Top 10 Grocery buys for Pregnant Runners

I’m not a “diet” follower. I don’t count calories or points or grams of stuff. Not judging anyone who does; if it helps you manage a healthy lifestyle, awesome! I just can’t find the energy, drive, or time to keep track of stuff like that. My philosophy on food is pretty basic: Try to eat real foods with the emphasis on fruits and veggies, listen to your body’s satiety cues, and indulge sparingly, but happily.

My thought is, if the focus of your plate is quality, nutritious food, you don’t have room for the junk that might try to creep in. Then, when you wish to indulge on a weekly bowl of ice cream (my fav!), you can do it without any guilt. Life’s too short to live like a monk or beat yourself up.

Once you become pregnant, suddenly the realization that you’re sharing you body with another can spur some women on to better eating. I love this! I love knowing that I can so easily feed and sustain my daughter with high quality, incredibly nutritious food, and that will start her off on a path of enjoying healthy foods. By 16 weeks gestation, babies have taste buds.  Your choices can influence you child’s food preferences as they grow and develop!

(Random side note: I love strong flavors like garlic, onion, and cumin. I ate chili and black beans with those flavors in my first 2 pregnancies, and both of my boys love those flavors! We’re big chili fans here. Coincidence? I think not!)

Knowing how important quality nutrition is,  I try to maintain a wholesome, real food diet. (With the occasional indulgence, of course!)  One resource that I found helpful was the Brewer Diet. Looking at some of the foods that were emphasized in that diet, I realized that many were also fantastic for my overall health, and for running performance. So many bonuses at once!

Now this list is just my personal preferences. You can certainly add or trade in different veggies or fruits per your taste preferences. I often reach for organic options when I can, and try to balance quality with convenience. (Because let’s face it, sometimes paying a little more for a time-saving product is totally worth it! We’ve got kids, jobs, and a million things on our do-to list!)

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  1. Spinach Or any dark leafy green for that matter. We should be eating greens every day. Every. Single. Day. Besides the iron, magnesium and vitamins found in leafy greens, they are an excellent source of folate, which is such an important nutrient for developing babies. I like spinach because of it’s mild flavor, soft texture, and availability. I choose organic because it’s on the Dirty Dozen list, but even conventional will give you the same great nutrition. Try throwing a couple of handfuls in a blender with a banana, some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and a scoop of protein powder for a quick snack.
  2. Organic Whole Milk/ Almond Milk The Brewer Diet recommends 4 glasses of milk a day. Honestly, I kind of think that’s a lot, but I do try and get my calcium in. I like to balance whole organic milk (hopefully, omega 3 enriched!) with some unsweetened vanilla almond milk throughout my day. I don’t buy skim milk because it contains a higher sugar and protein ratio, and babies and toddlers need the saturated fat found in whole milk. You can even try and mix in non-dairy calcium sources like almonds, broccoli, and leafy greens (seriously, those leafy greens!).
  3. Sweet Potatoes Athletes, vegans, nutritionists, and just about everyone in the know celebrates this humble, little root veggie. A nutritional powerhouse, it fulfills the orange/yellow vegetable requirement suggested by the Brewer Diet. Beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamins A, D, C, B6… the list goes on and on. And they’re delicious! Try peeling and slicing them about 1/4 inch thick, tossing with olive oil (or melted butter), salt, and pepper and roasting at 400 for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.  Or one of my favorites, wash and pierce with a fork, pop in the microwave for 3-4 minutes (depending on size), cut open and add a bit of organic butter and a swipe of almond butter. So yummy.
  4. Citrus Fruits I always crave citrus when pregnant. Oranges, lemons and grapefruit find their way onto my plate almost daily. Big deliverers of Vitamin C, citrus fruits help the body absorb iron, as well as aiding in tissue repair and boosting immunity. Not to mention of bunch of other benefits. Plus, they taste awesome.
  5. Organic (when you can) eggs Filled with protein and brain-boosting choline, eggs are an incredible little wonder. Even if you can’t manage organic, the benefits are still there and they are a budget-friendly wonder. The Brewer’s diet recommends two a day, which I have no problem with since I’m such a egghead anyway. You can prepare them anyway, just make sure they’re cooked through. Why not try a veggie scramble and throw some sweet potatoes and spinach in there?
  6. Organic Butter This one makes me happy. I love butter. The Brewer’s diet recommend three pats of butter or healthy oils. (I like olive and coconut.) Fat, even saturated fat, is important for baby’s brain development. I try to reached for organic butter that preferably comes from grass-fed or pastured cows since the omega-3 ratio is higher. Just remember that all fats are calorie dense, and while putting on weight is necessary while pregnant, that’s not an excuse to eat an entire stick of butter. (As much as I’d like too.)
  7. Quinoa The Brewer diet recommends plenty of whole grains, and quinoa is my favorite. It’s packed full of muscle-building protein and amino acids, which are the building blocks for our cells and DNA – nice things for growing a human. I prefer quinoa over other grains since it’s less processed than, say, whole wheat bread or pasta. Plus it’s tasty! Slightly nutty with a pleasing texture, it makes a great companion for just about everything from soups to stirfrys.
  8. Wild Caught Salmon Full of healthy fats like brain-building omega 3s, salmon is a great protein. Try topping with a little butter, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Just be sure to keep fish intake to about once a week, to avoid excessive mercury exposure.
  9. Nuts, Seeds and their butters More delicious fat sources! Full of poly- and mono- unsaturated fats, plus protein, fiber and minerals like magnesium, nuts and their butters make awesome snacks and meal add-ins. My favorites are almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds. (I seriously have an addiction to sunflower seeds; it started as a child vacationing in South Dakota.) Throw some in a salad for some crunch, or make a homemade trail mix with a mix of nuts, seeds, some dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. Again, just remember that while healthy, nuts are calorie dense.
  10. Avocado My love for this fruit could probably be a blog post unto itself. (Maybe I will some day.) Again, a great source of fat, plus 20 different vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Major superfood! Plus, it’s yummy! Spread some mashed avocado on a piece of whole grain bread (aka: avocado toast) with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, whipped up a guacamole and dip some veggies in it, toss some on a salad. (I’m literally starting to crave one right now.)
  11. Dark Chocolate Ok, ok, this is a bonus, but I had to throw it in. I buy dark chocolate regularly because, honestly, sometimes we just need a little something sweet after dinner. I buy dark (either bittersweet chips, or a package of individual pieces.) It helps satisfy cravings while giving a little antioxidant boost. Sometimes just that little taste can keep me from eating my weight in cookies. Sometimes.

I hope you find this list helpful! Nutrition is such an important ingredient in overall health, and especially when pregnant. Do you have any other favorites to add? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at cate@runrunmommy.com!

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Pregnant and Running: Must Haves

I’m 28 weeks, (hello, third trimester!) and the weight of the belly is starting to make itself known. You know the feeling, like there’s a giant balloon filled with sand pressing on your bladder and pelvic bone. Super fun. I switched to counting minutes instead of miles, and I’m fine with that. The important thing I try to remember is I’m not training for a race, as much as trying to build a bridge between pre and post natal fitness. It’s been going well, except for the occasional – I mean regular  – bathroom breaks.

That’s not the only change that happens when running for two. You’re more prone to injury thanks to the loosening of your ligaments. Your baby demands more oxygen making even minor activities hard (Like walking up a flight a stairs. Really? I’m winded?) Extra weight and a shift of your center of gravity throw your balance off. Your chest gets bigger which can make any activity uncomfortable, if not painful. Not to mention all of the minor aches, fatigue, and  random hunger pangs that accompany the growth of a tiny human.

What’s a girl to do? Well, as I press on, I thought I’d share a couple of must haves that help me get my running done.

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  1. Running Shoes Now is not the time to dust of your old pair of sneakers from high school. In fact, it might be a great time to invest in a decent pair of running shoes. You want a supportive pair, maybe even a half a size larger than normal. With the loosening of your ligaments, your feet have the tendency to grow. Plus, I prefer a roomier shoe anyway. You can head down to a running store and have them analyze your gait and recommend shoes to suit you. I run in Saucony (currently, Mirage, but I have recently run in their Triumphs and loved them.) I’ve run in Asics  in the past and like those too. Whatever brand or style you prefer, just make sure they offer plenty of support.
  2. Comfortable clothing You might be able to continue to wear your regular stuff through the first trimester and maybe into part of the second, but as you grow, you’re going to want to get some roomier and more comfortable clothes. I’ve found some comfy tanks and tights from Old Navy and Motherhood Maternity. I even have a pair of non-maternity capris and  a pair of tights that are a size larger than what I normally wear that I’ve been able to keep wearing. On a budget? See what you can swipe from your husband. (T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.) But I would definitely encourage you to find something cute and comfy to run in. One other purchase to consider is a very supportive sports bra. I like to find bras for high impact activity. Just make sure  it fits well and provides enough support for that growing chest.
  3. Weights In addition to running, I’m a big believer weight training. Now, the past couple of months I haven’t been as regular as I’d like, but when I was pregnant with my second, I was very consistent. And the payoff was huge. I felt great postpartum. No soreness, and recovery was a breeze. I’ve been aiming for twice a week: one day for lower body and one day for upper body. Strengthening the lower body will help you adjust to the heavier load you’re carrying, and strengthening your back and arms will balance out your growing tummy and prepare you for carrying a little person in your arms. (Brief pause to imagine snuggling with your baby.)
  4. Maternity support belt I was actually a little hesitant to spend money on this since I didn’t really know if it would help, but I’m glad I did. I got mine off of Amazon, and it wasn’t expensive. It supports the belly and gives additional support through the hips and lower back. Really very pleasant to wear. One thing I was hoping it would help with was the bladder issue, but unfortunately, I still need to use the bathroom  at least once if not twice during a 30 minute run. I do feel like there’s less “bouncing”  and jostling with my belly, so I think it’s a great purchase.
  5. Water Confession: this is my worst problem. I’m usually great at making sure I get enough water throughout the day, but for some reason when I’m pregnant, I am terrible. And it’s so important! Drink before, during, and after exercise.

I would also suggest getting a snack shortly after running. A little apple and peanut butter, or a smoothie with banana, protein powder and almond milk, gives energy, helps replenish your muscles and gives your baby some nutrition.  (I’m always super hungry after a run, so having a snack planned keeps me from reaching for something less nutritious.)

I hope this helps! Keep running strong!

 

The Dreadmill Treadmill

Winter has hit with a chilly, chilly force. Welcome to Wisconsin!

December was actually unseasonably mild, and I was able run outside in the glorious fresh air. Even as my tummy grew, my runs remained fairly consistent. It was awesome.

Then January hit with a snowy, icy, sub-zero vengeance.

In truth, I used to hate winter running. Inhaling the cold air hurt my lungs, wearing multiple layers of clothing made running feel awkward and bulky, and trying to maneuver over mounds of snow and ice was not my idea of fun. But last winter I discover the beauty and fun of winter running, and I fully intended to continue running outside this winter. I knew that pregnancy would add a few extra issues: finding clothing that fit, maintaining balance, and being extra cautious. I was fine with that. But there were a few things I hadn’t considered:

  • The dark While running in the snow and ice is always a little precarious, when pregnant it could be pretty nasty. Balance is compromised, which makes hopping over snow mounds or catching oneself while sliding on ice downright dangerous. Considering my optimal times for running are before sunrise, I am not comfortable trying to manage ice and snow in the dark. Call me crazy.
  • The ice Oh, and speaking of ice, so not worth the risk. We’ve had some nasty weather (rain and freezing temps, plus snow), and I can’t justify risking the fall just to prove to myself I can still run outside. I’m fully confident Baby Girl is protected in her cozy womb, but considering a fall could hurt more than just me, I’m not interested in taking that chance.
  • The cold I can handle plenty of cold. I was born and raised in WI, and I lived in Minnesota throughout college and the two years following graduation; I can handle cold. But my rule of thumb is, once the temp dips below zero, I stay indoors. For two reasons: Your speed slows down the colder it gets (and I’m already running slower than a turtle), and I get crazy dry skin when pregnant (which may sound silly, but it can get pretty bad).

This limited me to either stop running, or move indoors. I opted for the latter.

I’m not the biggest fan of the treadmill. I can appreciate the convenience and the location (my basement), but it is mentally taxing.  The clock stares at you, unmoving, begging you to stop. Its flash is like a siren’s song of ease: “Just hit STOP. You’ve been on long enough. Take a walking break. It’s no big deal.” And the exhaustive running to – literally – nowhere.

  
But I committed to running throughout this pregnancy as long as I could. So I’m going to focus on the positive of the dreadmill – I mean treadmill:

  • Close to a bathroom This is probably the best reason to use a treadmill. As my belly grows and puts more and more pressure on my bladder, the proximity to a bathroom is really handy.
  • Safety There are no curbs to watch out for, no ice or snow, and  – should anything happen – you’re usually in an area with people (i.e. the gym, your home, etc.) Plus, you can control the speed to force yourself to slow down.
  • Entertainment I like to think its a great time to catch up on TV,  reading, or podcasts. At least that’s what I try to convince myself.
  • A fourth reason I thought I could come up with another. I’ll keep thinking and get back to you.

Honestly, treadmill running is hard, but I’m hoping that the sub-zero temps will let up soon and I can continue running outside. Until then, my belly and I will be frequenting the treadmill. Ho-hum.

The Benefits of Exercising while Pregnant (and some Rules)

We know some of the basic benefits of exercise in general: stronger heart, longer life, and slimmer waists. That’s not even mentioning the strength, flexibility, and balanced gained from a regular and varied exercise routine. (You know, all things that we lose as we age and need to keep up?)

Turns out, regular and vigorous exercise, like running (wink, wink) have additional added benefits that health professionals are just recently discovering. Such as:

  1. It makes you smarter. It’s true! Increase of blood flow to the brain enables sharper thinking.
  2. It increases bone density. A 2009 research study out of the University of Michigan found that high impact exercise like plyometrics and running can actually increase bone density and prevent bone loss. Kind of a big deal for us women.
  3. It prevents aging. Aside from the physical benefits (maintaining muscles mass and stamina) which allow for a more youthful appearance, regular running can slow the aging process and help prevent deaths from cancer or heart disease. Not bad.

These benefits extend to pregnancy as well. Some you may have heard of such as keeping weight gain in check,  easing the aches and pains as you grow bigger, making labor and delivery easier, and reducing the risk for gestational diabetes.

For me personally, running has given me wonderful benefits that I didn’t experience in my first two pregnancies. (When I didn’t run.)

  1. SLEEP! After the first trimester, I have hard time sleeping and I doubt I’m the only one. As our tummies get bigger, the ability to find a comfortable sleeping position gets smaller. Running knocks me out for a decent night’s sleep.
  2. Easing… (ahem) the BMs. I don’t think I need to go too much into detail here. Let’s just say that pesky, pregnancy problem isn’t nipped in the butt (no pun intended) completely, but it is significantly improved.
  3. Better mood and body image. Part of my distaste for being pregnant is my frustration for my body. It’s awkward, slow, heavy, and big. But as I keep running, I retain some of the strength I had pre-pregnancy. That makes me a happier person to be around.
  4. Getting some me time. Ok, this isn’t pregnancy-specific, but it does contribute to #3. With an (almost) 4 year-old, and a 2 year-old, plus teaching part time, and the responsibilities of wife and house and family, getting 20-60 minutes of alone time contributes to my self-worth and my sanity. (And everyone benefits from mom’s sanity!)

Convinced? If not, check out the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website for the low down on all things for exercising while pregnant.

Now that you’re ready to start. I have a couple rules.

  1. Always check with your doctor first. It’s always a good idea to check with your doc before starting any exercise or workout routine, but it’s especially important while preggers. Your doc can give you advice on what’s safe and what’s not while expecting. If you were running before pregnancy, you’re probably in the clear. Otherwise there are a lot a other great options.
  2. The talk test.  The guideline used to be keep your heart rate under 140, but that doesn’t always apply. Instead focus on the signals your body sends you as to what is too much. My advice? If you can’t hold a conversation with a running buddy, you’re pushing it too hard. Pull back.
  3. Join Team Turtle. Speaking of pulling back, now is the time to slow it down. You aren’t striving win any races, here. You goal is to cross the finish line with a healthy, happy pregnancy and baby.
  4. When in doubt, stop. Any time you notice a decrease in fetal movement, having difficulty breathing, chest pain, vaginal bleeding or abnormal discharge, dizziness, or contractions. STOP! Call your doctor to make sure everything’s ok.

For a full list of the benefits, dos, and don’ts, check out the ACOG website or talk to your doctor.

Pregnant and Running

This previous summer, I had been working very hard to improve my running. I had shaved about two minutes off of my mile time, ran a full and half marathon, and set a PR in a 5 k. I was focused on continuing to improve and get even faster. I had set goals for the fall including a 10 k where I was hoping to place in my age group.
Then, I discovered I was pregnant.

  
I’m sure I went through the same range of emotions that most women do when confronted with the little pink line: Elation, fear, shock, giddiness, disbelief, amazement that my body would now house a tiny human, and perhaps a little dread concerning the next nine months. I love my babies, but I do not enjoy being pregnant. Nor do I enjoy the aftereffects of pregnancy on the body. But I was thrilled!

Except for one thing.

There went all the hard work of the past year in my running.  It took my almost 2 years after my second son was born to gain the ground that I did both in my weight loss and my running. Now I would have to start all over again.

Or would I?

I had attempted to run with both my previous pregnancies and never really managed to get very far or sustain it very long. I tried to remain active, but it was still difficult to bounce back. Perhaps this time would be different, though. Could I really be one of those women who managed to run through the majority of her pregnancy?

I decided I would try. After all, nothing ventured is nothing gained.

I began running in high school for something to do. Joining cross country connected me with friends and kept me active throughout high school. Since then, running has always been a part of my life. It’s like a relationship. Sometimes we take a break, but we always get back together; that commitment remains. It has become my therapy, my happy place, and my way to give thanks to God for my body. What better way to wade through this change in life than by continuing?

And so as I entered my second trimester (the first was spent kneeling over the toilet, not in any condition to run), I started. Slowly, steadily, and as consistently as I could. Working my way up to  a six mile long run and heading out several times a week. Will I be able to sustain that throughout the remain months? Probably not, but I’ll do my best. I’m 25 weeks pregnant now, and intend to continue as long as I can.

  
My plan is to balance both my running and nutrition, keep my weigh gain in check, and maintain my fitness as best I’m able, that way, when Baby Girl is born, I won’t have to work as hard or take as much time to get my fitness level back.

This is my journey through running – while pregnant, postpartum and beyond .