With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to highlight new mumma Holly Nash from Paradise Pantry. Holly is an Accredited Dietitian and Nutritionist based on the Gold Coast and recently a new Mother to her beautiful daughter, Sierra. Holly opens up about becoming a Mum, and offers some helpful tips to new Mums on their transition into Motherhood.
What is your background in health and wellness?
I’ve been an Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Nutritionist for 5 years now, and before that a long time nutrition nerd, chai lover and foodie. I’m very passionate about inspiring others to eat well by showing them just how sexy and tasty healthy, nourishing food can be!
You are recently a new mum, congrats! What advice do you have for mums-to-be?
Woo! Thank you - it’s a wild ride that’s for sure. Oh man, I’d say definitely do some meal prep/snack prep for the freezer, don’t overbuy on baby clothes and ‘stuff’, instead spend some money on making sure you have clothes that make you feel good as your body changes (I love Juem & Oakmeadow). And lastly make time for a really indulgent day spa treatment (even if it’s a DIY at home session).
“...don’t overbuy on baby clothes and ‘stuff’, instead spend some money on making sure you have clothes that make you feel good as your body changes.”
What was your favorite meal during pregnancy?
Early days I loved bland meals because of the nausea (I experienced it until 16 weeks), pumpkin soup loaded with fresh ginger hit the spot (and I could sneak a lot of veggies I didn't feel like into the soup). I also loved chicken. Chicken contains lots of the vitamin B6 which can help with nausea. I got my husband to make homemade chicken schnitzel for me (no wayyyy I was cooking), mixed through some plain pasta or rice - a great morning sickness meal!
Sweets wise I loved the Hiranya honey drizzled over peanut butter and banana on toast for breakfast to go with my chai. Then from 36 weeks onwards I had three medjool dates a day (said to help ripen the cervix) stuffed with peanut butter/tahini, sprinkled with cacao nibs.
Don’t be scared of food! There’s a lot of advice that’s usually quite fearful around food in pregnancy. Buy good quality food, consume things as fresh as possible and avoid the known things that can cause issues but try not to stress too hard about every little thing you put in your mouth.
“Try not to stress too hard about every little thing you put in your mouth.”
What nutrients do pregnant mums need the most and how can they get them?
Iron, choline, folate are super important nutrients during pregnancy.
I also want to highlight that preconception is also so important for these nutrients, particularly since quite often in the first trimester most fruit and vegetables, meats etc do not look or taste appealing. If you have eaten well in the lead up to conceiving it helps us ease the dietary guilt about just eating bland carby foods to get you through the nausea as your body has a good basis of these nutrients.
Folate is a really important element in pre-conception and early pregnancy because it's known to significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects. The synthetic form of folate is folic acid, which is found in supplements and added to fortified foods. Recent studies have shown that some women can’t absorb folic acid due to a common gene variant known as MTHFR. Methylated folate (commonly called methyl folate) can be absorbed by everyone and is therefore a better option for pregnancy. For this reason I went with the naturo best brand of prenatals.
“If you have eaten well in the lead up to conceiving it helps us ease the dietary guilt about just eating bland carby foods.”
Choline enhances transport of nutrients across to the placenta (helps feed your baby) and is involved in many of the same pathways as folate in the development of your baby's brain and neural tube. Choline must be consumed through diet, as we only make small amounts so it’s important to make sure it’s in your prenatal supp’s. Some good food examples are 2 eggs = 250mg, 1 cup chickpeas = 75mg
Our Iron requirements are 1.5 times higher than normal during pregnancy as our blood increases by 45%. Haem iron (from meat sources) is much better absorbed than non haem iron (plant iron) so up the animal products in your diet (chicken thighs, beef, lamb seafood). Otherwise if you are vegan or vegetarian you can opt for foods such as spirulina, spinach or red kidney beans. Eat a food rich in vitamin C with your source of iron to help absorption eg. Roasted capsicum and tomato with your red meat, a squeeze of lemon over spinach. Calcium, soy, tea and coffee can inhibit iron absorption so make sure to avoid any products when you eat iron rich foods to make sure your body absorbs as much as possible!
“Our Iron requirements are 1.5 times higher than normal during pregnancy as our blood increases by 45%.”
A few other things to keep in mind…
Fibre. Particularly the first trimester, the increase in hormones slows down your digestive system, so it's really easy to get constipated. Make water a priority (small sips throughout the day if you're suffering from nausea and vomiting) as it will help keep everything moving through your body. Choose high fibre foods like legumes and vegetables, or add psyllium husk into your meals.
Food postpartum is also so important! I highly recommend reading the book The First Forty Days. Focus on warming foods that are easier to digest, think slow cooked stews, congee, porridge, broths, teas.
From a nutritionist perspective is chai safe to drink during pregnancy? Are there any foods you recommend avoiding during pregnancy and why?
Definitely, however there are things to take into consideration. As the traditional chai blend contains caffeine you just want to make sure you’re only having one mug a day (depending how strong you make it and other caffeine containing things you're having too). Current caffeine recommendations for pregnancy are less than 200mg a day, ~ cup of traditional chai contains around 60mg so it’s well within those recommendations.
Personally the nausea made me go off the taste of the normal chai and much prefered the Dandi chai and I felt good about lowering my caffeine consumption. That’s one of the amazing things about CST is that they offer the dandi chai; it tastes amazing, I actually enjoyed it black, or with a splash of oat milk as I went off milky drinks.
What challenges did you face during pregnancy and how did you overcome them?
Overall my pregnancy was pretty straightforward. The nausea at the beginning was constant and totally affected my quality of life 24/7 but fortunately I work from home so I could rest when I needed to, lived in pj’s and knew all the food strategies to try.
“The nausea at the beginning was constant and totally affected my quality of life 24/7…”
I started experiencing iron deficiency towards the end of the second trimester. I have always struggled to absorb iron so despite all the iron rich foods and multiple supplements my levels continued to drop so I had an iron infusion at 30 weeks which helped my levels go back up. This was particularly helpful too for my postpartum recovery.
After birth my milk supply was quite slow to come in and took a while to build up so that was a bit stressful and exhausting as I’d have to pump after feeding, and Sierra (my daughter) cluster fed for about 2 weeks straight. I also ate lots of lactation cookies, fenugreek tablets and a special tonic my acupuncturist made for me. All the hard work paid off and I have been exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) for 7.5 months now.
“All the hard work paid off and I have been EBF for 7.5 months now.”
What exercises, rituals or practises did you put into place to help your transition into motherhood?
Yoga a few times a week, making sure to get out for a daily walk, getting a monthly massage or acupuncture appointment - all helped me feel grounded and relaxed. I also look forward to my morning chai every day, and have trained my husband to make the perfect brew for me after a night of wake-ups.
“Getting a monthly massage or acupuncture appointment - all helped me feel grounded and relaxed.”
In your opinion, what is a helpful gift for mums-to-be?
Forget baby clothes and toys, instead opt for a session with a postpartum doula, offer warming meals and nutrient dense snacks, organize a meal train for them, or a packet of Cocoon by Naomi’s lactation cookies (they go perfectly with a chai) I found these to be much more useful!!
If you could go back in time and do it all again, would you implement or change anything along your journey?
Hmm, I would have hired a postpartum doula earlier as there was a bit of a gap where my husband was back at work and my mum couldn’t be here due to COVID travel restrictions. Other than that I had a beautiful journey and look forward to doing it again in a couple of years.
Holly, Thank you for taking the time with us and offering such wonderful advice for new mum’s. You can follow Holly’s journey on instagram, along with her mouth-watering healthy recipes.
We hope that any new Mums out there were able to benefit from these tips, we sure learned a lot!
Wishing all the Mum’s out there a very special Mother’s Day!