Ep. 156: Optimizing Nutrition while Pregnant

By: Cassy Joy Garcia
Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, I'm chatting with listener Kendra about how to optimize nutrition while pregnant.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 156 optimizing nutrition while pregnant with Cassy Joy

We're back with our 156th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 156 Sponsors

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Episode 156 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And I am thrilled to have you all with me today. Today is a special interview, because it’s a reverse interview. What the heck is a reverse interview? If you're a new listener here, I’ll briefly describe it. It’s where Fed and Fit listener, reader {laughs} I was going to say follower, someone who follows the work in some regard. Whether it’s the podcast, the book, or the blog, or online writes in with a really great question. And instead of politely answering their question, like they’ve asked me to via email, I instead turn the table and invite them to come onto the podcast so they can ask me on a recording. With the hopes that the conversation then benefits a bunch of folks. And I have a feeling today’s will.

So today we’re chatting with Kendra. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Welcome to the show!

Kendra: Thank you! I’m so excited to be on. Thank you for having me.

Cassy Joy: Thank you so much for making the time to come on. I’m thrilled to chat with you. I was going to ask her before I started recording; are you a Packers fan?

Kendra: It’s actually a funny story. I’m originally from Minnesota, and my teenage rebellion I always say is that I became a Packers fan, because my whole family is Vikings fan. So it’s kind of ironic that my husband and I ended up moving to Green Bay last year for his job. So I am a Packer fan in a divided household in Green Bay. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Oh, that is hysterical! I am a Packers fan with no ties to Green Bay at all. {laughs}

Kendra: {laughs} That was me until last year. And then randomly we just ended up moving here.

Cassy Joy: That is so funny. We were always; I might have shared this story before. Sorry about the tangent. I just; they have a special place in my heart. My family, there’s three of us girls. We all went to Texas A&M University. And we all really love college football. That is my jam. But as soon as college football season was over, my sisters and I kind of became disinterested in sports. {laughs} And my dad; it was just so funny because he really loved those football days when we’d all get together and watch a game together.

And it was several years ago, Green Bay opened up a portion of their shares. And they’re more so just tokens that you can go and buy a portion of the Green Bay Pack. Anyway, for Christmas one year he got all of us, whatever 0.00% of a share. So he was hoping that he could convince us to have a reason to root for a professional football team. And you know what; it eventually worked {laughs}.

Kendra: {laughs} That’s so great.

Cassy Joy: So anyway, go Pack! That’s so exciting. Anyways, we don’t have to talk about sports ball the whole time. {laughs}

Kendra: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Welcome to the show. I know that you have some questions. I would love it if you could share a little bit more about yourself first before maybe getting to your questions. And then like I said beforehand; I’m all yours for the next 30 minutes.

Kendra: Great. Thank you. My major question; I’m about 19 weeks pregnant right now.

Cassy Joy: Congratulations!

Kendra: Thank you! I’m due in May. I’m super excited. I have one son right now, and they’ll be about 2 years apart almost exactly. I’m pretty excited to see my little guy become a big brother in a few months. My major question; I’ll go into the background on the question a little bit. How do you change your diet while you're pregnant?

Just a little bit about me is growing up, I grew up believing, as I’m sure a lot of people did, in that time I grew up believing that fat is bad and anything fat-free and sugar-free meant healthy. I was overweight, and very self-conscious and aware that my body was not where I wanted it to be.

Then when I went to college, I gained a little bit more weight due to just emotional eating and change and transition. And I felt absolutely at my lowest. And I was fed up. When I moved off campus, I began cooking for myself and gained a love for cooking and real foods. I lost weight, and just did that by knowing what I was eating. Just intuitive eating. I ended up losing about 30 pounds, and was just listening to my body and what my body really wanted and needed at that time. I started working out because I wanted to, not because I was on a sports team. And I finally felt the way I wanted to feel.

So a couple of years later then when I got married; I married a very picky eater. And my eating habits changed again, just because I had to cook for him too. And I ended up putting on weight. And when I did, I decided to start dieting to lose weight. And it led to years of restricted eating, and trying different diets. It really messed with my mindset on food.

Since I was a great intuitive eater, I didn’t really know where to go. I felt controlled by food at that point. Then when I got pregnant the first time, I fell back into some bad eating habits. And after being sick my first trimester, it was like I didn’t want to eat anything. And that kind of carried over. So I was craving sugar and carbs, and that was the only thing I felt like I could keep down at that point. And I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy and was super self-conscious about my growing and changing body. Which, I mean a lot of that was just because I was pregnant and your body grows and changes so much.

When I had my son, then, I began learning more about paleo and clean eating lifestyle. And at that point, I was just sick of dieting. And I was breastfeeding, so I didn’t want to go into restricting my calories or restricting my food. And I was just fed up with diets. I did not want to do that again.

So I went back to; I just tried to start learning about more intuitive eating, and trying to get back to that and listening to my body. And I was; actually I found it easier to do at that point because I was breastfeeding. And it was so clear what my body would respond to, because my milk supply was affected by what I was eating.

So during that time I tried a Whole30, and I felt amazing after it. And I was able to change what I was eating and what I was doing based on how my milk supply responded. And it showed me exactly what I needed. So that was really good. But then when I got pregnant again, the same thing happened in my first trimester. And I was moving; we bought a house.

So with the food aversions, I didn’t want anything to do with any type of meat. It grossed me out at that time. Which I normally love. But I couldn’t cook; I couldn’t do anything. And I felt sick, and I didn’t want to eat anything. So I went back into just basically whatever I could keep down. Which ended up being a lot of carbs and sugar.

And now I’m wanting to get back into eating healthier. And what I know is good for myself, and good for the baby. But I want to be aware of what my body is doing. I would normally just jump in and dive right in and say; “Ok, no more. We’re doing. I’m just going to start this and do this. But I don’t want to do that if that’s going to be a shock to my system, like I know it can be. And it’s going to affect the baby. So I just feel like I don’t really know where to start, or how to go about it when I am pregnant.

So my question is; again, how do you do that when your pregnant? How do you change your diet, but also keep the baby and pregnancy in mind, knowing that things are a little bit different right now?

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh, what a great question. And thank you for the great background. That’s so valuable. I was nodding my head along. So many things that you said that resonates with me and things that I’ve learned personally and went through on the mental side of becoming pregnant, and your body changing. And especially; now that this is your second time through, you probably know a little bit better what to expect as far as your body changing. But man, that first go-around it can really be jarring.

Kendra: Yeah, definitely. It definitely is.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Because for me, I remember, especially in that first trimester, my body; in practice, logically. You probably know this as well. Logically, we can think; obviously our body is going to change in order to help support a baby. Right? In that first trimester, our body is going to change and adjust, and we’re going to put on weight where we need to put on weight in order to really build a health foundation for baby. Right?

And so for me, I had a little bit of weight to gain. I needed to gain a little bit of weight. But gaining that weight, before you really feel like the baby is gaining weight {laughs} is a little bit of a system shock. I didn’t know to expect that. And it was something that I just; it was something that I had to figure out. Because when my body started gaining weight is when I started introducing; and I’m just sharing this piece of it just so you know. I really do identify with that part of your story.

I think that what my body changing caused me to question was; am I doing something wrong? Because for so long, on our healthy lifestyle. Just like these different protocols that you’ve been through. Whether it’s a true paleo one, or intuitive eating. Something that you’ve figured out works for yourself kind of that north star of progress is; how are my jeans fitting? Right? You know by now that it doesn’t so much matter what number shows up on the scale. You probably understand that. You’re paying attention to your energy levels and how your clothes are fitting.

And you know that’s going to be a moving target. But now, all of a sudden, everything gets flipped on it’s head. Because your energy levels are low, and because you're going through this first trimester. So energy kind of tends to plummet around that time because of hormonal changes. You have all these other symptoms that tend to pop up. And then you start gaining weight in areas where you weren’t before, it causes us to think; “What am I doing wrong?”

So I completely get that. And something that I had to work through on my own was I had to really understand and be ok with knowing that my body just needed a healthier foundation. And probably how you saw, in your first pregnancy. I got to a point where my body; I felt like my body stopped building, and it just started to go to baby. Our bodies are so wise. And they figure that out. Anyway. I just wanted you to know that I emotionally get that. I definitely went through that.

Now, nutritionally, how to make changes. I also went through that, as well. Because when I first got pregnant; it’s not that I was surprised that we were going to have a baby. Necessarily caught off guard in that way. What caught me off guard was the complete abandon of my nutrition principles. {laughing}

Kendra: Yep. Been there. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Yes! That caught me off guard. Because I love the way I eat. It’s not a challenge. I love having kale for breakfast. And I love all of these other healthy foods. I love it. It’s not something that I have to work on. It’s an intuitive eating for me. And that’s something that I’ve built over years, similar to what you were talking about.

My first trimester symptom were migraine headaches. And all of a sudden, I came down with these headaches and it just; I shrugged. For whatever reason, that desire to really continue down and be an intuitive healthy eater just fell out the window! And what I was left with was; if I needed food, I just grabbed food. And for me, that turned out to be gluten-free graham crackers that were in my pantry.

I’ve talked about them a lot before. I happened to have ordered a few too many of them on Amazon. You know when you click, “Give me 6 boxes of 6.” {laughs} Instead of whatever it is. So, I felt like that’s what kept me alive during that time period. And then my body is changing. And now I’m thinking; “Oh my gosh. What am I doing to myself? Am I hurting my body? Am I hurting the baby?”

It’s just not ideal. So you start going down that rabbit hole and being really hard on yourself. So, I had to go through that same thing where I was like; is it important for me to change the nutrition for the sake of these symptoms or for the sake of the baby? Or is part of the process? And that’s a question everybody is going to answer for themselves. But I found that after my symptoms started to subside, and I got a little bit more of my willpower back.

And it’s not even willpower in the sense that I go through every day with the willpower to not drive through the donut shop. Right? It’s not like that kind of willpower. But the desire to eat really healthy, nourishing foods. That came back naturally as soon as some of my symptoms started to subside. And I just had to trust the process that eventually that too would pass. And it eventually did.

And what I started to do from a nutrition science perspective; because I don’t want to make any major, drastic changes. I was very high carb during the first trimester. And I’m relatively high carb in general. I’m a very carb; my body tends to be very carb tolerant. But I was especially high carb with those graham crackers; there’s not a whole lot else in there. It was very high carb in that first trimester. And I had no desire to metabolically shift those macros going into the second trimester.

This is the longest answer to your great, simple question ever. But my game plan, and what I would encourage you to think about is when you're wanting to switch out some of those foods. Some of those more snacky indulgent foods, knowing that you want to make better healthy choices for you and for baby, maybe it’s not so much about eliminating foods as it is about replacing macronutrients with other alternatives in that same category.

So, for example. The way that I did that is I got to a point where I had had enough graham crackers. And instead of eating graham crackers, I went to the grocery store and bought more fruit than you can shake a stick. And I just started eating a ton of fruit. And even though that’s more fruit than I normally would have eaten maybe not pregnant; I know that my body needs the carbohydrates. It needs the fructose. It needs the really good, healthy sugars. And that’s what I was craving. So I swapped it, one for one. If that makes any sense.

Kendra: Yes it does.

Cassy Joy: I swapped it for a better option. And I started to feel better. It was a slow transition. It was kind of like; the fog is starting to lift again. But I really started to feel better. That’s when I went on a crazy pomegranate kick. Oh my gosh, I think I ate a whole bushel of pomegranates myself. But that’s ok. Those kinds of nutrients are great. The really good carbs are great. They’re going to be able to extract what they need from us, and the things that we can nourish ourselves with are really great bonus nutrients.

Liz Wolfe and I recorded a show; it hasn’t aired yet. But she’ll be on the podcast sometime soon. Or maybe she’ll already have been on {laughs} by the time this episode comes out. I kind of lose track of what’s going up when. But one of the things that she talks about is us not being so hard on ourselves on what nutrients exactly we need when during pregnancy.

Because yes, our nutrient needs change by trimester. They do. And there are certain things that would be really great for us to have; like choline and methylated folate and vitamin A. Those kinds of really great, wonderful nutrients that we’re going to get from really good, high quality food sources. But that doesn’t mean that just because we are also snacking on more; right now it’s a couple of days before Christmas. These Christmas cookies constantly, for me. It doesn’t mean that I’m doing anything to hurt baby. Anyway, I’m gibber-jabbering. I hope some of this is helpful.

Kendra: It is.

Cassy Joy: Ok good. I would just swap it in for a healthier alternative, and start there. And then when your baby is here. And like you said before, if you're nursing with the second baby also; let your milk supply be your guide. And then once that’s over, we can go back to kind of relearning our body and letting our body be our guide again. As far as what we really need.

So healthy swaps. If we find ourselves, during pregnancy, jumping into a ton of carbs. Really refined carbohydrates, a lot of sugars. First and foremost, don’t beat yourself up. It’s normal. You're good. You're fine. Everything is going to be ok. Your body is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s way smarter than we are.

But if you're feeling like you want to make a change, then make a change in quality, not quantity. So, swap out some of the cookies and graham crackers and other things that are haunting you for fruit. A lot of fruit. Fruit is really great for baby making. And if it’s fats; if you're craving salty French fries, and you find yourself in the drive through of the burger place. And you just want the salt, and the oils, and the fried stuff, then put an extra dollop of fat or oil or ranch dressing or something on your food from home.

So don’t be afraid of the amount of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and proteins that you're eating. I would jut focus on where those are coming from and trying to maximize food quality. Does that make sense?

Kendra: It does, yes. Very much so. Thank you.

Cassy Joy: And if you're worried about quick transitions; trust your instinct there in some ways. If you do have some feelings of caution or forbearing. Of course, always talk with your physician before you make any drastic changes. I’m saying this more so for people listening. But talk with your physician before you make any huge changes.

But also remember that slow changes are great, but if you find yourself just ready one day. Like for me, one day I woke up and I was like; if I never see another graham cracker, it will be too soon.

Kendra: Good feeling.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, so I was ready for it at that point in time. I hope that’s helpful and not too rambly.

Kendra: No, that’s great. Definitely that resonated with me. I think I have heard you talk about before just how in that first trimester, your body kind of fell back to what it had been previously. And that definitely was the case for me. And that was really hard. It was hard after all that work and all of those changes that I’ve made in the past. It just really messed with my mindset.

So I was super sensitive, especially with my first go-round. Just being at a point where I was sensitive to what everybody said to me. Even if they were just talking about the baby; if they talked about my body at all, I was like; ok. Hold on here. I’m trying to have more grace for myself this time. And nutritionally, too, I’m trying to have more grace for myself. But it just was frustrating when that was the case when I made all those changes and I went back into nothing sounded good to me, and I wanted; like you said, the graham crackers or whatever. Just snacky stuff and carbs and sugar or whatever. But it makes a lot of sense to just listen to that desire of your body. But then be swapping it out for healthier alternatives too.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. That’s awesome. And I think that you put it so well. And I had talked about it a couple of times. I think it deserves to have more attention. When women do first become pregnant, I don’t want them to feel alone in that kind of sensitivity about their body. Because it’s kind of hush-hush. Because you're very excited. And it doesn’t mean that you're not grateful for the experience. But I also do want folks to remember that you're not alone if you're feeling extra sensitive.

I had a friend who commented on the size of how big I was at that point in time. And she was like, “Are you sure you aren’t further along?” Or something along those lines. And it’s one of those things, Kendra. Gosh darn it, I wish I could forget it. But I can’t! {laughs}

Kendra: I know! {laughs} that are so many things like that too, for me. Where I was like; oh man. And it’s not a bad thing. But it just, where you're at in that point and in your mindset it really just kind of struck a chord.

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Cassy Joy: It does. It’s the other piece. It’s the straw on the camel’s back. It’s not just that what she said threw me off; but it was everything combined. And that was just the last straw. Not that anything broke or anything. But it is. I think it’s normal to feel a little sensitive. That’s a great question. Do you have any other questions? I’m sorry that one took so long.

Kendra: No, no. I think my other question is just; I’ve heard you talk about the Perfect You Plan a lot, and I’m wondering if pregnancy kind of changes that. For example; the last time around when I had my baby and I was breastfeeding, I cut out all dairy no matter what. And mainly because my baby was sensitive to that. And then as I started adding it back in later when he was not nursing so much, I realized that I was sensitive to it. And now that I’m pregnant again, I’m feeling that it ‘s not messing with me as much as it did.

Does pregnancy change those things in you? Am I going to have to reevaluate what works for me postpartum? I guess I do know that it’s a constant changing game. But what is your thoughts on just reevaluating and finding what works for you again postpartum.

Cassy Joy: Great question. I’m going to try to speak as generally as possible, but pregnancy really does, as far as biochemistry of our body, it turns it on it’s head. And there are some things that we may have been sensitive to before that now we find we’re less sensitive to, and vice versa.

So before pregnancy, I never got a migraine. Now all of a sudden, wheat gluten induces migraines for me. So I became more sensitive to wheat gluten. But I am significantly less sensitive to dairy. So it really does change things. So that perfect you plan; and what Kendra is referring to, it’s the concept. I would consider it to be, not that it’s a destination because you're never really done working on it. But it’s essentially the goal of any kind of a healthy lifestyle. Figuring out; these things work for me, these things don’t really work for me. And I’m just going to go ahead and live my life away from what I would consider to be dogmatic dietary rules.

Essentially, that intuitive eating within the parameters of what works for your body, not necessarily what folks are telling you on a commercial on TV. That we should or should not be eating. So that definitely changes in pregnancy. It’s really interesting. And I want to understand more. It’s going to be a pretty interesting subject to continue to study. And I know that’s something that Liz Wolfe is pouring into her Baby Making and Beyond program. It’s kind of some of that.

But, yes it can. What you are or are not sensitive to can definitely change and evolve during pregnancy. And then again afterwards. And it doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re going to revert back to exactly where you were before. It could be a completely different version of you. Because your body has just been through something very significant again. And it could totally change and leave you forever changed; not just physically, emotionally, but also on a chemical/molecular level.

So it definitely can change. And I think it’s good to kind of enter into those seasons. Like you're already doing, with that preemptive sense of grace. Giving yourself grace to figure it out, and know that things may be different. And when we know that things might be different, I feel like it helps us be a little less frustrating with the process. Because it can be frustrating, figuring all that stuff out again.

Kendra: Absolutely. Especially when you're trying to care for a baby. And in that postpartum phase you're trying to figure out a baby but you're so engrossed in this new human being that’s relying on you. So it’s a different phase of trying to just keep you as a priority and knowing that taking care of you is good for the baby, too. But also balancing that with keeping another human being alive.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh. Oh man. I’m three weeks out. I don’t know {laughing} This is going to rock my world, Kendra.

Kendra: It’s so wonderful, though. You are absolutely going to love it. I can’t wait for you. I can’t wait to see pictures. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Aww, thank you so much. But you're so right. That’s exactly it. And I think that above all, something that Brianna Battles. And I keep quoting her on this. And she says she didn’t coin this term, but she’s where I heard it first. And I’m one of those people that; I will fall all over myself to give credit where credit is due.

But one of the things she said, and I think it’s a great reminder. Pregnancy is temporary, but postpartum is forever. And I would venture; I think Brianna touched on this, as well. But I would venture that that fourth trimester could be considered a part of pregnancy. You know? It’s kind of that fuzzy gray area. And just kind of giving ourselves the most about of grace and the most amount of space to let our bodies be what they will be. We are going to do our best. But at the end of the day, this is just a phase.

This is just temporary. We’re going to focus on making a healthy baby. We’re going to focus on of course keeping ourselves healthy. But this is just a phase. It will pass. And then we will be even better prepared to heal ourselves for the very long-term, the postpartum afterwards.

Kendra: Absolutely.

Cassy Joy: Well awesome. Kendra, thank you so much for coming on today’s show, and asking your great questions and sharing your awesome story.

Kendra: Thank you so much for having me. It was such an honor to be on today.

Cassy Joy: Oh my goodness. The honor is all mine! I wish you the best. I wish you all the best in 2018, and with your new little arrival. It’s just so exciting for you and your family. Football season is over by the time this will air. {laughing} But go team! And thanks everybody who dialed in and listened. As always, you can find a complete transcript of today’s show over at www.FedandFit.com And we’ll be back again next week.


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