Friday, August 26, 2011

Hold the cheese

For me, cheese is a trigger food that takes me way off course
So, last week I posted about my decision to temporarily add some dairy back into my diet. My decision was based on a couple of things. First of all, I want to make sure I'm getting enough to eat. My choices on paleo are limited, and sometimes I get tired of/grossed out by my standard fare. Including a little bit of dairy provides an option for those moments in which I just can't choke down another hard boiled egg. Also, I've learned that moderate amounts of whole-fat dairy don't have a negative impact on how I feel (unlike non-fat and low-fat dairy). Given these two points, adding dairy back into my diet for the duration of my pregnancy seemed like a reasonable choice. Well, this turned out to be a very short-lived decision. Aside from cream in my coffee and the occasional dessert (I love ice cream), dairy will not be making an appearance on the menu.

Why? In part because, in terms of the dairy products that are actually healthy (like plain Greek yogurt and grassfed butter), I just don't like them enough. And I don't see the point in consuming something I don't really like, just for the sake of ingesting calories.

Mostly, though, this has to do with cheese. Or, more specifically, my co-dependent relationship with cheese. Once I gave myself permission to consume dairy, I started eating cheese freely. I saw myself slipping back into my pre-paleo habits, i.e. choosing cheese over more appropriate sources of protein or having nothing but cheese for lunch. Pregnant or not, this is unwise (not for everyone, necessarily -- just me) and it can't continue. I want cheese, but I don't need cheese. I'm better off without it, save for a special occasion every now and then. I do realize, of course, that Greek yogurt is not cheese. Can't I just eat the yogurt and skip the cheese? No, I really can't because for me yogurt = cheese = ugh, I am completely off track. And being off track -- all because I can't say no to a chunk of cheddar -- is soooo not worth it to me.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just a general update!

I'm writing this post from the comfort of my new recliner! It is super cozy. I'm not 100% sure we're going to keep it though. I keep wavering. Sometimes I sit in it and it just doesn't feel like the right choice. Other times, like right now, I love it. I do wish that we could get the other recliner; the one we found at La-Z-Boy -- but neither of us want to spend that kind of cash on a chair. So, I just need to figure out if we're going to keep this one or keep looking.

Update, 24 hours after I started writing this post: We have officially decided to return the chair. Back to the drawing board.

OK, now on to a baby update! Tuesday was our 30-week appointment with the midwife. 30 weeks! I can hardly believe we are more 3/4 of the way through the pregnancy. Wow. This time I met with Jody (since I'm rotating through all the midwives now). Like everyone else I've met, she was super nice. And actually, I liked her so much that I'm kinda hoping she's the midwife on call when my baby is born (my midwife, Christine, is also pregnant and will be on maternity leave by the time my due date rolls around).

As for the baby, she is doing well (as am I). This week her kicking got a lot stronger and more frequent. The other day, she kicked me so hard in the ribs that it was actually painful. Ouch! My fundal height measurement is a tad small, 28 cm as opposed to 30cm, but I'm not concerned as I know there are so many variables in this number (such as who is doing the measuring). Jody said they'll do a growth ultrasound later on, if necessary. I doubt it will be necessary though. By my next appointment, I'll probably be bigger. My total weight gain so far, by the way, is 22 pounds.

Now for a diet and exercise update. I don't know if it is pregnancy or boredom or something else altogether, but I seem to have lost my love for cooking. I'm just not interested in spending time in the kitchen putting meals together. I would almost (almost) rather clean the bathroom. I sincerely hope this is just a phase. Meanwhile, my vegetable steamer is my best friend. I've had this steamer for years -- it came with my Cuisinart cookware set -- but I never used it until a couple of months ago (don't ask me why, because it is pretty much the best thing ever). My go-to dinner these days is steamed fish and veggies. First, I boil water. Then, I place chopped veggies and herbs in the steamer. After the veggies are done (it only takes a few minutes!), I repeat the process with about 1 pound of cod (one of the few varieties of fish I eat). Delicious, quick and paleo!

This week I also made pasta sauce with grass-fed beef (served with zucchini, sliced into noodle-like strips and sauteed in garlic and butter), as well as chicken stir fry with steamed broccoli (I marinated the chicken in coconut aminos and arrowroot starch), pumpkins muffins (with coconut flour) and a big batch of chicken stock. I'm actually finding it hard to believe that I've done so much cooking this week. Crazy (and possibly a miracle!). We might have to go out this weekend.

In other diet news, a couple of weeks ago I decided that I am going to temporarily include some dairy into my diet. This was not the easiest decision for me because giving up dairy (cheese, specifically) was the thing that initially got me started on the paleo path. However, I've been having trouble eating -- so many things just do not appeal to me right now and, for the sake of my baby's health, I need to make sure I'm getting enough vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs and fat. So, I started eating plain whole-fat Greek yogurt, and I've been pouring heavy cream in coffee and over frozen fruit (like strawberries and blueberries) regularly. I don't have any issues with whole-fat dairy, in terms of tolerance (non-fat/low-fat is another story), so this seemed like a good decision for me right now. Unfortunately, I've also had a few cheese binges. Like today's lunch, for example. I had Swiss cheese, and nothing else. Not a good choice. I don't want to slip back into my old habits, and I don't like the idea of having to break the cheese addiction again. And if I keep this up, that's exactly what I'll have to do (plus, it will make it harder to lose the baby weight). Keeping cheese out of the house is not an option for me -- Carl likes cheese a lot and really has no reason to cut it out -- so I just have to make a conscious effort to ignore its existence.

Well, this post is getting a little long and I'm getting a little tired so I'll save the rest of the things I planned to write about for another day. Bye for now!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ovega-3: A paleo fish oil alternative

If you're pregnant, you've probably heard by now that the DHA (docosahexaenic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) provided by fish oil are essential for your baby's development. Most people on the paleo diet take fish oil anyway, so if you're pregnant and on the paleo diet you should (presumably) be all set in this department.

The thing is, fish oil is not for everyone. Including me. I do not take fish oil ... it is not my friend. We're talking heartburn, nausea and lots of other unpleasant symptoms. The same thing happens when I eat salmon, trout, tuna (although I seem to do OK with small amounts of tuna on occasion) and many other types of fish. I've never been tested, but I've always just called it an allergy.

So, what does this mean for my pregnancy? Well, it means I probably haven't been getting enough DHA and EPA. This isn't ideal, but I really didn't have a choice.  Until now, that is! I recently learned that there is an alternative. Yay!

The product is called Ovega-3, and technically it is a fish-oil alternative for vegans and vegetarians. However, it is also suitable for people like me. In fact, it might even be a good choice for those who do just fine on fish oil. Here's why ....

The DHA and EPA in this supplement come from algae. And guess where the fish get their DHA and EPA? That's right, algae. So, essentially, by taking a product like Ovega-3 you're cutting out the middleman. Some studies even suggest that algae is equal to (or maybe even better than) fish oil in terms of getting EPA and DHA into the diet. Is this true? According to nutritionist Elizabeth Somers, author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy (she also wrote a book called The Origin Diet, which discusses nutrition principles that bear similarities to paleo), the answer is yes!

"You get the same results from algae," she told me in a recent phone interview. "You are just going to directly to the source. And the (algae-based) supplements are safe for everybody."

I'm happy to report that I've been taking Ovega-3 for about two weeks now with absolutely zero side effects (not only that, but the Ovega-3 contains 500mgs of Omega-3 -- whereas Carl's fish oil only contains 434 mgs!). I'm totally sold.

There is one small thing some paleo folks might take issue with regarding these supplements, and while I don't personally consider it an issue at all I am going to do my due diligence and point it out (in part so I can explain why I think it is a non-issue). If you look at Ovega-3's nutrition facts, you'll see that the supplement contains a few non-paleo ingredients ... namely modified cornstarch and carrageenen. To this I say 'so what?' These items are needed to make the capsule. And the amount you wind up consuming is minuscule in comparison to the benefit you get from the Ovega-3 itself.

"It is so small that if it was on a plate, you wouldn’t be able to see it," Elizabeth points out. "You probably inhale more dust during the day."

I understand that some people might be sticklers about ingredients and that even a microscopic amount of cornstarch would rule this supplement out. I'm pretty particular myself most of the time (I searched far and wide to find a pre-natal vitamin that didn't contain anything questionable). But for me, the only other option would be to continue skipping DHA and EPA altogether. And now that I have an option, well, that isn't really an option anymore.

I should probably mentions that Ovega-3 comped me a bottle of their product to try and review. The fact that it was comped did not impact my opinion, however -- if I didn't like it or didn't find it beneficial, I would say so for sure! And yes, there are a couple of other brands of algae-based EPA and DHA on the market. Based on my quick search they all seem to be pretty similar in terms of price, ingredients and milligrams of DHA and EPA.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So many decisions!

After weeks and weeks of trying to re-organize the upstairs of our house, it is still a complete disaster! I prefer a neat and orderly home, so to me it feels like we are not accomplishing anything. However, we have managed to make a lot of big decisions about how we're going to re-organize (and have changed our minds several times), so despite the clutter things are moving along.

The biggest issue, of course, is clearing out what used to be my home office and turning it into the baby's room. Originally, we were going to sell my big desk and buy a smaller one that I could put in the guest room. The desk didn't sell, though (we didn't receive a single call), so instead we figured out a way to make the current desk work! We moved it out to the loft, which was going to Carl's office space anyway, and decided that we're just going to share the desk. Carl is going to build a new computer that we'll both use for household things (like photo archives and budgeting), and we'll both be able to plug our laptops into the monitors (two monitors -- because Carl plans to work from home more often and he needs two monitors to get his job done). I'll probably just use my Macbook in other areas of the house, though. This will take some getting used to, but for now it is the most efficient plan.

So, now that we have this all figured out we are almost ready to start in on the baby's room! We just have to pack away the one piece of the desk that won't fit in the loft, and move my piano into the guest room. I'm ordering our crib and dresser later today. I was going to do this two weeks ago, but we kept going back and forth between a few different options. Anyway, we finally settled on this one (along with the matching dresser/changing table). Now that we're about to have a place to put things, I'm going to start devoting lots of time to stocking up on all the baby essentials.

Speaking of baby essentials, I've finally made a diaper decision! After much contemplation, we decided to go with Thirsties. Later today, I'm headed over to one of our local baby shops to get a newborn start kit (I'll probably pick up some other natural/organic baby products while I'm there, too). I know I could probably get a better deal through or some other store, but honestly the diaper thing was soooo overwhelming to me. I like the idea of everything we need to diaper a newborn all wrapped up in a neat little package (plus, I like supporting our local retailers as much as possible). I can always make changes later.

Another big decision we had to make involved a rocker/recliner for nursing. We've received lots (and lots, and lots) of advice on this topic, but the bottom line is we just are not fans of the chairs designed specifically for this purpose. In my opinion, the high end ones are just as ugly as the less expensive models and I really don't want an ugly chair in the nursery (no offense to people who have one/like them -- they are just not our thing). And I definitely don't want to invest in a chair that we won't want around when the nursing/rocking stage is behind us! The solution, we decided, is to buy a regular (aka versatile!) rocker/recliner. First, we checked La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery, and found a chair that we both loved. The sign on the chair said $497, but by the time you add in the decent fabric (the one on the floor model was hideous!), the swivel base and the treatment to protect the chair from stains it came to almost $1,000. Scratch that! Just by chance, we happened to see a recliner at Costco yesterday for only $300, and it was the perfect choice. Carl picked it up this morning. For now, it is in our bedroom. I'm super excited that I have this chair available to me for the duration of my pregnancy (only 10 more weeks). It will be great for reading, relaxing and napping over the next two months!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A re-cap of last week's midwife appointment

28-weeks along! 12 more to go!
Last Tuesday Carl and I went to our 28-week appointment with Christine, my midwife. Everything is going very well ... no complaints from me, and no complications! The baby's heart beat is 160 (normal), I've gained 22 pounds (also normal, and actually I haven't gained any weight at all since this appointment) and I measured 27 weeks. At my previous appointment (three weeks prior) the midwife told me 27 weeks as well, but she wrote 26 in my chart (I was 25 weeks along at the time). Christine told me the measurements are subjective, and the fact that a different midwife did the measuring probably explains the discrepancy. Ideally, the same midwife would measure each time. However, starting around 26 weeks patients are rotated through all the midwives in the practice -- so having the same person measure each time isn't possible. I'll be curious to find out where things stand at my next appointment, which is coming up in just five days (I have now reached the point where I see a midwife every two weeks).

A few days before my appointment I went in for part two of my glucose tolerance test. As I mentioned previously, I did not want to do the standard gestational diabetes test, so I did an alternative version. Part one -- a blood draw after a 12-hour fast -- occurred a few weeks ago (with normal results). For part two, I had to have a blood draw after eating a high carb meal. I totally planned for my high carb meal to be healthy paleo carbs, but I failed. I was in a hurry ... I had about 15 minutes to figure out what I was going to eat in order to finish eating in time. So, my lunch consisted of kettle chips, a small caesar salad, half of a veggie sandwich (whole-grain bread, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo) and lemonade. The lemonade was soooo delicious, but it was so sweet and it left me feeling hungover and jittery. I was seriously concerned that I might not pass the test! Not only that, I found myself wondering if there is really that big of a difference between the lemonade and the disgusting glucose concoction most pregnant women receive. 

Good news, though -- my results were normal. And what if they were NOT normal? Well, I'm not sure it would have mattered much because I've heard that mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes are advised to switch to a diet that looks very much like paleo. Hmmmm??

The blood draw did indicate one small issue -- anemia. In fact, my iron levels were quiet low. Kinda strange, as I don't have any physical symptoms of anemia and I do eat lots of meat. As of about two minutes ago, I'm on an iron supplement. Hopefully this will do the trick!

That's it for now! I'll be back with another blog post soon!

Question from reader: Will baby receive enough calcium on a paleo diet?

I'm finally back today after 10 blog-less days (I've been busy working on a magazine article), and I have lots to catch up on! First order of business, though, is to answer another question from a reader. Chris left this question on The Paleo Baby's Facebook page:

I'm looking for some advice on a diet for my young daughter. Currently she is breastfed and gets some normal food. We are thinking of stopping the breastfeeding, but what to give instead? What about her calcium? Will she receive enough from meat and vegetables?

Personally, I am of the opinion that whole fat dairy is fine for young children who are not lactose or casein intolerant, as well as those who don't exhibit some other type of of dairy allergy/intolerance. I'll probably give our daughter some dairy (cream and Greek yogurt, for example -- no low-fat cheese sticks or frozen yogurt novelties). However, I'm also pretty convinced that dairy is not the only way (or even the best way) to get calcium into the diet. Like I told Chris, though, I'm not really qualified to answer this question -- this is just my opinion and I am at least a year away from making this decision myself. So, I would love to hear from other paleo parents! What should Chris feed her baby, and how does she make sure she gets enough calcium? Thanks!