We know that women who consume lots of simple carbs and sugar in pregnancy grow bigger babies which can contribute to all kinds of bad things like...
If you look at the nutritional profile of a date, they look more like a sugar bomb than a healthy snack so..
Let me start with a little blurb about nutrition...specifically protein and how it affects your glucose levels. Growing the right size baby for your body is one of the best things you can do to keep your birth normal.
For the purpose of this short blog post, I’m going to really simplify the way your body processes its 3 main fuel sources, Protein, Carbs and Fat.
In a nutshell, you ALWAYS need protein. Eat some at every meal and every snack. Protein is the primary building block you need to grow your baby. Proteins are things like meats, cheeses, beans, quinoa, eggs, fish, nuts and nut butters, hummus, etc.
However, you need other macro-nutrients as well which are carbs and fats.
I’ll touch on fat next. The main point I want to get across regarding fats is that “good fats” do NOT make you fat! They grow your baby’s brain and are a clean-burning fuel source for your body. They help you feel full longer and offer all kinds of benefits to your heart, brain, mood, joints and skin.
Good fats are things such as grass fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, walnuts, small fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, anchovies, (wild caught) salmon, and herring, just to name a few. Here’s some great info on fats.
And then there’s the carb lineup.
Carbs get such a bad rap that it’s important to separate out the good from the bad.
Good (whole) carbs that you want to be eating are things like veggies, oatmeal, ezekiel breads, sweet potatoes, quinoa and other whole grains. OH and DATES!
The risk of dates raising your blood sugar is significantly reduced due to their high fiber content. Fiber slows absorption of the date sugar and protects your blood glucose levels much like protein consumption helps protect your blood sugar levels. The effects of daily date consumption and its effects on blood sugar levels is referenced in another small study.
To reduce that risk even further, just eat a bit of protein with your dates to slow their sugar release into your bloodstream.
Alternately, bad carbs...the ones that will help you grow an 11 pound baby..ugh...are things like fast foods, sugary foods, white breads, white rice, white potatoes and fries, anything with white flour in it, not-so-healthy breakfast cereals, bars and bagels and the like.
Don’t do it!! Just say no! Seriously, you’ll thank me after your birth.
The simple key to growing the right size baby for your body is eating whole foods 95% of the time and combining them correctly.
Strive for one of these 2 options at each meal.
1. Eat protein at every meal and snack (I know, now I’m nagging), coupled with a whole carb.
Almonds and dates anyone? How about a smoothie?
Enter your text here...
2. Eat protein at every meal and snack coupled with a good fat.
This sounds like a juicy steak and pile of broccoli with cheese or grass fed butter!
Combinations to avoid
Unless you are purposely trying to put on extra weight, combining fats and carbs together in the same meal is a bad idea.
Carbs and fats are basically 2 different sources of energy and when eaten together, one will be used and one will be stored. Your body can’t burn both at the same time and most women don’t need extra pregnancy weight.
That said, for the rare woman who is having a hard time gaining weight, the collision of fats and carbs, coupled with good protein, is exactly her solution and can help her gain enough weight to support a healthy pregnancy.
You can find much more detail on healthy pregnancy eating at TrimHealthyMama.com, including a lot of really yummy recipes for clean eating.
So back to dates…
Other Health Benefits of Dates
Aside from the "dates make labor easier" camp, there are so many resources out there talking about the many benefits of eating dates that I won’t try to reinvent that wheel. Dates will feed you and your baby some amazing nutrients! Here are the cliff notes according to the website Organic Facts.
“Dates are a good source of various vitamins and minerals. It’s a good source of energy, sugar and fiber. Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc are found in dates. It also contains vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K.”
Here are a few more posts talking about all the benefits of dates.
Just a few more (VERY IMPORTANT) things that you can do to have a strong pregnancy and easier labor and birth.
As a midwife in SC, I’ve seen some amazingly strong women grow incredibly healthy babies by just doing a few things that I’ve listed below.
I strongly encourage you to take control over the things that are within your control.
These basic tenets of the Midwife Model of Care are the foundation that will support you and help keep all your options open.
Whole Food-based Vitamins
Exercise Regularly (walks 3-4 times a week is perfect)
Take a Great Childbirth Education Series
Know and Practice “Optimal Fetal Positioning”
Hire a Midwife or Doula
And if the study holds true... eat up because dates make labor easier!
When you’ve been a great steward of your pregnancy, the reward of experiencing your own strength in giving birth is invigorating!!
Love and birth joy! Lisa
How about you? Did you eat 6 dates a day in late pregnancy? Do you think that dates make labor easier?
Here are a few “keepin’ it real” anecdotal responses I received on my facebook groups. Be sure to add yours below.
>I did and had a great labor, pushed about 30 minutes...no perineum tearing. Sarah M.
>Just had my third, didn't eat any for the first or second pregnancies. Third I at 6 every day. Water broke naturally (not with the first two) and I had a kick ass labor! Amy G.
>I did. I ate them like mad because they were delicious with my last.. even though I started eating them because of their supposed labor help. My dilation was never checked. My water broke as he was crowning. Labor was right around 6 hours, I suppose. I didn't feel a need to call and let my midwife know it was the real deal until about 3 hours into it. Transition and pushing were about 2-5 minutes (but that was pretty much the case with all three of my homebirths). Tia W.
>I did with first baby. He still went to 41 weeks. I was 4cm from 37 weeks til the morning I was induced. Labor was 4 hours, but all of my labors have been 4-5 hours with or without having eaten dates. Sarah R.
>I did! Labor 8 hrs, kind of an arom at around 5 hrs? I think. I'm not sure how dilated I was when midwife arrived, but I had been 5 cm. So when she checked me I said don't tell me unless it's greater, and she said nothing, so I assume 5cm. Nancy A.
>(midwife) never checked me to say how much I was dilated, but my water broke at 9:22pm and she came out at 1:22pm. First baby. And I believe (midwife) showed up around 2ish and I was already in active labor. Joanna B.
>I did. Still went to 42 weeks, still had 18 hours of unproductive labor that ended with a 3rd section :-/ not the story you're looking for, but there's always an exception to every rule. Kristyn L.
>I did! I ate 4-6 dates/day during the last trimester of my third pregnancy. My first two labors were pretty long but my third labor had some prodromal stuff and then maybe 60 minutes of active labor, so....antidotal? Lol. Brittany H.
>I did! I ate 6ish a day during the last few months. I had an awesome natural birth on our due date. But i was also drinking raspberry leaf tea, taking evening primrose and I saw an acupuncturist the week prior. Kristen B.