The Pregnant Yogic Diet

Although certain yogis feel the yoga lifestyle is compromised if not vegetarian, the classic yoga texts such as Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita do not list any specific foods for following a yogic diet. Even if these texts had prescribed a specific diet thousands of years ago in India, it would be unlikely to be as relevant or appropriate today for each and every yogi. Gary Kraftsow of the American Viniyoga Institute defines the yogic diet as ingredients that enhance clarity and lightness, keeping the body light and nourished and the mind clear. This is essentially a diet that offers your body a great basis for practice or encourages the same effects as practice. In this context of thinking about nourishment, what one individual needs may be different from the needs of another. Perhaps the ancient sages were relying on wisdom when they chose not to define a yogic diet for all to follow. Just as you learn to listen to your body on the mat, you must also listen to your body at the table.

Principles of a yogic diet naturally apply to pregnancy. Most important when following yogic principles with relation to diet is nourishing your body and growing fetus with balanced nutrition focusing on certain vitamins and minerals which are believed to be most beneficial to fetal development. Not only is it important to offer your growing baby the best nutrition for development, but managing weight gain is the best way to avoid complications in pregnancy and in birth.

Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition for Dummies by Tara Gidus lists the following nutrients as most beneficial to a developing fetus:

Folate/folic acid
Iron
Calcium
Zinc
Choline
Vitamin D
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA)
Fiber
Protein

Tara Gidus lists these foods as the most nutrient-dense, meaning they contain good amounts of several of the most important nutrients an expectant mother and and her growing baby need during pregnancy.

Asparagus: Folate, iron, and fiber

Avocado: Essential fats, folate, potassium, choline, iron, zinc, and fiber

Beef: Iron, zinc, choline, vitamin B12, and protein

Berries: Folate, vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber

Edamame/soy: Plant-based protein, iron, zinc, folate, choline, and potassium

Eggs (with yolk): Protein, choline, vitamin B12, and selenium

Greek yogurt: Twice the protein of traditional American-style yogurt, as well as calcium, potassium, and vitamin B12

Legumes (beans): Plant-based protein and lots of fiber, folate, potassium, iron, and zinc

Milk: Vitamins D and B12, riboflavin, calcium, and protein

Quinoa: Protein, folate, potassium, and iron

Salmon: Lots of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, along with protein and vitamin B12

With regard to weight gain, as each person’s caloric requirements differ, each expectant mother will have differing requirements. Guidelines for pregnancy weight gain issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommend certain ranges of weight gain (including the weight of the baby) depending on whether you were under, over or at your ideal weight pre-pregnancy using one’s Body Mass Index as a general basis. The IOM recommendations if carrying a single fetus are as follows:

Healthy pre-pregnancy weight (BMI 18.5 – 24.9) -> Gain 25 – 35 pounds (11-16 kg)

Underweight pre-pregnancy (BMI below 18.5) -> Gain 28 – 40 pounds(12.5-18 kg)

Overweight pre-pregnancy (BMI of 25 – 29.9) -> Gain 15 – 25 pounds (7-11kg)

Obese pre-pregnancy (BMI of 30 or higher) -> Gain between 11-20 pounds (5-9kg)

Although the IOM guidelines are a reliable basis to set your personal weight gain goals, it is most important to listen to your body. However, if your pregnant body seems to be begging for your favorite guilty pleasure, it is not best for your baby to frequently overindulge. One must try to separate unhealthy cravings from the nutrients the body is craving. For instance, instead of giving into a craving for a sugary snack with low nutrient value, try to eat a piece of fruit to satisfy the body’s need for sugar in that moment.

No one is perfect and we may not be our most rational self with so many pregnancy hormones surging through our body. However, if the expectant mother tries to keep a mindful approach to nutrition, which is the essence of a yogi lifestyle, mother and baby will feel the benefits.

-Somer Lynn (Prenatal course)

Resources:
Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition by Tara Gidus
http://www.babycenter.com/0_pregnancy-weight-gain-what-to-expect_1466.bc
http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/2724