Hi everyone, it’s Natalia here, one of the Holistic Nutritionists at HEAL. Today I’m sharing a case study from a client named Taylor, who used our custom meal planning service. Taylor wanted support with meal planning during her second pregnancy to improve her energy, reduce cravings, and feel her best. Even if you aren’t pregnant, I hope some of the information I share helps you if you have similar ‘symptoms’.
You can see some other case studies we’ve done here:
Disclaimer: I want to emphasize that everyone’s pregnancy is different and everyone’s needs during pregnancy are a little different. This is merely to show an example of some of the ways in which we helped a client feel her best during pregnancy through food. If you have questions about your pregnancy, please consult with your practitioner.
“With my first pregnancy, I gained 80 pounds. I had no idea what I should be eating or how much. I had days where I ate only vegetables, interspersed with "bad" days where I ate everything I could find. I felt terrible if I had an unplanned snack or skipped my workout and would just decide to "blow it" for the day and "get back on track" tomorrow. I was so hungry all the time and my energy levels were all over the place. Luckily, I was not diagnosed with any serious health problems during my first pregnancy, but my blood pressure did begin to creep up during the last trimester. The preeclampsia screenings came back negative and I'm convinced my body, though relatively healthy, was rebelling against all the pressure I put on myself and the days where I used food to cope with the fact that I had not eaten "perfectly."
During this first pregnancy, I sought help with my eating, but couldn't really find anything useful or doable. My midwife was vague and slightly judgmental, there weren't any pregnancy meal plans available online, and nutritionists that I contacted said they did not work with pregnant women, but would be happy to work with me once I delivered. Thankfully, I was able to deliver my son without intervention, in the way I wanted, but I knew that my body could not undergo what I had just put it through without nutritional support.
Two and a half years later I got pregnant again. I knew I wanted a happier, healthier, easier pregnancy, but I wasn't sure where to start. I had been eating healthier, cooking more, and had lost some of my baby weight, but I wasn't sure how to continue doing so while growing a little baby.”
Taylor went on to explain that she had come across some of the recipes on our website and decided to reach out to find out if this was something we could help with. She was relieved to find out that we can do custom meal plans for pregnant women.
Right away, I had Taylor fill out a detailed intake questionnaire to learn more about what she was looking for help with, her goals, foods she liked/disliked, how many times a week she wanted to cook, tools she had, etc. I then provided her with a completely custom four week meal plan. I gave her the first two weeks of plans upfront, so that she could share any feedback before receiving the next two weeks of plans.
I want to clarify right away that my focus with Taylor was never about weight. We would never put someone who is pregnant on a weight loss plan, however I knew that a lot of the symptoms she was experiencing had to do with blood sugar control. When your blood sugar is not balanced, or in other words, you have a spike and a crash following meals, you are much more likely to experience cravings, brain fog, sleep disturbances and anxiety. Refined sugar and too many carbs then contribute to the problem by causing more cravings for those types of foods.
Often we assume that cravings are just about will-power, when in reality, when your blood sugar is balanced through meals that have protein, healthy fats and fiber, you are much less likely to experience a yo-yo of blood sugar that causes those symptoms or contributes to the pattern of binging then deprivation. It’s also worth noting that pregnancy naturally makes it much more difficult to balance your blood sugar levels!
My focus was on making sure her meals were nutrient dense to support a healthy pregnancy, and balanced so that she was satisfied from meals. I also wanted to make sure that if she had cravings (which are completely normal in pregnancy, by the way!), she had lots of healthier but satisfying options to choose from. We never looked at calories, macros or anything like that and I encouraged her to eat whenever she was hungry.
High protein/high [healthy] fat breakfasts: Breakfasts that are high in protein, in comparison to breakfasts high in carbs for example, have been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels in the morning as well as later in the day. If you are someone that gets cravings later in the day or is really hungry in the evenings (whether you’re pregnant or not), I would look at increasing your protein and avoiding added sugars and white carbs in the morning. (sources: 1, 2)
Protein, fiber & fat at every meal:
These are the three main nutrients that will slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream and help you feel more satisfied from meals (especially protein). It’s also worth noting that when you’re pregnant, your protein needs are higher because it’s the building block of your baby’s tissues, organs, and even the brain. Over 60% of the human brain is made fat, especially the Omega 3’s EPA & DHA, so the plans had lots of healthy fats like seafood, eggs, olives & olive oil, avocado, and nuts and seeds. Lastly, fiber, especially from lots of fruits and vegetables, will support your gut health and the bacteria that live there. The state of your microbiome will in turn shape the state of your baby’s, which can really influence their health.
Blood sugar balancing snacks:
Her plans were free of refined sugar and we focused again on a few snack options each day that had protein, fat and fiber to make sure she had something if she got hungry or her blood sugar dipped. For example, some fruit paired with nuts/seeds or nut butter, muffins made with coconut/almond flour instead of wheat and sugar, or crackers & veggies with avocado or hummus.
“I just wanted to tell you I feel fantastic after a few days of your meal plans now...I don’t hit an afternoon slump, and I just have so much more clarity and less food anxiety. I’ve experimented in the past with “cleanses” but this meal plan feels absolutely sustainable (it doesn’t hurt that the food is delicious). Thank you so much and I am so glad I took the plunge and finally reached out to you and Mandy.”
She also updated me early on that her midwife was really happy with her blood work and progress.
“The rest is history, pretty much. Since I've connected with you, I've felt fantastic. I feel like my blood sugar has stabilized, I no longer get "hangry", my blood pressure is consistently normal, I'm sleeping better, the list goes on and on. Most importantly to me, I feel less anxious, more grateful, and more happy.”
If you would like help with custom meal planning and are wondering if it’s the right fit, you can click here to book a complimentary 15 minute info session with myself or Mandy.