Protein! Protein! Protein!

I know you guys are probably open and welcoming to something different than the weekly pregnancy posts at this point. This one is still pregnancy related (sorry it’s my life right now), but it has some use behind it 😉

We are using the Bradley Method, I won’t get into the specifics of this method of child birth, but I wanted to touch on one part of the program that has provided a daily challenge for me. One key component, and very emphasized part of the Bradley Method is a focus on nutrition. We all know pregnant women need to eat healthy, possibly healthier than they ever have before, to feed and nourish their growing baby, but what I personally didn’t know, was the types of effects that poor pregnancy nutrition could have on your unborn baby. Good nutrition can prevent a host of complications including PIH (elevated blood pressure), edema (swelling), pre-eclampsia, eclampsia (toxemia), “gestational diabetes”, premature labor, anemias, abruption of the placenta, IUGR (intra-uterine growth retardation), and low birth weight (which can cause babies to be infection-prone).

In fact, studies have shown that with proper nutrition, many of these complications can be completely, 100% avoided.

We are planning and training through this program to have a natural childbirth. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go into our reasoning for choosing this method on the blog yet, but to give ourselves the best chance of being successful, having a low-risk, healthy pregnancy and baby are really essential.

There are a lot of nutrition specifics outlined in one of the videos we watched in our classes, the Fitnessista did a great recap of them here, so I won’t repeat what she has already covered. What I did want to talk about is the protein intake requirement.

Protein is above and beyond, probably the most essential nutritional component in your diet when you are pregnant. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of our body’s cells, and the cells that are forming to create your baby and help it grow healthy and strong. While it is not true that you need to eat for two during pregnancy (generally you only need about 300 extra calories a day, and that is really mostly in the third trimester), when it comes to protein you actually DO need to eat enough to help maintain and build two healthy bodies.

We gave up our vegetarian lifestyle not long after moving to South Dakota when having to adjust to what was available and the most nutritious for us here. Thankfully, moving back to the meat-eating side of the spectrum has been very helpful in this protein challenge. Pregnant and nursing women are encouraged to eat between 75-100 grams of protein EVERY SINGLE DAY. That is a lot my friends!

To put it in perspective, here are the protein counts for a few common things we tend to eat.

1 egg = 6 gm
1/4 c. shredded cheddar = 6 gm
1/4 c. cottage cheese = 6.5 gm
1 c milk = 8 gm
3 oz. beef = 20 gm
3 oz. chicken = 25 gm
3 oz. bison = 18 gm
1 tbsp peanut butter = 4 gm
1 medium sweet potato = 2 gm
1/2 c. lettuce = 0.3 gm
1/2 c broccoli – 2.3 gm

So you can see, it doesn’t necessarily add up quickly unless you are walking around munching on beef jerky.

I am having to change the priority of the foods I eat at each meal, in part to make sure I’m getting enough protein first and foremost, but also because I only have so much space in my stomach. I’ve never felt so full! Trying to get enough protein, enough calcium, enough vitamin C, and all the other key nutrients that are so important makes you feel like you are doing nothing but eating all day.

A few things I’ve noticed…

1. Even though it seems like I’m eating more, by focusing on lean protein and healthy veggies first, I don’t really have a lot of room left for things like really starchy foods and sweets. Surprisingly I haven’t gained a single pound yet (currently 11 wks + 3 ds), and I feel more lean than I did pre-pregnancy.

2. My food scale is getting a workout. Again because of limited stomach space, I have to make everything I eat count. I’m also tracking my protein intake, so for accuracy’s sake I’m measuring almost everything. I’m also living by food labels. Sometimes lunch feels like a hard math problem with all the calculating and weighing going on.

3. I’ve always had a hard time watching people eat a lot of junk food and throw their health out the window as they pick up another bag of fast food, but I’ll admit it’s REALLY hard seeing other pregnant women doing it now that I’ve learned just how imperative good nutrition is. It seems so unfair to their unborn babies. Everyone is different and it’s not my place to judge or insert my two cents, but I do wish there was a way to open their eyes to the information I have been given.

4. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again with bold letters, I am so so thankful for a husband that shares my interest in a healthy lifestyle and who is always supportive. The Bradley Method is also known as the husband coached childbirth method. Will’s role in my pregnancy and ultimately in the birth of our little one are not just important, but an integral part of it being a successful natural childbirth. So far he has taken that role and exceeded all of my expectations. From double checking that I’m eating enough and the right kinds of foods, to deciding he would also aim for the same protein intake, to encouraging me to do my prescribed stretches and exercises (even if it means breaking out the timer app on his phone and doing them with me), to attending every class, reading all the books, and doing all the homework. He has been nothing short of amazing, and to an emotional mama, there is nothing more heart-melting.

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