what is obviously working for my body. BUT the fact that I am also making decisions for someone else’s body… it made me ponder if I’m doing the right thing for them?
I found confirmation after confirmation once I stopped reading pregnancy sites and shifted my research to what babies need for healthy growth. I devoted an entire chapter in my book to this.
Basically, I looked at my entire nutritional regime and could not think of a time in my life that I actually ate a better amount of nutrients and less junk. I figured… our girls do not need junk like preservatives, colorants, enhancers, modified starches, hormone filled GMO Soy or GMO wheat. Sugar is void of any nutrients and really is the weakest form of energy so… not needed!
I was shocked to see that most recommended pregnancy diets actually promoted very low fat intake and very high sugar intake. So while an entire human being is carefully being constructed in your body please eat sugar (Low fat fruit yoghurt has 80 % added sugar) that is void of nutrients and without sustainable energy and please cut fats, the best source of concentrated energy and the best vehicle to transport essential vitamins and minerals to you and your baby. (Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K)
Surely, whole grain bread is noble and a good source of fibre? Well NO! Two slices of wholegrain bread has six teaspoons of sugar and really is not the greatest source of usable fibre either.
I also decided to NOT even take the risk of giving my babies any gluten or wheat, seeing that my son and my husband is gluten intolerant. Why would i want to bombard babies with an allergen they need to use energy to cope with instead of just using that energy to grow into beautiful princesses.
Bottom line is you need good fats, enough healthy sources of protein, fruits and veggies and loads of water to maintain a healthy pregnancy. These are the building blocks of good cell construction. And then get a good multi vitamin for the nutrients we need but can’t always eat enough of like, folic acid.
I learnt a lot from www.wellnessmamma.com
Foods to focus on during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding:
- Protein: Most women need 80+ grams of protein every day for healthy pregnancy. Some research shows lower risk of preclampsia and other complications with adequate protein, and some women report less morning sickness when they consume this much protein.
- Fats: This is often the biggest hurdle for many women, but consuming adequate fats is absolutely vital to baby’s organ and brain development. Women should focus on healthy sources like meat (including red meat), butter, eggs, olive/oil, coconut/oil, nuts, limited dairy, etc.
- Vegetables and Fruits: Vegetables and fruits have a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber that are helpful during pregnancy. Eating a varied diet including a lot of green leafy vegetables can also help raise Vitamin K levels.
- Water: A woman’s blood volume actually increases during pregnancy and her body has to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid the baby is in. Drinking enough water (usually around a gallon a day) can help fight off morning sickness and also helps prevent constipation and make sure mom and baby are properly hydrated.
Foods to avoid during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding:
- Caffeine: There are a lot of conflicting opinions on if caffeine is safe during pregnancy and if so, how much. It certainly isn’t necessary, and is best avoided. If you do consume caffeine, limit to one cup a day and not from soda.
- Processed Foods: With up to 200 chemicals found in the umbilical cord blood of some babies, there is certainly good reason to avoid any unnecessary chemicals in foods or environment. Processed foods also offer little nutrition and can lead to constipation and blood sugar instability (which can cause morning sickness).
- Vegetable Oils and Fats: As I’ve explained before, vegetable oils and other omega-6 fats are foreign to the body and there is no need for them. They have even been linked to cell mutation and cancers, and should especially be avoided by pregnant women due to the rapid cell development of the unborn baby.
- Grains and Sugars: Grains and sugars are certainly not the most nutrient dense food choices, and in some people, they can even cause health problems. Pregnant women should focus on the most bioavailable and dense sources of nutrition, which means choosing meats, fats, and vegetables/fruits over grains, sugars and baked goods.
These basic supplements are ones that are often beneficial during pregnancy:
- Probiotics: Best obtained from high quality supplements, fermented foods, and beverages like water kefir and kombucha. Since a baby is born with a sterile gut and then has his or her gut bacteria begin to develop based on the beneficial (or not) gut flora of the mother this is an important factor! Adequate probiotics can also help reduce the risk of Group B strep, and have even helped get rid of Group B strep before delivery when probiotic supplements or organic plain yogurt are used vaginally.
- Omega-3s, DHA, RHA– Adequate good fats are absolutely essential for baby’s development and it is difficult to get enough from diet. Supplementing high quality sources of these fats can help reduce risk of complications and give baby the necessary nutrients for good development. I get mine from Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
- Vitamin D– This article reports that “Compared to women who took 400 IU of vitamin D daily, those who took 4,000 IU were half as likely to develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or preeclampsia, Wagner says. They were also less likely to give birth prematurely.” Vitamin D needs vary, but many doctors are now suggesting at least 4,000 IU and up to 10,000 IU a day. This can also be obtained from Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
- Folate– Well known for its preventative effects against spina bifida and other developmental struggles, folate is another important supplement. The current recommendation is 400 micrograms, though many doctors recommend 2,000 micrograms or more for optimal development, and folate is water soluble and difficult to overdose.
- Iron– Anemia can cause serious complications during delivery, and is easy to prevent. If blood tests show that iron levels are low, iron supplements may be necessary, but things like cooking with cast iron pans, eating red meat/grass fed liver and eating a variety of fats and vegetables can help optimize iron levels. I personally much prefer to get this from food rather than supplements.
Being my first low carb pregnancy, I was so very curious to see if it would be any different than my previous two pregnancies.
(I must say I gained a lot of weight with my first two pregnancies)
Here is what I ate and what I found:
Upon opening my eyes:
Boiled water with a lemon wedge
Freshly milled flaxseeds became my best friend! Oh my mega goodness! I kept it in! In the form of a porridge made with milled flax, a bit of fine desiccated coconut, a knob of butter and I diluted cream and hot water to mix it into a porridge like consistency. I ate this before the nausea kicked in too much. (It was also a constipation buster that is desperately needed in pregnancy)
I could also handle brunch now and then in the form of bacon and eggs. With a bonus if I did not have to prepare the raw meat myself.
Avo slices and eggs worked well. I did not feel much like eating lunch overall and mostly grazed on slices of cheese or a cup of bone broth.
Wilted spinach and chicken salad. (This is when the spinach made it into my salad bowl. I craved spinach so bad I ate it from the pan)
I made a point to only up my carb intake slightly in the form of selected fruit. I would make myself an amasi (For extra probiotics), avo and berry smoothie or enjoy a small apple, guava, kiwi or some strawberries. No more than 10 grams of carbs mostly.
A good grass fed portion of protein & veggies, chicken or lamb stew, fish and ok, there was the day I REALLY NEEDED STEAK!
I always tried to intentionally incorporate coconut milk, a small amount of butter or a bit of cream into my dishes, but the nice thing about a stew is you use overall fattier meat cuts.
A few times a week I would have a little nut baked treat or a small bowl of chocolate mousse sweetened with a bit of xylitol.
With twins, healthy weight gain is very important as you rarely carry them full term and it is in your babies’ best interest if you gain earlier in the pregnancy. This was a confusing dynamic for me, somehow seeing the scale moving in the opposite direction had me quite panic stricken for a few days. I had to readjust my thoughts and feelings on this, so I focussed on the best sources of nutrient dense foods. It felt good to know that I am not indulging or merely letting go, I am indeed feeding to new family members the best I can. I also decided to completely trust my body to tell me and guide me how much to eat. Some days I felt like eating a lot more than others. It was a good decision. My body did not lie to me once! This is a good overall principle to follow on a low carb diet. Food is fuel! That is it! Fuel up when you need to and not when you have to think of an excuse to.
I used THIS handy weight gain calculator to see if I am healthily gaining the right weight to sustain the pregnancy.
This is my 14 week end of the first trimester baby bump. I gained Almost 3 kg at this point and could still wear most of my clothes except for some figure hugging pencil skirts.
Our DOC is happy overall, even though she does not know I’m on low carb. I figured I would spare her the heart attack. Pioneering sometimes need to protect people against themselves. Our babies are achieving all their milestones just dandy! We are thankful.
Overall I feel younger than with my first two pregnancies. (Even though the DOC really tried to bring under our attention that we need to know we are a high risk pregnancy due to my age and the twin factor. ) My hubby did muster some courage to say that we really feel so much younger, to which DOC replied: “That has absolutely nothing to do with anything!” Eish…
Goodbye nausea – Hello appetite!
Week 16 hit and I felt famished! I would leave the table feeling hungry! Another new dynamic for me. My brain said I should be satisfied and my body protested. I also worked hard on set in the food studio daily and had 20 hour days for two weeks. Well I again decided to listen to my body, but to focus on nutrient dense nutrition like, eggs, avo’s, meat cuts. I would eat an omelet filled with mince and cheese for breakfast instead of my porridge. It did the trick. It lasted me till lunch. I incorporated nuts for the first time as a snack. I usually just bake with them because I can split the baked goodies into much smaller portions. It’s easy to over indulge in nuts. I also shifted my flour base to pumpkin seeds, and baked a few pumpkin seed breads over the last few weeks and filled them with loads of seeds. Fibre rich goodness filled with extra calcium and magnesium. I quite like having a slice with cream cheese and tomato slices.
I am currently heading for week 20 and I must admit, looking at my baby bump now, I am glad I listened to my body again. My baby bump almost doubled in the last two weeks. These girls are having way too much fun on low carb! So far I have had a few blocks of Lindt 85% chocolate, once. Thats the absolute only sugar these girls have had. No wheat, no gluten, no colourants! And in all honesty, I don’t feel deprived and I have no cravings. I like to make myself a coconut cream hot choc from time to time, drink loads of flavoured rooibos teas and enjoy the occasional after dinner treat with my family. I have gained another 3 kg. So far I’m spot on with the weight calculator. It is both comforting and really great to know, even when pregnant low carb is truly satisfying and lekker.
It is also great to know that babies are in ketosis anyway and are going to stay in ketosis after their birth because the breast milk ratio is that of a ketogenic diet anyway. I love this insight from Maria Emmerich at http://mariamindbodyhealth.com
ARE YOU PREGNANT? IS KETOSIS FOR YOU?
The lean human body is 74% fat and 26% protein (broken down by calories).
Fats are a structural part of every human cell and are the preferred fuel source of the mitochondria, the energy-burning units of each cell. A fetus naturally uses ketones before and immediately after birth. Many studies done on pregnant pigs that are placed on ketogenic diets show fetuses with increased fetal brain weight, cell size, and protein content. In the early stages of pregnancy, there is an upsurge in body fat accumulation, which is connected to hyperphagia and increased lipogenesis. In the later stages of pregnancy, there is an accelerated breakdown of fat depots, which plays an important role in fetal development. The fetus uses fatty acids from the placenta as well as two other products, glycerol and ketone bodies. Even though glycerol goes through the placenta in small proportions, it is a superior substrate for “maternal gluconeogenesis.” Heightened ketogenesis in fasting conditions, or with the addition of MCT oils, create an easy transference of ketones to the fetus. This transfer allows maternal ketone bodies to reach the fetus, where the ketones can be used as fuels for oxidative metabolism as well as lipogenic substrates.
During pregnancy, women become even more sensitive to carbohydrates due to an evolutionary adaption in which they become slightly insulin resistant; their bodies do this in order to allow a positive flow of nutrients to the developing fetus through the placenta. If the mom was more insulin sensitive than the fetus, there could be a nutrient shortage. Biology fixes this problem by making mom a little insulin resistant, effectively “pushing” nutrients to the fetus. This demonstrates just how important it is to feed you and your fetus a nutrient-dense ketogenic diet.
HEALTH TIP from KETO-ADAPTED: I do not recommend losing weight while pregnant or breastfeeding. You store toxins in your fat cells. When eating a keto-adapted diet, you lose weight by burning body fat rather than lean mass, like you do with low-fat diets. For example, if you are losing one pound of body fat every four days, that is 3500 calories worth of toxins in your blood. Your bloodstream becomes very high in toxins since toxins are getting released from your fat cells. Passing them to your fetus or baby is definitely undesired.
It is comforting to know, I’m not sending gushes of sugar spiking, inflammation driven spikes through my system constantly. Our babies are eating real foods already. I must say I feel so thankful for the knowledge and would like to honour the hard life works of John Yudkin, Dr Atkins and Dr Perlmutter, Dr William Davis. I have learnt much from these great researchers.
But more than anything I want to honour the One who is fearfully and wonderfully weaving two little miracles for us.
May your pregnancy journey be joy filled too!
Yours in low carb, Inè, Anabel (Bella) and Elizabeth (Lizzie)