Can you eat Paleo Style during pregnancy ?
You might have seen Natalle pop up in your Instagram feed as @PrimalMamma. Natalle recently became a Mum to her 3rd gorgeous boy. She caught my eye on Instagram as throughout her 3rd pregnancy she nourished herself and her family with delicious healthy food. Natalle follows a primal or paleo based diet. You will read below that this doesn’t involve liver milkshakes ! Instead she simply eats REAL FOOD. That’s right wholesome nourishing food that is unprocessed and packed with goodness.
Find out more about Natalle our inspiring primal mamma below. She has some fantastic tips on how to eat healthy during and after pregnancy with a busy schedule & budget. Plus squeeze in time for exercise.
Have you always exercised ?
No. I was an overweight teen and I’m quite uncoordinated so team sports didn’t attract me. Then at University I had a boyfriend who was a personal trainer & he encouraged me to try jogging. I was dubious at first, but I became hooked on competing with myself rather than anyone else. I’m now in my mid-30s and I still love running. I’m slower than a herd of elephants stampeding through peanut butter, but I run! I also enjoy walking, hiking, and yoga.
Why is exercise important to you ?
I’m a really busy person, I work around 30 hours a week, I have 2 children (…now 3, Felix is 10 weeks old) and my closest family support live almost 5 hour’s drive away. My husband had a career change a few years ago due to injury and had to start from the bottom, so we are on a very tight budget. Exercise is one of the only “Me Time” activities that I can do, because it’s free of charge. Running, walking or hiking work for me because I can fit them into my day wherever there is space & I don’t need to pay for a membership. I find it impossible to commit to a class because I can’t always be somewhere at a scheduled time due to children’s illness, sport, school commitments or last minute overtime calls at work.
How often did you exercise during pregnancy ?
I had plans to be very active this pregnancy but I was struck down with acute sciatica at 6 weeks & it has never gone away. So unfortunately a lot of my post-partum period will be spent regaining my fitness. I have found osteopathy has been very helpful for the sciatica and I don’t think you can be completely inactive between work & parenting 3 little boys ! I have bought a very good jogging pram (second hand) which I am excited to use with my new baby once I have recovered from my scheduled caesarean.
What kind of exercise do you do ?
Before I was pregnant I mostly ran, walked & hiked. My rule was no less than 3 times a week, but as much as I wanted to as long as I was feeling happy & positive about it, so some weeks I exercised every day if I felt like it. I would run or walk anywhere between 3km and 8km depending on what I could fit in at the time. On weekends, my husband & I would put our children in a buggy & hike up Castle Hill near our home in Townsville. He would take the road with the boys in the buggy & I would walk up a rocky track known locally as “The Goat Track”. Then I would run back down the road. I also tried to incorporate exercise where I could into my day – squats & lunges in the yard while playing with the boys, stair runs up & down our 16 front stairs, that sort of thing.
Many women finding eating healthy when pregnant challenging – what are some of your favourite meals ?
Over the last 2-3 years our family’s eating has evolved to a predominantly paleo diet which includes meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit, and I was a little concerned how I would make my nutritional beliefs fit with pregnancy eating guidelines. My eldest son (almost 6) is coeliac and I also don’t tolerate gluten or dairy well so paleo works for us. After having 2 healthy children, I am confident with my knowledge on food safety in pregnancy. I am comfortable eating leftovers as long as I heat them to piping hot, so I cook a nutritious meal for work lunches on a Sunday which I freeze, & take servings of this during the week. I don’t own a microwave at home but at work I heat my leftovers in a microwave to piping hot for safety reasons. I always use a ceramic or glass bowl to do this, not a plastic container. I craved tuna a lot in pregnancy but due to mercury levels I only ate it in the 3rd trimester & only once – occasionally twice – a week. I don’t eat many processed meats anyway due to additives and preservatives so staying away from deli goods wasn’t difficult for me. I love mayonnaise and like to make my own without additives. We have our own chickens at home so my yolks are always very fresh (as opposed to the supermarkets, where so-called “fresh” eggs are up to 42 days old!), so I was comfortable to continue to eat homemade mayonnaise as long as I had my own eggs to make it with, because we consume it very quickly.
For breakfast I ate cooked eggs & vegetables, or made CADA – which stands for coconut, almond, date, apple & is like a grain free bircher muesli – in my Thermomix with coconut yoghurt, or a smoothie.
For dinner, I always menu plan a week in advance & shop to the menu so I know what we are having every day. With small kids it’s not always easy to please everyone, but we eat a lot of stir fries (my children eat theirs with basmati rice & I make cauliflower rice for myself and my husband), easy roast dinners in the slow cooker (pulled pork is a favourite) and salads in which I include hot & cold ingredients (like roast pumpkin or sweet potato). I also “paleo-fy” a lot of family favourites, like savoury mince or spaghetti Bolognaise, which makes it easier to please my fussy kids (& hide sneaky vegetables!). On Saturday nights we often have pizza nights, where we make paleo bases and I sometimes have a little cheese if my belly is feeling up to it (but if my digestion is feeling a little out of whack I make dairy free mozzarella out of cashews). I eat a lot of fermented foods for gut health that I make myself – sauerkraut, water kefir and home-fermented apple cider vinegar with the mother. I always drank coffee when pregnant with all 3 of my children, I either drink it black or with coconut cream, and I stick average about 1 coffee a day. I love drinking plain sparkling water with lime or lemon slices in place of alcohol. I put it in a fancy glass so it feels special, and it keeps me hydrated as well as feeling like a “special” drink. There is no need to buy the “best” brands of this, I usually buy the generic brands which cost 75c a bottle, making this treat very affordable.
Do you follow any form of nutrition program and why ?
My first trimester was APPALLING, I was so sick. My food philosophies went out the window & I went into survival mode, eating whatever I could manage. I went completely off meat, poultry & fish, and all I could stomach was grains, green vegetables, legumes, some eggs & dairy. I find legumes especially hard on my digestion but even the thought of meat sent me running for the bathroom, so I just went with it. By the time 12 weeks rolled around my pregnancy sickness lifted, but my irritable bowel syndrome was in full force thanks to my diet, so I decided to get back on track with my paleo diet by doing the Whole30. I waited until after Christmas & started with the New Year motivation on January 1. My husband joined in as well. He lost 10.3kg in 30 days and my IBS and digestion problems disappeared. My acne also cleared up completely and I started to sleep better. Once Whole30 finished I found it easy to stick to paleo eating, with a few paleo treats thrown in. My IBS remained under control and so far so has my size – I refrained from weighing myself during pregnancy, as I think being focused on your weight while growing a child is an unhealthy mental position & counterproductive. I know with this way of eating I was smaller than I was the last 2 pregnancies. This was especially important to me given my inability to exercise as much as I would like to.
Does your family eat the same food as you ?
Somewhat. My husband & I both eat Paleo but we make & pack our breakfast & lunches independently as we work different hours and like different foods. I can’t stomach heavy foods like meat or poultry for breakfast whereas he can, and he likes to pack leftovers or salads for lunch at work. Dinners we eat the same meal. Our children still eat some gluten free grains, and some dairy. I slightly modify dinner for my kids: my husband & I have Bolognese sauce with zoodles where as I cook gluten free pasta for my kids. We eat a lot of cauliflower rice, but my sons eat basmati rice with a small amount of cauliflower rice mixed in. However I refuse to play “caterer” to everyone so other than these small modifications our rule for mealtime is “you get what you get & you don’t get upset”.
Many pregnant women find it hard to eat nutritious food when out and about – do you have any tips / favourite snacks meals ?
I generally try to eat at home. Eating out is an expense my family doesn’t need and there are very few healthy choices available. I always carry a piece of fruit & a bottle of water in my bag and I generally like to snack on whole foods. I make bliss balls for my children’s school lunches and so if the mood strikes me I will eat those, although they are quite high in sugar so I don’t eat them too often & view them more as a treat. After school drop off, my younger son & I occasionally grab morning tea at The Paleo Café in Townsville city, which obviously caters to all my dietary preferences & I don’t have to stress about the food or drink’s nutritional value. Even so I would usually just grab a coffee – I try to eat enough at main meals so that I don’t need to eat between times. I’m not shy about walking into a supermarket & buying a single banana & a handful of nuts from the self serve section if I am really hungry – a snack that usually costs less than $2 & is significantly more nutritious than most pre-prepared foods you could buy. Once when I unexpectedly had to wait for a service at a shopping centre with my son at lunch time I went to a roast shop in the food court & ordered a couple of slices of hot roast pork, a little apple sauce (after checking it was free of sugar) and some roast pumpkin (& a cheeky piece of crackling!). No gravy, no white bread roll with margarine, no chips… they thought I was a little crazy but I just told them I had pregnancy cravings. Nutritious food can be found in a food court – it is just about making healthy decisions.
Are you loving being a Mum for the 3rd time ?
I’ve been a mum for almost 6 years, and I love it. Felix our 3rd child was quite a long time coming, lots of umming and ahhing about whether we would have a 3rd or not, so I feel very blessed & privileged that I get to be a parent again. My other boys are nearly 6 and nearly 4, so love having a tiny baby again and watching my older boys interact with our new tiny son. We practice mostly attachment parenting principals in our house, and I’m looking forward to all the baby things that go with that: breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing to name a few.
Thanks so much for your wonderful insights and tips Natalle – we wish you and your gorgeous family all the best !
If you are keen to improve your nutrition during and after pregnancy. Watch my interview with Lily Nichols registered Dietician and Author of Real Food for Pregnancy. Her evidence based nutrition solutions include a paleo style of eating that ensures you are nourishing both you and your baby effectively.