Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nutrition During Pregnancy

I've been asked several times recently about nutrition and supplements for pregnancy, and have also been reviewing my own notes for my own pregnancy, so I thought I'd share here about this timely-for-me topic for my own benefit, too. I have done much research on this and had a bit of experiential data (i.e. I've been pregnant before) to back up what is covered here. However, let the record show that I am not a girl who is into re-inventing the wheel, so most of what is to follow is from another lady's blog. Since Stephanie has done all the foot-work of gathering this information I'll just post it here with her blessing. I will only add my own personal notes here and there. This post is printed out and in the pregnancy file of my Family Health Notebook, anyway. It is too good not to share.

Diet For Pregnant Mothers (developed by Stephanie in 2004 during her last pregnancy)

1. 1 tablespoon cod liver oil daily (Vitamins A &D, Omega-3s, For good brain and dental development) **Very important** make sure you do this, even if you do nothing else and the rest of your diet is awful the whole day.

[Julie here: I have on my list to ask my midwife about this at the next appointment. I always take cod liver oil too, but I have been reading so much lately about the prudence of getting your levels tested first, that I'm going to check into it. Another thing that my midwife swears by is that cod liver oil makes your amniotic sac tough as nails. No worries about water breaking in the grocery store! It turned out to be true for me, as we had a really tough time getting my water to break so I could push during this last pregnancy - my first while taking cod liver oil.]

2. At least 2 servings of high calcium (containing highly absorbable calcium salts) foods daily: 1 cup of organic whole milk/kefir, 1 cup organic whole milk yogurt, 4 oz. cheese (no lowfat or fat free, the fat in dairy products helps in the absorption of the calcium), 1 cup of steamed cultivated or wild greens eaten with butter, 1 cup herbal infusion (see below)**All these foods contain at least 400 mg. calcium salts or more**

[Julie here:
My personal opinion is that any dairy items ought to be raw milk products. This is backed up extensively by Weston A. Price Foundation, Dr. Mercola, The Makers Diet, Nourishing Traditions, etc. My midwife says her patients who have raw milk always have bigger and healthier babies, too. (Our family does not buy any pasteurized dairy products because of issues with asthma and eczema that are exacerbated by pasteurized milk.) If we don't have raw milk available, we skip milk altogether... it is that important.

We have found a great way to prepare leafy green veggies (like collards, kale, etc.) while avoiding pork. (Most Southerners don't know you can make good "greens" without ham hock, but this is delish! We add a smidge of minced onion (dry or fresh) to the cooking pot, along with a frozen block of the yummy chicken stock (with a layer of healthy fat at the top) that we have made ahead and frozen. A bit of salt and pepper and a dash of Liquid Smoke makes them so yummy that my kids vie for who gets the "pot liquor" (that's the juice left over after cooking for you non-Southerners). ]

3. Butter and Coconut oil daily (saturated fat, lauric acid and vitamins A & D...coconut oil is especially good for breastfeeding. Lauric acid is not found in many foods, but it is found in high amounts in coconut oil and it’s one of the fatty acids unique to human breastmilk…it has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. ) Butter all your veggies and coconut oil is really good in shakes and as a oil/shortening replacement in baked goods.

[Julie here: Another great way to get coconut oil in is to add it to hot drinks. Hot tea is good, but hot chocolate, or even coffee is a real treat - if you like flavored coffee, that is. Anytime we fry any food, it is in coconut oil, because it is quite stable at high temperatures. I feel like I have a whole new life. As a Southern girl who was raised on fried food, it has given me back a few comfort foods that are (now) actually healthy.]

4. 2 or more high omega-3 eggs daily (These have too many nutrients to count!…what better for a growing baby than for it’s mother to eating another animal’s placenta, it’s the perfect pregnancy nutritional powerhouse.) Additional egg yolks daily (all the nutrients are in the yolks), added to smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, etc. **it’s OK to eat raw eggs as long as they are organic, and preferably free range, wash the egg and don’t let the egg come in contact with the outside of the shell since that is where the salmonella is, if it is there at all**

[Julie here: One of my favorite breakfasts on a hot summer day is homemade eggnog - and Sue Gregg has a great recipe. Don't get yourself stuck in a rut of scrambled eggs for breakfast everyday, or else you may burn out on them and miss this nutritional blessing.]

5. 4 oz. of red meat daily (protein, iron, all the essential amino acids, fat) preferably organic and/or pasture raised. Beef, lamb, veal, buffalo, venison and other wild game are all excellent choices.

6. 4 ounces organic liver at least once a week **For Iron and Vitamin A**(If you have been told to avoid liver for fear of getting "too much Vitamin A," be sure to read Vitamin A Saga at Remember, pregnancy is an extreme Iron-hungry state…be sure to get plenty of eggs, fish, liver, red meat, green leafy veggies and herbal infusions.

[Julie here: I have not been doing the liver thing, as organic is too hard to find, and too expensive once it is found. As a woman who once fell down the steps after baby number four because of the iron-deficiency anemia, I totally agree with the iron hungry part! I have made myself a tincture with Nettles, Dandelion Root, Dandelion Leaf and Yellowdock herbs to help combat this during this pregnancy. These are all herbs with great iron-boosting abilities, and other nutrients to help the iron be absorbed better. To further help with absorption AND to cut down the yucky taste of the Yellowdock, I mix my tincture dose with a little orange juice. The vitamin C from the juice helps the iron absorb better.]

7. 12 oz. of fish weekly... particularly wild salmon, chunk light tuna, sardines, and fish eggs/roe, only fish with both scales and fins and NO bottom feeders! NO shrimp, crabs or lobsters (Omega –3s, easy to digest protein, minerals, Vitamins A & D…esp. in the fish eggs)

[Julie here: Please don't bother with farm-raised salmon or Albacore tuna, as they are both high in toxins. If you're not too fond of fish, a cool recipe you can try is the Anchovy Salad Dressing from Nourishing Traditions on leafy green salads. It includes a whole can of anchovies, but if you don't know it is in there, you can't tell. It doesn't taste "fishy".]

8. At least 1 cup. (preferably more) of dark leafy greens daily, steamed, raw or stirfry with coconut oil or in soups. **Spinach, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, brussel sprouts all needed to be eaten cooked as they contain certain chemicals that can harm the body if eaten raw. They contain Goitrogens that interfere with thyroid function and oxalic acid which blocks calcium absorption.** Proper thyroid functioning and calcium are both very important during pregnancy.

9. Unlimited vegetables and fruits-preferably raw, lightly steamed or cooked with meat. Esp. good ideas for pregnancy are: Pineapple, all berries, dark purple plums and prunes, dark purple grapes and raisins, bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic, zucchini, peppers (hot and sweet)

10. Unlimited Lacto-Fermented Foods-esp. sauerkraut, fermented sweet potato, beet kvass, homemade ginger ale, and kombucha (Probiotics, trace minerals, lactic acid…all help digestion and the proper assimilation of other nutrients)

[Julie here: I have become a huge fan of Kombucha during pregnancy after learning how many B Vitamins it has. It is also a wonderful way for this girl who is not good at drinking enough to get in extra fluids. And if you don't know much about lacto-fermented veggies, do some homework now, so that when your garden is ready this summer, or the prices in the stores are way low, you can make some for yourself! They are so easy! They are so delicious! You may never go back to vinegar pickles again. After eating the yummy lactic acid fermented kind, my kids refuse the vinegary ones. And even Mr. Visionary, who won't touch vinegar with a ten-foot pole loves our homemade pickles and sauerkraut! ]

11. Unlimited Homemade Bone Broth: Chicken, Beef, Lamb, or Fish broth used in soups, stews and sauces (calcium, trace minerals, protein, gelatin, iron) I've always found a cup of hot broth to be very soothing and nourishing during early pregnancy.

[Julie here: For a girl who was raised with gravy as a beverage (OK, just about), I have no problem getting lots of good bone broth into out diet. We save bones in the freezer until it is a good time to make broth, make the broth (in the crock pot is an easy way) then freeze the broth in quart or pint containers. ]

12. Soaked/Sprouted whole grains and legumes…oatmeal, sprouted or sourdough whole grain bread, wild rice, brown rice, lentils, etc. (properly prepared whole grains contain a lot of trace minerals and B vitamins…esp. if you buy organic.) If you are watching your weight limit these to only 1-2 small servings a day.

13. Use high quality moist grey celtic sea salt to taste on food (salt is very important for baby’s development…esp. the brain, contains many trace minerals, nutrients, and natural iodine)

[Julie here: Our budget has not allowed the Celtic sea salt, but we use Real Salt from our bulk co-op. Regular old sea salt is great, too, just know that Iodized Salt from the grocery store is *not* a health-supporting food. Avoid it like the plague, as all salt is not the same - my little brother with high blood pressure has figured this out the hard way.]

14. At least 8 cups of filtered water daily. **Very important since the amniotic fluid is entirely replaced every three hours, dehydration is also one of the main causes of miscarriage** Try to drink naturally sparkling high mineral water for extra minerals, it’s great with dinner, iced with a slice of lime or lemon added, or half and half with concord grape juice (high in antioxidants).

[Julie here with a confession: I stink at getting in enough fluids. I just don't know what the hang-up is, but sometimes plain water makes me feel barfy (and yes our well water has been tested, and it is great). I also hate, hate hate, Red Raspberry tea. I don't know why I hate it so much, but I can't get it down. After finding millions of glasses that I had made and left sitting on the counter, I finally stopped trying to convince myself that "I will really drink it this time". I finally gave in and cut myself a little slack in order to get in enough fluids. I'll make some herbal tea with a smidge of sugar, or water down some juice (a lot) in order to help me drink more. Ideally, I'd rather not have the extra few calories from the sugar or juice, but it is way better than being dehydrated. Being due in the summer, I don't want to risk miscarriage for a few calories, not to mention dehydration increases Braxton Hicks contractions. ]
These are the things you should work to AVOID when you are pregnant: Trans fatty acids (e.g., hydrogenated oils), junk foods, commercial fried foods (home fried foods fried in coconut oil are fine), caffeine, sugar, white flour, soft drinks, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (even prescription drugs).

**If you crave chocolate, it’s a sure sign of Magnesium deficiency…drink lots of beef/fish broth, herbal infusions (esp. nettles) and high mineral water as they are all excellent sources of usable magnesium.

**Try to buy Organic food where your budget permits, if you can do nothing else at least buy high omega-3 organic eggs…nothing can beat them for nutrition!

Herbs For Pregnancy (all pregnancy herbs are also good for breastfeeding)

-Red Raspberry Leaf infusion: strengthens uterus so that contractions are more productive at the time of labor and delivery, increases milk production

-Stinging Nettle infusion: an excellent nutritive tonic, esp. for iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin K and for increasing breastmilk. Very High In Iron!

-Red Clover infusion: eases constipation, strengthens liver, and keeps breast milk rich, is also complimentary to Red Raspberry leaf (best used in a 1 to 1 ratio with red raspberry)

[Julie here: I have read a lot of sources that contraindicate Red Clover during pregnancy, so I avoid it. Please do your own homework to decide for yourself which herbs you feel comfortable taking during pregnancy or nursing.]

-Dandelion Root Tincture: supports liver function, which is very important during pregnancy since the liver has a lot of extra work to do in supporting the baby. Morning sickness is a typical sign that the liver may not be up to par, so is itchy sensitive skin (not just on the belly) and heartburn before the 3rd trimester begins.

Basic Infusion Recipe: 1 Qt. of boiling water added to 1 oz. of dried herb, allow to steep for at least 4 hours, store in fridge (taken from Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year By Susun Weed). However I usually just leave the herbs in there and strain the liquid as I drink it. 2 qt. mason jars work really well for making these infusions.

**I usually drink 1c. of red raspberry mixed with 1c. red clover infusion, and 1 cup of nettle infusion on most days (4-5 days a week)…you should drink up to 5 cups of red raspberry infusion daily from week 37 of pregnancy till delivery. I also have a pregnancy tea recipe that can be used daily, instead of drinking the infusions...which are very strong tasting and best for acute probelms. Check your local natural foods store or shop online for herbs in bulk (I buy most of mine from they are usually very cheap. At my local natural food store it's only 62 cents an ounce for Red Raspberry Leaf. The Dandelion root tincture I take when I sense that my liver needs it.

Information taken from:

The Brewer Diet (
The Weston A. Price Foundation (
Nourishing Traditions By Sally Fallon
Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year By
Susun Weed
Dr. Joseph Mercola (

[Julie here: I also have made my own pregnancy vitamins, as a supplement to my diet. I will make this a separate post, though, because I want to share what I put in them and how I made them.]


  1. Shalom Julie - Wow your (& Steph's) list is daunting to this gal who's just barely able to get off the couch a few hours a day !:) I'm always completely amazed that I don't malnourish my poor little baby during months 2 & 3 of my pregnancies.

    You have many good foods listed here. I usually become anemic in spite of a good diet around ms. 7 & 8 and I won't eat liver (sorry liver fans). My midwife loves clorophyll for increasing iron. I do not. I love Flouradix. It is expensive, in maine about $21 for a big bottle, but always before by the time I've gone through the bottle, my iron is good. It's all natural. I wish I could afford to use their formulas on a regular basis.

    Thank you for sharing your nutrition information with us.


  2. Excellent list!!!! I'm going to have to come back and check out all of the links, of time I sit down with the babe to nurse. I also want to "bookmark" this page in the event of ANOTHER little one some day!

  3. being pg myself and going it alone this time i really enjoyed this post. thanks!

  4. Hi! I've just come to read your blog in the last week or two and have really enjoyed it. You mentioned making your own prenatal vitamins...I am intrigued and would absolutely love to know how.

  5. When my iron was low, I took some NutraEarth. They no longer make it but I am sure there is something out there that is similiar.

  6. I love this! Thanks for sharing so much info. I don't know if God has in store for us to have another baby; but if I do get pregnant I am coming back to here to read again.


  7. Julie, I have copied this all off for reference if we are ever blessed with another little one some day :) . Thank you for posting this!

    You mentioned Sue Gregg had a recipe for eggnog that you used for breakfast. Is it there on the site you linked to? Or in one of her books? -if so, which one? I had been thinking (since reading Nourishing Traditions) that eggnog would make a great food for pregnant moms and growing little ones, if it weren't for all the sugar, so I am really curious how she does it.

    Thanks again, and I hope you and the twins are all doing well. Don't forget to drink some water now when you read my comment ;) ! -I always wished I had a reminder service for drinking when I was pregnant!


  8. [...] Nutrition During Pregnancy. This list of foods you should eat details how much and why they are important. There’s also a section at the end that lists herbs for pregnancy. [...]


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