Paleo and Pregnant?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Edit:  I wrote this 2 months ago, but am just posting it now!

fresh caught seafood in Mexico.  
paleo crab cakes, salmon and sushi!
me, 7 months preggers with Sisi. picture by Trista Lerit Photography.

As I write this, I'm 8 weeks pregnant and dying to vent a little bit! I know this won't be posted for at least another month or two because we are being extra secretive about this pregnancy, but I needed to get these words out.

I'm writing to say that being pregnant and paleo is extremely hard.  For me, it's been impossible.  I consider myself pretty disciplined when it comes to food.  I've been mostly paleo for almost 3 years and plan on sticking with it for the rest of my life. I love the way I feel on this diet and don't want to go back to the bloated, sluggish feeling I was so used to before.  BUT between nausea, hypersensitive gag reflex, and the most intense food aversions ever, my standard fare of eggs, meat, salads, veggies, and protein shakes is just not gonna happen right now.  Just typing out those words makes my stomach turn.

For those who have never experienced food aversions, let me just say there is no way to just buck up and overcome them.  This article says it shouldn't be called food aversion, it should be called "food aww hell no!!!"   

My aversions change daily, but right now these are the things that make me want to vomit:
  • any herbs and spices (especially basil and cumin!  yuck!)
  • cooking oil (especially coconut!)
  • fish, shrimp, and most meat, including bacon
  • red wine, even the faintest smell of it
  • coffee, chocolate, cocoa butter
  • coconut milk and coconut anything
  • eggs 
  • cooked veggies 
  • sweet potatoes and squash
  • salad, especially kale salad 
  • anything I cook myself 
  • sweets and paleo pastries
What does that leave me with?  Not much.  

I'm trying so hard to stick to two mostly paleo meals a day.  I make a breakfast smoothie with fruit, heavy  cream, and raw egg yolks so I'll at least start the day off with some fat and nutrients.  I end the day with a paleo dinner (relying a lot on tuna salad and Paleo-on-the-go frozen meals, although sometimes I really have to force them down.)  I take breaks on the couch if I'm feeling nauseous while I eat, and then return to try to eat a little bit more.  

But for lunch, I'm usually starving and desperate.   I can't stand my own cooking, so I eat out.  I find that if someone else makes it, I don't have time to get grossed out.  I order it, it appears before me, and I chow it down without thinking about it too much. One time it was just chipotle chips with guacamole. Another time in-n-out protein burger and fries.  Some days I crave rubios grilled fish tacos. Thai soup with a big mound of rice.  Sushi rolls.  On really bad days, I 've had to resort to gluten-free bagels (the ingredient list is filled with processed crap), rice crackers and gluten free bread.  Something about early pregnancy just makes you want bland carbs.  When I carried Sisi, I lived on mini-pretzels.  

I am trying really hard not to be too liberal with my eating.  Pregnancy is a precious time when you are setting the foundation for your child's lifelong health.  But at the same time, I honestly believe food aversions cannot just be ignored.  For me right now, telling me to eat salmon is like telling me to eat poo on a plate.  It's just not going to happen.  I probably sound annoying and dramatic right now, but the first trimester (and for some unfortunate mamas the whole pregnancy) can feel intensely awful. Getting enough to eat becomes this big burden.  Sometimes I lie in bed in the morning and dread the day because I know I have to eat but don't want to.

My advice to pregnant gals trying to stick to the paleo diet:

  •  Be gentle with yourself.  Know that the food aversions will probably pass, and you will eventually want healthy food again.  Please don't feel guilty if you have to reach for something you normally wouldn't eat.  
  • That nauseous feeling is made much worse by an empty stomach, so you do want to get something in your belly. 
  • At the same time, do try to stick to your diet as much as possible.  If you already know you don't do well on gluten or dairy, try not to go there.  It's not worth making yourself sick or inflammed. 
  • Most pregnant ladies are okay with fruity smoothies, so try to pump them up nutritionally with high quality whey protein powder, or egg yolks, or MCT/coconut oil, avocados, greens, whatever you can handle.  You basically have to sneak it in, plug your nose, and gulp it down.  
  • My husband is way stricter with his diet than I am with mine, and I could tell it made him uncomfortable to see things like bagels and bread in the fridge.  It did hurt my feelings at first when he seemed so disapproving, but communication is the key.  I sent him this article explaining in detail what a food aversion feels like, and tried my best to explain what I was going through.  After that, he kept pretty quiet about it.  
  • This article has some more really great tips about surviving food aversions! 
UPDATE:  I'm 16 weeks now, and am back to the paleo diet.  I think I'm one of the lucky ones, because my aversions and nausea went away at about 10 weeks, never to return.  I feel almost silly for agonizing over the fact that I couldn't stick to the paleo diet that first tri.  I was so worried that I'd ruined 3 years of careful food consumption in one month, but that wasn't the case.  I woke up one day and eggs and bacon sounded good again.  The next week, I could drink coconut milk in my smoothies and eat roasted veggies for dinner again.  Now, all the things on that aversions list are the things I eat with joy (still don't want coffee though- ick).  

ALSO, IN CASE YOU'RE WORRIED:  You may be wondering if a paleo diet is safe during pregnancy, since it contains so much fat, protein, and so few carbs (here is a basic overview of what paleos eat during pregnancy).  After a ton of research (this book is great!), 3 years of glowing health on the diet, plus regular blood tests that reveal my HDL cholesterol is sky high (a good thing), my triglycerides super low (a great thing), and everything else in in tip top shape, I am absolutely sure this is a wonderful way to nourish myself and my growing baby.  I'm getting all that I need, minus all the stuff I don't need.  My midwife agrees with me and suggests the paleo diet to all of her clients!  My Naturapathic Doctor is also on board; she's not paleo, but gluten free/processed food free, so we're basically on the same page.  Feel free to contact me with questions!

bacon crust pizza and arugula salad.


Lacey July 3, 2014 at 5:32 PM  

I completely understand. It is one of the bizarre things about pregnancy -- you are so blessed and so amazed to be carrying a new life, but it results in a highly unsatisfactory state of being. It's more than "morning sickness" -- it's constant nausea and that's a very difficult thing to manage day after day.

Well done on getting through, being kind to yourself, and doing the best you can. It's all about balance and perspective and there is PLENTY of time later on to do all the right things (says the woman who feels like pregnancy is lasting f-o-r-e-v-e-r!).

I am so excited for you!

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