“I have had a lot of new moms reach out to me with questions regarding diet and exercise during pregnancy, and I thought this would be a good time to share what I have learned and what has helped me get through my pregnancy feeling my best.”
- Jourdan Ilardi
What Worked For Me
As I sit here writing this article, I am exactly eight days away from my due date. In all my excited anticipation, I find it impossible not to reflect on these incredible last nine months. I was lucky to have what I would call an easy pregnancy which is something I have learned to be grateful for. In speaking with other women, I have learned that everyone experiences pregnancy differently. I have had a lot of new moms reach out to me with questions regarding diet and exercise during pregnancy, and I thought this would be a good time to share what I have learned and what has helped me get through my pregnancy feeling my best. Please bear in mind I am not a doctor but just sharing my personal experiences and what worked best for me. If you are high-risk pregnancy or experiencing any other pregnancy complications, you should consult with your doctor on all matters mentioned below.
Let’s start with exercise
This is shockingly still one of the most controversial and misunderstood subjects when it comes to pregnancy. Not being able to exercise during pregnancy is a completely antiquated idea. That being said, if you have not been physically active and get pregnant, that is certainly not a time to dive into a rigorous exercise regime. The general rule of thumb is that you can continue doing any exercise you were doing prior to getting pregnant as long as you feel good doing it. I know the first trimester can be very challenging when it comes to exercise. You are most likely feeling tired, sluggish, nauseous, lightheaded, and just generally not yourself. And while yes, these are all reasons we would generally decide not to exercise, I found that pushing myself to exercise through my first trimester actually made me feel so much better. Remember, the number one thing is to LISTEN to your body. If you are having a really rough morning/day, take that day to rest or try toning down your workout and going for a walk. Your body does an incredible job of telling you what it needs if you take the time to actually listen to it.
After the Beginning…
After the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, there are some exercises that should be modified. When I hit my 12-week mark, I stopped doing any abdominal movements that required a crunching motion. The reason for this is that it increases your chances of getting diastasis recti, which is a separating of your right and left abdominal wall which often leads to a bulging in the center of your abdomen. This is a very common condition that is not often talked about. There are many core-friendly exercises you can still do while pregnant, but you will want to avoid basic crunching. You should also pay attention to how you get up when you get out of bed or from the supine position. You want to make sure you are rolling over onto your side and then using your hands to push yourself up instead of using a crunching motion to lift yourself.
Can You Exercise Your Entire Pregnancy?
The answer to this is yes, but I let my body decide this for me. In my third trimester, I definitely started to notice more pelvic discomfort when exercising. Your baby is putting on their most weight during this period, and it can put added pressure on your body. By 37 weeks, I knew that I had pushed my body to its limit. Since then, I have continued to walk daily to stay active. Some days are longer walks than others, but I let my body decide based on how I feel that day. So the moral of the pregnancy exercise story: Keep doing what you have been doing as long as it feels good, rest when you need, and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
Diet During Pregnancy
Arguably the most important thing you can do during your pregnancy is feeding yourself properly. Pregnancy should NOT be a free pass to eat everything and anything. You can, of course, indulge sensibly here and there while you grow a human, but bear in mind everything you ingest is also passed on to your baby.
You want to start at a bare minimum with a high-quality prenatal vitamin. I took Garden of Life prenatal my entire pregnancy – I love this one in particular because it is organic and derived from whole foods. Taking a good prenatal is essential, but it is simply not enough. The best way to get your essential vitamins and minerals during pregnancy (and all the time) is through whole foods.
The First Tri
I mentioned this above about exercise, but the first trimester is typically the most difficult for moms when it comes to diet as well. Nausea, a heightened sense of smell, food aversions, and changes in taste buds can make it very difficult to stick to your normal diet. A few weeks into my pregnancy, I started developing an aversion to certain proteins, especially in the earlier half of the day. I know how essential protein is to your developing baby, and I also know how common this is for moms, so I knew I needed to find another way to get my nutrients in the morning. This is what led to me developing my pregnancy smoothie. Pretty much every morning of my first trimester, I would make this. I found it was an incredible way to load my body with nutrient-dense foods that wouldn’t upset my stomach. I have continued to have this shake about 3-4 times a week my entire pregnancy. Below is the recipe;
Pregnancy Protein Shake
1 cup water (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate)
1 scoop Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Vanilla (22g of plant-based protein)
1.5 – 2 cups mixed organic berries (high in fiber, vitamin c, and antioxidants)
1-2 big handfuls of organic spinach (vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate, magnesium, & iron)
1 tablespoon organic chia seeds (fiber, omega-3’s & calcium)
1 tablespoon organic flax seeds (omega-3’s)
1 tablespoon almond butter (or nut butter of choice) (healthy fats)
Ice & Blend
The Rest of the Way
Once you make it through the first trimester, most pregnant women find they can start to get back to their regular diet as nausea subsides. Below is the list of foods that I consumed my entire pregnancy and that provide the most nutrients to your baby. In addition to food, you should aim for a gallon of water a day throughout your entire pregnancy. I found this was absolutely essential for my overall wellbeing throughout my pregnancy and helped keep swelling to a minimum in the latter part of my pregnancy.
Best foods for pregnancy:
- Wild Salmon
- Organic, grass-fed, proteins (chicken, turkey, red meat)
- Dark leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Chia seeds
- Grass-fed dairy
- Sweet Potatoes
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, bubbies pickles)
And for my sweet tooth mamas, there are so many incredible healthy alternatives you can make to avoid dumping chemical processed sugar bombs in your body. Below is one of my favorites that helped me curb my sweet tooth.
Simple, Healthy (Pregnancy) Brownies
1 cup almond butter
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup coconut sugar
2 pasture-raised eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper or grease well
- Cream together almond butter, maple syrup, coconut sugar, eggs, and vanilla
- Mix in cacao powder and baking powder until well combined (it should be thick)
- Fold in semi-sweet chocolate chips and add batter to the baking dish
- Bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes
- Allow brownies to cool and set and then slice and enjoy to most gooey, delicious brownie
This is just a little mind dump of things I found beneficially during my pregnancy. The most important thing to remember is that you are the home to this little human you are growing. Many things in life are out of our control, but how you choose to treat the home your human is growing in is something you are in full control of! My last bit of advice is to educate yourself. There are so many incredible books, online articles, and youtube moms that share incredible pregnancy wellness tips. I found that educating myself was incredibly empowering during my pregnancy.
Stay healthy and happy, mamas – I can’t wait to see you all back at Fitness Incentive with my newest addition in a few weeks.
Here are some photos of our sweet baby girl, Quinn.
About the Author
Jourdan Ilardi is a Certified Group Exercise Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Primal Health Coach.
She also manages the Front Desk at Fitness Incentive.