Pregnancy Diet

I think most women are aware that we should eat well for our babies, when we are pregnant.

But I know that, for myself, I was not told what eating well for pregnancy actually is until my first baby was already born.  I didn't realize how my eating would directly affect my baby.  I figured she would get the vitamins and I would get the rest.  And I also didn't acknowledge the benefits that eating well would have for myself, either.

I'll readily admit that for my first pregnancy I took on the wrongful attitude of "If I'm gonna gain weight, I'm gonna eat whatever I want... why not!?"  I figured this is my time to enjoy the "best foods around."  And by "best," I meant stuff I enjoyed the most --- which included:

  • Plenty of peanut M&Ms.  (Something along the lines of a large sized bag per week that I would munch on during my work day.)
  • The biggest sized Coke from McDonald's fairly regularly.  I'd get one when they would sell the "Any size for $1" deal.  (I would pat myself on the back for not drinking Diet Coke --- my pre-pregnant drink.)
  • A big Coke Slushy from my grocery store once a week, as my "reward" for grocery shopping.
  • A chocolate milkshake after most my prenatal appointments in celebration of good news.
  • The "Hey Honey, know what sounds so good right now? (11pm)  A brownie batter Blizzard!" craving run.
  • I had no qualms about regularly snacking on oversized bowls of cereal in milk.
  • There were many days of bagels for breakfast, followed by bagels for lunch.
  • A frozen pizza for lunch --- all to myself? --- don't mind if I do (again!).
  • A big bowl of plain white rice and nothing else for lunch (maybe some soy sauce) sounded like health food.
  • Date nights of pasta following bread.
  • And let's not even talk about the last two weeks after my due date... eating like 10 chili cheese dogs per 24 hours.  (I had given up on grocery shopping --- the hubby suggested chili dogs, I was all in... and I was hungrier than ever, at all hours of the day!)
And let me tell you, I know I had added way more than the recommended 300 calories pregnancy addition to my day's worth of calories!  I didn't hold back.  
I mean seriously, McDonalds Large Coke has 310 calories alone!  And I know that wasn't all I added to my day.  

I passed my glucose tests just fine.  My midwives never asked me what I was eating; never told me what I should be eating.  No one ever told me to slow down on the weight gain --- it was pretty much on track.  If I'd had the baby at 40 weeks I would have gained 35lbs --- which is at the top of the recommended  range, so it must have looked fine.  (Although those last two post-due date starving weeks I added another 6 lbs.)  People at work would tell me it looked like I was doing well with my weight.  (So I would smile and eat more peanut M&Ms.)  No one thought my baby seemed big, even the sonogram people doing my post due date test.  
So basically there was just no attention whatsoever paid to my diet and it's outcome.  

But when my baby was finally out, my midwife asked,
 "Where were you hiding a 9 pound baby!?"

And... well, 
I had 41 lbs of baby weight to lose.  
(And it was not "all belly," as I would be occasionally told during pregnancy.  It was everywhere!)
(Also, you know what?  Technically, I was rocking an overweight BMI before I got pregnant --- so I really should have only gained like 15--25 lbs. instead of the recommended weight gain of 25--35lbs for someone of a healthy weight.  But, surprisingly, no one at my midwives' office ever mentioned that.)

Disclaimer: I know that pregnancy weight gain is an individual thing, and some women may just naturally gain more than the suggested range while eating a very healthy diet, and that's okay.  And these guidelines are just guidelines.  I'm definetly not pointing fingers or attacking anyone for specific pounds gained.  I'm just sharing my experience, which involves drastically different diets from my first pregnancy to my second.  

During my last weeks of pregnancy, as I hauled my huge self slowly around our tiny block, I KNEW I shouldn't be that big.  I could feel it.  I promised myself I would lose more than the baby weight, so that even with our next baby I would never be that big again.  

My daughter's birth was a cesarean birth, after an induction.  And while the c-section was done due to her malposition, it weighed on my mind that perhaps if I had been a healthier weight, or she had been smaller things could have possibly gone better.  And if that could be true, I sure as heck was gonna do better next time around!  

The idea sent me on a hunt to find out if I had somehow caused her to be big, and what could be done about it for Baby #2.  

At my annual appointment, one year after my first daughter's birth, I asked if there is anything I could do to try and have a smaller baby next time?  
And I was told, "Watching your carbs is really the main way to control both the mother's weight gain and the baby's birth weight."  
I asked something like, "So of course that means sugar is a BIG culprit in weight gain, since it's the most worthless of worthless carbs, right?"
And I was told, "Yes.  Mom's body can only process so much sugar, and after that the rest just goes into fattening up the baby."
I have since confirmed this school of thought on carbs (and of course sugar) through many difference sources.  

This knowledge, along with the explanation that a baby's birth weight being in the healthy range can aid in a healthy delivery, and what a healthy birth weight can mean for baby (when it's in your means to control) would have been very good to receive at my very first prenatal appointment.  But you live, you learn --- which is why I wanted to do this post.

Disclaimer: I know that women can have perfectly wonderful vaginal births with big babies, without even so much as a tear.  But it does make sense to consider size when preparing to fit something out of a tight space.  
And yes, I also acknowledge that genetics do come into play when considering baby's size.  But I've learned that's not the only factor.  
And yes, some women can eat what I did and still have a smaller baby than I had.  (Genetics.)  But if you know better, you can do better.  So why not use good information for good, and eat what you should?  

As you can see, I did indeed have a pretty solid amount of sugar during my first pregnancy.  (That McDonald's Coke has 86 grams of sugar all by itself!)  
And actually, I nearly depended on carbs for my source of daily calories when you think of all the bread, pasta and cereal I ate.  

This diet needs to be totally reversed.  
Carbs need to take a back seat.  
And protein needs to come front and center.  
Babies are made of protein, it makes sense you should provide them with plenty.  
(But this approach to food is a good one to take, pregnant or not!)  

Taking it all into consideration: 
This time around, I'm trying my hardest to adhere to a sugarless diet.  Since sugar is totally non-nutritional, I know I don't need it.  (I'm not talking natural sugars found in fruit --- those are nutritional.  But you really should be eating more veggies than fruit, when you get down to it!)  
And in leaving out those calories coming from sugar, I'm allowing myself more calorie-room in my day to eat good stuff.  I'm finding that it really is so much more filling!  I'm much less hungry this time around --- and I think it's due in large part to my body being satisfied with good things, so it doesn't need to beg me for more food.  

So what am I eating?  

I'm trying my best to adhere to "The Brewer Diet," or a basic variation of it.

*Please note that, while I am following the idea of the Brewer Diet, I never eat more than I'm hungry for. This diet suggests a lot of food. If you are not hungry enough to eat everything on the list in one day, please don't try and eat it all. (If you force food, you will force unnecessary pounds.) Just use the principals of nutritious foods eaten in a well balanced way and let the food groupings guide you in what you have during your day. I also have a hard time getting each day to be completely well rounded, so I look at it from a bit further out and try my best to make my week is a nice reflection of this diet.

The Diet Basics:

  • Have 80 -- 100 grams of protein a day
  • Eat at least two dark green vegetables a day.  
  • Eat two source of vitamin C per day. 
  • Eat one source of vitamin A per day.
  • Eat at least two or three servings of other vegetables a day.  
  • Eat one to two servings of fruit per day.  
  • Eat three to four milk products per day
  • Eat two eggs per day
  • Limit carbohydrates to whole grains --- This is where the variations come in:  Have no more than 5 servings a day (as suggested by the original Brewer Diet.)  But you can limit further, having only one whole grain a day, down to only 1 serving a week.  
  • Limit fats to two to three servings

The expanded "Brewer Diet":

1. Milk and milk products --- 4 choices per day
1 cup milk: whole, skim, 1%, buttermilk
1/2 cup canned evaporated milk: whole or skim
1/3 cup powdered milk: whole or skim
1 cup yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cottage cheese: creamed, uncreamed, pot style
1 large slice cheese (1 1/4 oz): cheddar, Swiss, other hard cheese
1 cup ice milk
1 1/2 cup soy milk
1 piece tofu, 3"x3"x 1/2" (4 oz)

2. Calcium replacements --- as needed, if avoiding milk products (2 per soy exchange from group 1)
36 almonds
1/3 cup bok choy, cooked
12 Brazil nuts
1 cup broccoli, cooked
1/3 cup collard greens
1/2 cup kale
2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
4 oz black olives
1 oz sardines

3. Eggs --- 2 any style, except runny, per day

4. Protein Combinations --- 6 to 8 choices per day
1 oz lean beef, lamb, pork, liver, or kidney
1 oz chicken or turkey
1 oz fish or shellfish
1/4 cup canned salmon or tuna
3 sardines
3 1/2 oz tofu
1/4 cup peanuts or peanut butter
1/8 cup beans + 1/4 cup rice or wheat
(measured before cooking)
beans: soy beans, peas, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzos
rice: preferably brown
wheat: preferably bulgar

1/8 cup brewer's yeast + 1/4 cup rice
1/8 cup sesame or sunflower seeds + 1/2 cup cup rice
1/4 cup rice + 1/3 cup milk
1/2 oz cheese + 2 slices whole wheat bread or 1/3 cup macaroni (dry) or noodles or 1/8 cup beans
1/8 cup beans + 1/2 cup cornmeal
1/8 cup beans + 1/6 cup seeds (sesame, sunflower)
1/2 large potato + 1/4 cups milk or 1/4 oz cheese
1 oz cheese: cheddar, Swiss, other hard cheese
1/4 cup cottage cheese: creamed, uncreamed, pot style

5. Fresh, dark green vegetables --- 2 choices per day
1 cup broccoli
1 cup brussels sprouts
2/3 cup spinach
2/3 cup greens
collard, turnip, beet, mustard, dandelion, kale
1/2 cup lettuce (preferable romaine)
1/2 cup endive
1/2 cup asparagus

6. Whole Grains ---  5 choices (or less) per day

1 waffle or pancake made from whole grain
1 slice bread
whole wheat, rye, bran, other whole grain
1/2 roll, muffin, or bagel made from whole grain
1 corn tortilla
1/2 cup oatmeal or Wheatena
1/2 cup brown rice or bulgar wheat
1 shredded wheat biscuit
1/2 cup bran flakes or granola
1/4 cup wheat germ

7. Vitamin C foods --- 2 choices per day
1/2 grapefruit
2/3 cup grapefruit juice
1 orange
1/2 cup orange juice
1 large tomato
1 cup tomato juice
1/2 cantaloupe
1 lemon or lime
1/2 cup papaya
1/2 cup strawberries
1 large green pepper
1 large potato, any style

8. Fats and oils --- 3 choices per day
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon mayonaise
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 avocado
1 tablespoon peanut butter++

9. Vitamin A foods --- 1 choice per day
3 apricots
1/2 cantaloupe
1/2 cup carrots (1 large)
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup winter squash
1 sweet potato

10. Liver --- at least once a week (optional)
4 oz liver
beef, calf, chicken, pork, turkey, liverwurst

11. Salt and other sodium sources --- unlimited
table salt, iodized, to taste
sea salt, to taste
kelp powder, to taste
soy sauce, to taste

12. Water --- unlimited
Drink to quench thirst, but do not force fluids

**Click Here For Brewer Diet Recipe Ideas**

**Please note that I am not a professional of any kind, just a girl who sought her hardest after a healthy pregnancy and VBAC during her second pregnancy. Please do seek your health care provider's advice on this subject and please use your best judgement in taking the best care of you and your baby!**

I'm fully expecting to give birth to a smaller newborn this time but, even if I don't, I won't regret eating healthily because:
  • I will have nourished my baby well.  (If she is smaller, there are many fewer health risks and concerns for babies of average size, compared to babies with a large birth weight.)
  • Physically, I have felt so much better overall throughout this pregnancy than I did last time.  
  • I'm anticipating getting to the end and having much less weight to lose this time, as I am gaining weight much slower this time than last.  
  • I'm cautiously hopeful that healthy-pregnancy-pounds come off faster than sugary-pregnancy-pounds.  (Not sure how true that is, but it's a nice thought.)  :)

Update on my outcomes as of 7/18/12:  
I didn't implement this diet until I was about half way through my pregnancy. During my first trimester, I was trying not to have carbs, but the only thing I could stomach was cheerios in milk, and I had to be ok with that until the nausea went away. 

By following this diet and staying active I was able to keep my weight gain to 32 lbs  this time as opposed to the 41lbs I gained in my first pregnancy.
And I found it was easier to lose it this time than last time.

My second baby was born 8 lbs 4 oz, compared to my 9 lb first born (both girls were born one day shy of 42 weeks gestation, which gave them both a while to grow inside -- unborn babies' weight gain is supposed to average a half pound a week starting at 33 weeks gestation). 

That's nine pounds less of expecting momma standing on the scale, and nearly a pound less of newborn baby, this time.  

My daughter has also been very healthy and happy.

After following this diet as best as I could (I wasn't perfect and I could have cut out more carbs than I did throughout my pregnancy ) and employing other helpful things (from my healthy pregnancy tips), I did go on to have a safe and healthy VBAC. 
If interested, you can read my birth story here.


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