The Paleo Pregnancy by Stephanie Raffelock

Enjoy this article from the new blog at

The author, Stephanie Raffelockis the president of Sound Formulas, makers of very high-quality pre- and postnatal vitamins.  Her husband, Dr. Dean Raffelock authored A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health.

The Paleo Pregnancy

Lots of women are concerned about weight gain during and after pregnancy. The body needs about 300 extra calories when you are pregnant, which isn’t really that much. I don’t think it’s the amount of calories that a pregnant body needs, but the quality of calories that a pregnant body needs. For instance, you can get an extra 300 calories eating a couple of brownies, or you can get an extra 300 calories eating an extra piece of protein and some fresh vegetables.

The Paleo diet refers back to Paleo times when human beings were hunter/gatherers and lived on diets of protein , vegetables and moderate amounts of seasonal fruit. Notice the absence of carbs? The body does need carbohydrates and although a lot of those are present in vegetables, the advent of bread became the main staple for carbohydrates post Paleo times. If we as humans, had just left it at that, bread, we probably would not have weight issues. But bread became crackers, chips, and all sorts of desserts.

So a pregnancy diet based on the Paleo diet is a good direction to go: lean meats like, fish (especially the fatty fishes, salmon mackerel, sardines), chicken and turkey; lots of fresh vegetables, some raw like in a salad and some steamed or baked; and a minimum amount of carbohydrate. I suggest staying away from processed carbs like chips and crackers and going for whole grain breads, nuts, whole grains like wild rice and of course yummy baked yams and sweet potatoes.

This kind of diet means actually cooking. The fast food/restaurant movement has really pulled us away from the kitchen. But the kitchen can be a great meeting place for family and friends and cooking is a way to make sure that you and your family stay healthy. Cooking can also be a time and place for prayer and gratitude. Offering small prayers of “thank-you” while you are washing, peeling and chopping food is nurturing to the Spirit.

I was very lucky in that I was taught to cook when I was a child in both my grandmother’s and my mother’s kitchen. So I feel very confident in that arena.

Cooking is certainly more economical than eating out or getting take out. But it’s never too late to begin getting comfortable in the kitchen, and cooking your own food will certainly allow you and your family to eat in a healthier way. Time in the kitchen can be and should be shared with husbands and children who can help in the process of preparing and then sharing food. And there is nothing like a family sharing a meal they have prepared together to help create a strong sense of belonging.

So back to the diet. Here are some ideas for a healthy pregnancy paleo diet and also some resources:

Lean meats like fish (check to make sure it’s farm raised and/or avoid mercury containing fish, like tuna), chicken, turkey without skins. Bake, steam or broil.

Veggies of all kinds! Some raw veggies everyday in a salad or as a snack. Keeping cut up, washed veggies in the fridge while you are pregnant is a good idea: celery, jicima, carrots, snap peas. Steam or sauté veggies and don’t over-cook them. Veggies can be sautéed in a little olive oil to being out flavor. Remember that sauté means to cook slowly over a very low heat…you don’t want to fry any food!

Seasonal fruit. Apples in the fall and winter and berries in the summer is a good way to go. I love apples and often eat them with a little bit of almond butter and a hand full of raw almonds.

Nuts and seeds. These are a good source of protein and calcium and make for a good snack. Pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds can be added to tossed salads. Try to get raw, not roasted!

Good oils. Olive oil is best for cooking, but a tablespoon of Barlenes Flax seed oil can provide your body with good Omega 6 oils. Never cook with flax oil, (it should not be heated) but use it for salad dressing.

Minimal Carbs: whole grain breads, whole grains, like rice are best. Avoid processed carbs like chips and crackers.

Dairy: I am not big on dairy as many people are reactive to milk and milk products. That being said, if dairy feels good in your body, by all means go for the milk and cheese. You may even want to try goat cheese. Goat milk tastes a little gamey to me, but some people like it and it is a good source of protein. Yogurt is a good as long as you get the yogurt that is either non-sweetened or natural fruit sweetened. Avoid corn syrup!!!!

Desserts: a LITTLE chocolate is good for the soul, but you may also want to try baked apples or baked pears with coconut milk and maple syrup. Or make your own oatmeal cookies, using honey as a substitute for sugar. Omit two tablespoons of liquid in the recipe if you are using honey and you will get the right consistency.

Okay, here are some of my favorite resources for cooking. Some of these are vegetarian cookbooks, not because I am a vegetarian, but because these cookbooks get really creative with vegetables and vegetables are loaded with good vitamins and minerals:

My favorite cookbook for veggies and also the best cookbook if you want to have a vegetarian pregnancy is :

The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson

Any of the Moosewood Cookbooksby Katzen

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon – what a great, educational and delicious cookbook!

Okay, these are a good beginning. Please share your diet and healthy eating tips with us!

This entry was posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009 at 6:57 pm and is filed under Nutritional and Natural Approaches. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “The Paleo Pregnancy”

Cheryl Jazzar says:

May 10, 2009 at 4:48 am

Great article and site! Thank you, Stephanie.

I like to see when women take in a majority of food raw. Vegetable smoothies, with the pulp blended in, are wonderful additions and make you feel great.

I’ve heard that pregnant women should not eat some soft cheeses or sprouted beans, due to a slight risk of bacteria contamination. What do you think?

A friend (an attorney who researched this question well) decided to eat sushi during pregnancy- she was craving it! Can you say a little about raw foods or cravings? Personally, I take raw eggs and dairy but I’m not sure if it’s safe enough to do so during pregnancy.

Dr. Mercola has a long article on raw eggs and says they are safe during pregnancy, but I’m not convinced yet!

Keep up the good work!

Dr. Dean Raffelock says:

May 10, 2009 at 9:29 am

Hi Cheryl,

Hope you don’t mind that Stephanie asked me to reply

First sushi: I have mixed feelings about eating raw fish during pregnancy. The obvious advantage is that the fish is a great source of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. Because of mercury exposure, it is best to not eat fish more than 2-3x per week. Then there is the potential of intestinal parasites. One of the main reasons our Japanese friends learned to eat sushi with wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and ginger, besides enhancing flavor and adding other health benefits, is to help kill off the bacteria and other potential parasites in the raw fish. The herbs and spices used in most older cultures have both taste and health advantages. Our friends South of the Border use hot peppers, garlic and onions to enhance taste and to kill off parasites. In Italy they use basil and oregano as well as garlic and onions. The East Indians use hot curries for the same reasons. So if one is going to eat sushi using the condiments that come with them is highly recommended.

The quality of the sushi is also very important…where the fish comes from, how far it is served from the sea from which the fish was taken from, etc. I love the taste of sushi and do eat it. However, I always follow the meal with either oregano or undecylenic acid gelcaps to make sure the bacteria is killed off. Guess I’ve looked at way too many stool parasites tests to feel totally safe about eating raw fish without that added protection.

Raw eggs: I do not recommend eating raw eggs at all…pregnant or not. Too risky and there are studies showing that cooked eggs are almost twice as digestible as raw eggs. Many women in their first trimester have trouble with morning sickness anyway…so eating slimy raw eggs, I imagine, would put most pregnant women over the proverbial edge! A middle ground would be a medium boiled egg where the yolks and whites are not cooked all the way through but they have still been exposed to boiling water (3 minutes at sea level and 6 minutes above 5200 ft elevation).

You are very correct that getting raw and lightly steamed vetetables are very important for the health of baby and mother.

Thanks for contributing Cheryl. Stephanie and I so appreciate and enjoy your great blog at

Dr. Dean Raffelock

stephanie says:

May 13, 2009 at 3:53 am

I read an article in “Healthy Day” this morning called “How much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?” The article was a debate on the pros, and cons of consumption and mercury exposure. It seems that everyone agrees that moms, whether pregnant or postnatal, need the Omega 3’s that are found in fatty fish like salmon . This article says that other than fish, “there are no other ways to get Omega-3’s.” Not true. One can supplement with Fish Oils! Now the same concern about fish oils and mercury exists, however many companies, including Sound Formulas, certifies “no heavy metals or PCB’s” on the label. That means you can get Omega-3’s and not worry about getting mercury as well!

I have also had some interesting conversations with the fish guys at Whole Foods who, at least where I live, are able to tell you where the fish came from, whether or not it is wild or farm raised and they seem to know which fishes are have the potential of being higher in mercury. I think some fish during pregnancy is important, even if you are supplementing with Omega-3 vitamins, you just need to know the source of the fish. Some fish means 2 X’s per week and then supplement with Omega-3 oils.

Fish which tend to be the highest in mercury, according to the FDA are: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. (I think tuna may be up there too.)

Bottom line: Omega-3’s from fish or from supplementation are uniquely important for the brain development in babies and important for moms in supporting a balanced mood.

3 Responses to “The Paleo Pregnancy by Stephanie Raffelock”
  1. Cecilia says:

    Hi Cheryl!
    I want to ask you if corn, beef and beans are aloud in the Paleo diet for pregnant woman, and also dried fruit, recently I have had craving for dried fruit not raw fruit. I have been eating dried blueberries, dried strawberries and dried mangoes with mixed with pecans. The fish and the turkey at this moment are not my friends, the taste and the smell are to strong for me.. What can I do??
    Thank you

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