Lately, I feel at peace with food.
Since I’m pregnant, I’m not trying to lose weight, or even maintain my weight so I think my behavior has relaxed a bit, which has been insightful. I’ve definitely gone through stages of thinking about the issue of gaining weight (especially since I gained so much in my FIRST trimester), but have come to terms with the fact that my body knows best, I just need to listen, use good judgement and wisdom, and be at peace with that.
So I eat what sounds good, and at times this means peanut butter oatmeal cookies with cashew or brown rice ice cream or a large spinach salad with garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, and my favorite poppy seed dressing. I mostly want to eat whole natural foods, but in the past few weeks I haven’t denied myself of anything if I wanted it, and been surprised that my after a few bites of something rich, I am satisfied. My body seems to know when it’s had enough of one thing, and lets me know.
I suppose I’m sharing all of this because I’ve realized, more internally, that it’s important to listen and trust my body.
For the next two months, my body will work on putting the finishing touches on the little human inside me, getting her ready to face the world. I have faith that my body knows what I need to do that. With a little knowledge and common sense, my goal is to continue to practice intuitive eating, and only eat what, for a lack of a better term, “sounds good.”
I’ve also realized that I think sometimes when we change our diets, in hopes of reaping greater health or just feeling better about ourselves, there is a tendency to demonize food. ______ is good. ______ is bad. But in reality, some foods may be appropriate for certain times and periods of our lives, while others might not (or ever be, depending on your allergies/intolerances). For example, right now, I am eating a much higher fat diet than I ate when I wasn’t pregnant, and physically, it feels better do so.
On a somewhat related note, I’ve read on various blogs about concerns that people have or had as vegans or ex-vegans regarding nutrition and wanted to give my two cents on the issue of “the dangers of a vegan diet.” There are some who advocate against a vegan diet because it is deficient and you need to supplement for various nutrients.
Here are the main things that people say a vegan should supplement for (I’ve included my thoughts on why or why not I think the recommendation to supplement is worth much weight):
Iron: green leafy vegetables, plums, tomatoes, are some examples of good sources; including a vitamin-C rich food with your meal also helps to increase iron absorption, limiting tea/coffee and dairy foods or at least consuming them separately from iron rich foods also helps to increase absorption. Personally, I have never had an issue with iron-deficiency or anemia, in fact, I have had my iron levels checked during this and other vegan pregnancies, which have shown that my iron level is healthy, and well above average.
Vitamin-D: Some people may need to supplement, but consider most people can get all the vitamin-D they need by 15-20 minutes of daily sun exposure. Since vitamin-D is a fat-soluble vitamin, your body can store vitamin-D to be used when you are not able to get adequate sun exposure. Vitamin-D levels can be tested, so if you’re concerned about whether or not you’re getting enough, have it checked it out.
Calcium: This mineral comes from the ground (not cow’s milk, although it is abundantly present in most cow’s milk, thanks to cattle feed supplementation, unless the cows are actually grass fed, which is highly unlikely if the milk you are drinking is the stuff from an average grocery store) and is found in small to moderate amounts in plant foods. Almonds, figs, sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, among other plant foods contain higher amounts of calcium, although this mineral is found in nearly all plants. Fortified plant milk or fortified non-dairy yogurt can also be a good source. On an average day, I consume anywhere from 1100-1800 mg calcium (tracked using CRON-o-meter), all from non-dairy sources. Absorption of calcium is also increased when animal protein (from flesh or animal milk) levels are low.
B-12: Take a daily supplement. Easy, painless, very inexpensive. I take a pill, my kids do drops.
Omega-3 fats: If you are in poor health, you may consider taking an Omega-3 algae supplement since your body may not be able to convert omega-3 to DHA. Otherwise, your body should be able to convert these fats into DHA by consuming 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed a day, a small handful of walnuts, hemp seed, or chia seeds. This will be more than enough for most people. Omega-3 fats are also found in smaller amounts in most plant foods, like beans, in particular soy, so it is possible to get these fats without taking flax or walnuts or supplement.
Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, wheat bran, yeasted whole-grain breads, sweet potatoes, Brazil nuts, are some examples of the many plant foods that are rich sources of zinc.
Protein: Come on. Protein is found in all plant foods. Rich sources include lentils, all beans, peas, tofu, nuts, greens. Consider that most people need only 50-60 grams. Pregnant mommas like me, need a bit more, around 70-80 grams. No need to combine certain foods at meals, just eat a variety of whole plant foods in a day.
So you can see, as long as you’re smart about it (which may require some more thought and planning into what you buy and eat), you can easily cover your nutritional bases on a plant-based diet, vegan or not.