Trainer Tip: Conscious Carb Intake

This month’s trainer tip comes from Christine Barbas, one of our NYC-based PROnatal Personal Trainers, and a Precision Nutrition Coach.   Having coached many women through successful pregnancies and postpartum recoveries, she shares an important nutritional tip she always shares with her expecting and new mamas.

What was your motivation for working with the pre and post natal population?

Early on in my career, I started working with a lot of women who were preparing for their weddings.  Then, a few years later those same clients began transitioning into family life.  This is when I started my research on pre and postnatal fitness, and discovered that truly preparing women properly for an event like this takes so much more than I had originally imagined.  I knew I wanted to deepen my education, so I took a PROnatal Fitness Specialization Workshop, and was hooked.  I loved the idea of “training” women for their motherhood journey like you’d train someone for an athletic event (because pregnancy truly is).  After completing the education, I interviewed to be one of the company’s In-Home Personal Trainers, and the rest is history.  Working with this population has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

What is one tip you always give your clients?

Pregnancy is NOT the time to be carb-cutting, but practice “conscious carbohydrate intake.”

Carbs have gotten a bad rep over the past few years, but complex, slow acting carbohydrates (think whole grains, vegetables, and legumes) are a critical source of nutrients for mom and baby.  In fact, a fetus’s primary energy source is maternal blood glucose from the mother’s carbohydrate intake.  This is one of the reasons women develop “carb cravings” during pregnancy.  Your body is craving what you need.  So, just like exercise, listen to your body. 

Of course, if your body is craving sugars or processed carbs, do your best to select higher quality carbohydrates instead (like opting for whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, or oatmeal instead of white rice or pasta).  The additional calories needed during pregnancy are a lot less than many women think.  For a single pregnancy, you actually don’t need any additional calories in the first trimester, and only an additional 300 in second trimester, and 450 in the third trimester (1).  Therefore, try to maximize the nutritional value of those calories with good quality, high fiber, whole foods. This will also help improve digestion and reduce the common pregnancy heartburn.  

Of course, the challenge always comes with that first trimester nausea.  When morning sickness is bad, I always tell women not to stress about forcing themselves to eat perfectly.  It’s more important to eat what seems appealing, and what you can “hold down” (which may be only 2-3 foods!).  Yes, if possible, try to opt for the whole wheat mac and cheese instead of regular pasta, but honestly, if white bread and plain crackers are the only thing you can stomach, that’s completely fine.  There will be plenty of time later to make healthier choices when the nausea subsides. The most important thing is to stay fueled. An empty stomach and low blood sugar can make nausea worse.

Once you are feeling better, here are a few of my favorite carb choices (these are great for postpartum women who need fuel for recovery, especially if they are nursing):

  • Breakfast: Old fashioned or steel cut oatmeal (not the instant kind, which has a lot of sugar) with your choice of fruit, nut butter, etc.
  • Lunch and Dinner: Favorite beans, whole grains, whole wheat pasta, or legume pasta
  • Snacks: Favorite fruits and veggies paired with a protein (like apples and almond butter, or carrots and hummus)

Practicing “conscious carbohydrate intake” along with balanced meals can help to manage cravings, provide proper nutrients to you and baby, and keep you on track with all of your pre- and post-natal goals. As always, if you have questions, please ask your doctor, dietitian, or nutrition coach. They can help you develop the right plan for you!

Interested in working with Christine or another PROnatal trainer?  Learn more about our NYC-based in-home Personal Training services.  Outside the NYC area?  Check out our list of PROnatal Certified Trainers who have completed our education and passed an exam to be featured on our website.

(1). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome. Practice Paper. July 2014.