Tuesday, October 23, 2012

what to eat when you're expecting

When I was pregnant with Vicki Jo, we took a 12-week childbirth education course called the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Childbirth. I really drank the kool aid on this one. It was such a formative experience for us as a couple. It impacted our childbirth experience dramatically, and resulted in a group of close friends (who I sadly left behind when we moved from Kansas to Tennessee).

The Bradley Method has strong nutritional guidelines for a healthy pregnancy and the avoidance of complications (recognizing that nothing can be fail-safe!). These guidelines rely heavily on the work of Dr. Tom Brewer. Here is a fantastic interview with him in which he details his history, his research, his findings, and his recommendations.

The three important things to remember about the Brewer diet are: (1) adequate protein; (2) salt to taste; (3) sufficient calories. These three things must go together. I think a lot of us using the diet get caught up on the protein part. But, by itself, it will not give the same benefits as the whole diet.

Hear me out, though. I know that there is no magic solution to the problems that can develop in pregnancy. I myself had high blood pressure and possible pre-eclampsia, in spite of following this diet pretty closely for most of my pregnancy. (I did eat out a ton and eat a lot more processed foods at that point, and my groceries were not very "clean," in terms of free-range, pastured, naturally grown, raw dairy, etc.) But I guess my reasoning is, How can eating very well, and not making any room for junk, be a bad idea when you're pregnant? It's not like I found following this diet so painful and onerous that I just didn't want to do it if it didn't "work" for me.

Okay, the nitty-gritty. The Brewer diet for pregnancy is:
*2 eggs daily
*1 quart milk daily (or 4 servings of dairy such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream)
*2 reasonably sized (3 oz or so) portions of meat or fish daily
*2 servings of something fresh, leafy and dark green (broccoli, dark lettuces, greens, kale, cabbage)
*4 servings of whole grain bread daily (cornbread, whole wheat, corn tortillas)
*1 vitamin C food daily (citrus, tomato, papaya, cantaloupe, strawberries, green pepper)
*3 servings of fat daily
*a yellow or orange vegetable five times weekly
*a baked potato three times weekly
*liver weekly

This is the uncomplicated outline that doesn't make my brain hurt. At the Brewer website, you can find extensive amounts of information about where different foods fall.

Things have been a little touch-and-go on the diet for this far. First thing: I don't really think it's necessary to have all that food (especially all the grains and all the servings of dairy) in the first trimester. The variety of fruits, veggies, protein, eggs, dairy - that's good. The growing fetus needs all those vitamins to build a skeleton and rudimentary organs.

But now I'm just about to second trimester (for the record - I think trimesters are kind of a load of crap. Women had babies for a whole lot of years before they knew what "trimester" they were in, and there is nothing about the baby's development that changes so distinctly between 12 and 13 weeks, or 27 and 28 weeks, know what I mean?). Time for young fetus to grow. To put on muscle and grow strong bones, he will need protein and calcium. Bring out the milk and meat.

Wondering what it looks like? Here's a "day in the life" (which may or may not ever have actually happened on a real day in my actual life):

Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled in butter, wheat toast, strawberries, milk
Lunch: big green salad with leftover sliced steak, homemade honey mustard dressing, cheese
Snack: crackers, yogurt dip
Dinner: salmon, carrots, brown rice, milk
Snack: ice cream

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