Disclosure: I am thrilled to partner with Balchem, a nutrition ingredient supplier for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
Happy New Year, y’all! I couldn’t be more excited about this year and all that’s in store. Y’all will continue to find simple
recipes here at KISS in the Kitchen (remember, KISS = Keep it simple, Shannon!) with simple/few ingredients, helpful tips and tricks to make cooking and life a bit easier, and up to date nutrition info that’s important for you and your family! It’s always my goal to be transparent and share all of this in the context of my own life- with celebrations and struggles alike!
This past August I wrote about the importance of choline for maternal and fetal health, but little did I know I’d get some incredibly exciting and relevant news just one month later- yep, those 2 little pink lines appeared and the reality began to sink in that this family is growing!
Photo courtesy of Sarah Pflug
And can I just be REALLY honest about something? Just because I’m a dietitian doesn’t mean I have it all together, that my diet is perfect, that I don’t experience nausea to where the only first trimester goal is just survival (more on this in a bit) or that I automatically feel confident in all my food/nutrition choices. Just like every mom-to-be, I second guessed everything and also turned to some of my closest friends/colleagues to make sure I was selecting the best supplements, setting realistic goals and for confirmation on a variety of decisions because pregnancy brain- yeah, it’s a thing.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Pflug
I’ve had a lot of women ask me over the years if prenatal vitamins are really necessary in pregnancy and the answer is YES. There are some vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, like folic acid, Vitamin D, iron, DHA and choline, that can be either very difficult or almost impossible to achieve from diet alone during pregnancy. Choline was on my radar for most of 2017, especially after learning that only 8% of Americans AND only 8.51% of pregnant women meet the Adequate Intake for Choline!* And did you know that…
Although I’m quite familiar with choline containing foods and the goal of consuming the recommended daily intake of 550mg, meeting that goal was much easier said than done. I normally love eggs, salmon, beef, edamame and a handful of other choline-abundant foods, but when morning (all-day) sickness hit hard, and crackers, ginger ale and cereal were all I could possibly consider eating, I knew it was time to add in supplemental choline. This personal realization also happened to be very consistent with current research findings- that unless you’re eating 2 eggs daily or taking a dietary supplement, it’s incredibly difficult to meet the Adequate Intake for choline*.
Choline actually wasn’t recognized as an essential nutrient until the late 1990’s, but it has many important functions throughout the lifespan. During pregnancy, it helps support overall fetal growth, but especially supports a baby’s growing brain and also potentially protects against neural tube defects. In fact, new research from choline expert Marie Caudill provides compelling evidence that pregnant women may need nearly double the currently recommended amount of choline each day, particularly in the last trimester, to support improved cognitive function in their infants, including improved information processing skills.**
Photo courtesy of Lisa Johnson
I’m now well into the second trimester and fortunately most of the nausea and food aversions have subsided. I’m actually able to eat AND enjoy some of my favorite foods, like eggs and beef, that happen to be choline-containing foods!
One of my favorite easy lunch or dinners to whip together has been this Pregnancy Power Salad
. It’s loaded with fiber, protein and choline- a big nutrition win for pregnancy or even if you’re just looking for some New Year’s menu inspo!
Although I really enjoy this salad, there are days where because of time or energy, healthy and homemade options aren’t always a reality. Taking supplemental choline, in addition to my prenatal vitamin, gives me the peace of mind that both myself and my baby girl are getting all the choline we need for optimal health. Choline is also just as important during the postpartum period, especially for breastfeeding mommas, so I’m grateful I found a supplement and eating pattern that is working so well now!
I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts on today’s post! So many women (myself included until last year) aren’t too familiar with choline. I’d be happy to answer any other questions and I want to wish you all a wonderful start to the New Year and a blessed 2018! <3 Shannon
*Wallace, T., & Fulgoni, V. (2017). Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 9(8), 839. doi:10.3390/nu9080839
**Caudill, M., Strupp A., et al. (2017). Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study. The FASEB Journal, published ahead of print December 7, 2017, doi:10.1096/fj.201700692RR