LIZANNE MARR

Wholefood Dietitian & Nutritionist │ Personal Trainer

My Journey | Pregnancy & Beyond

Pregnancy

Many people have a rosy view of pregnancy before they fall pregnant. I think Hollywood has a lot to answer for. I for one thought it was going to be 9 blissful months during which my greatest test was going to be restraining myself from buying too many cute baby outfits. I was planning on continuing with my fitness regime until my belly got in the way (but that wasn’t going to be until the third trimester). I was expecting morning sickness. You know the odd wave of nausea in the morning and then just continue on with my day. I had all intentions to continue my healthy balanced diet and make sure I take my pregnancy multivitamins and lots of water.

Needless to say, this wasn’t how I experienced pregnancy. I had almost every symptom in the book. It wasn’t morning sickness for me, it was all day sickness and complete food aversions. No salad, green juices or chicken breast for me! All I wanted was fruit and refined carbs – the only two food groups that didn’t have me dry retching. My dinners often consisted of oats and fruit salad (sometimes hot chips…*GASP*) while my poor husband had to cook up his own salmon steaks and salad (usually my favourite meal!). The pregnancy multivitamins and iron supplements made me feel that ill I had to stop taking them which then ended up in anaemia.  

I also had severe pelvic girdle pain (also know as pubic symphysis dysfunction), a condition that causes excessive movement of the pubic symphysis and misalignment of the pelvis. Because of this I found it really painful to do simple everyday tasks like walking or even putting on shoes. Even though I wanted so much to keep up my fitness and usual exercise regime there was just no way I could. My physio explained that I’d better wear a stabilising brace to keep my pelvis as stable as possible until delivery (a great look for a pregnant lady) and do only very light exercises. I felt pretty sorry for myself at this point. I kind of felt like a failure, especially since I believe in practicing what I preach as a Dietitian. I had always encouraged my pregnant clients or those wishing to fall pregnant to look after themselves by eating healthy and exercising regularly. Not only to give you and your growing baby the best start, but also to ensure for a quick recovery post-birth. Now I couldn’t do either of those. I found a new appreciation for what pregnant ladies have to endure for 9 whole months and realised I wanted to take a gentler approach with my antenatal and postpartum clients.

Birth and post-partum recovery

I had quite a long and arduous labour after I had to be induced due to high blood pressure and severe headaches close to my due date (symptoms of pre-eclampsia). The birth itself and some complications along the way caused a lot of damage to my body, especially my pelvic floor. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had a long road of recovery ahead of me. One that was going to include many physio and specialist appointments, consistent pelvic floor exercises, safe post-birth workouts, and healthy eating – all whilst learning how to take care of a tiny new human being.

It was not only my pelvic floor that took a bashing but I was also left with a whopping >10cm abdominal separation (diastasis recti for the nerds). This is when your abdominal muscles stretch during pregnancy and creates a gap between the two muscles. The phenomenon that explains the dreaded mummy tummy or “pouch” post birth. Again, the womens health physio was a saviour with this one. She explained to me that correct posture and safe abdominal exercises (NOT crunches) can help to heal this and bring the muscles back together.

One week after giving birth. First outing. 

One week after giving birth. First outing. 

Fitness and Nutrition for recovery

I didn’t want to make hectic plans to get my pre-pregnancy body back. I wanted to ensure my baby’s needs were met first and that my body had time to heal and recover before I launched into anything serious. It has been a slow and steady road but with a lot of encouragement, help, hard work and diligence I have built up my strength again and almost feel like I’m back to where I was before getting pregnant. Here are a few of my fitness and nutrition tips I can recommend that worked for me:

1.     I cannot stress the importance of a good womens health physio - she helped me so much and has been an integral part in my recovery and healing process post-birth! If you are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, about to give birth or already gave birth PLEASE track down a good womens health physio near you and go have a chat with them.

2.     Before worrying about post birth weight loss, focus first on nourishing yourself with healthy food and plenty of water (especially if you’re breastfeeding). Eat when you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty. Your body has worked overtime with creating and birthing a human being, it deserves some love.

3.     Don’t cut out any food groups, especially carbohydrates. I’m not suggesting that you eat rubbish. What I am suggesting is that you should be getting as many nutrients at this time as you can and cutting out food groups is only going to make that harder. Focus on plenty of fresh fruit and veg, fibre-rich wholegrains, nuts, seeds, and quality protein. Be lenient about treats, don’t go overboard but don’t restrict yourself to the point where you feel deprived. When you’ve recovered and feel like a normal human being again you can start to think about cutting back. 

4.     Before launching into ANY exercise please get the all-clear from your GP or obstetrician/gynaecologist AS WELL AS a qualifified womens health physio. You can do more damage than good even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

5.     Have some healthy fast food options available. If they’re around, you’ll eat them! When you’re tired, short on time and hungry, it’s tempting to grab foods that are loaded with empty calories. You want to be able to open the fridge and grab something that’s ready to go and healthy. Get your partner to help you with this! Ideas: natural Greek yoghurt (no added sugar), sliced fruit and veggies, ready made salads, cooked wholegrains like brown rice, cereals, sourdough bread, and wholemeal pasta, cheese, nuts and seeds. Have a look at my snacks recipe page.

6.     Find a support group of like-minded people. Most cities and country towns in Australia have some sort of community health system where the child health nurse can help you connect with other mums with babies roughly the same age as yours. JUST DO IT! These mums will become your support group through all the trials and struggles of motherhood because they’re going through the exact same journey as you are. It is one of THE BEST things I ever did! We encourage each other, work out together, have coffees together after sleepless nights, cry together, laugh together and help each other. It makes you realize you’re not the only one on this crazy ride called motherhood.

Most of all….

Remember that it can take a year or more to lose the pregnancy weight. There is so much going on as you’re adjusting to a new life with a baby and your body is trying to recover from a 9-month marathon! There is so much adjustment so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not bouncing back as quickly as you’d like. 

5-minute Pancakes

A delicious and quick pancake recipe to have on hand. It goes with just about any topping you slather on it and keeps you full for hours. The oats and whole eggs deliver a good dose of slow-release carbs and protein to fuel you up for a busy day. The chia seeds contain healthy omega-3 fats to help with satiety, and the banana gives just the right amount of sweetness to the batter for the perfect little weekend brunch morsel.  Keep this one in your favourites because I guarantee you'll come back to it again and again. 

Ingredients:
makes 8 pancakes

1 cup oats
4 eggs
2 Tb chia seeds
half cup almond milk
1 banana

Method:
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Heat a pan on medium. Add 1 Tb coconut oil or macadamia oil to the pan. Scoop batter into the pan and cook 1-2 minutes on each side or lightly golden and cooked through.  Add any delicious trimmings your heart desires and enjoy your pancakes! I added warmed berries, coconut yoghurt and maple syrup :) 

Chocolate Bark

This chocolate tastes so good! It even passed the husband test. These are the exact words that came out of his mouth – “this chocolate tastes better than the ones you buy from the shops”. Well…that was unexpected. If you have a craving for chocolate right now, I guarantee that you’ll be able to make this quicker than it will take you to go down to the shops and buy a block of the sweet stuff. And an extra bonus is that it will be much MUCH healthier! Minimal sugar and packed with antioxidants from the high amount of cacao powder and extra toppings. As if you needed for encouragement to have chocolate anyway.

You’re welcome….

Ingredients:

Chocolate –
½ cup cacao powder
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
2 Tb maple syrup

Swirl –
2 Tb nut butter (I use mayvers super spread)
1 Tb coconut milk
1 Tb coconut oil (melted)

Toppings –
1 Tb coconut shavings
1 Tb cacao nibs
3 chopped medjool dates
7 chopped cherries (I used frozen)

Method:

Line a tray with baking paper. To make the chocolate, mix together the cacao powder, coconut oil and maple syrup in a bowl until smooth. In a separate bowl mix together the swirl ingredients until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the baking paper. Use a tablespoon to drop the swirl mixture onto the chocolate in random patterns. Scatter over the toppings. Place the tray in the freezer for ~30mins or until set hard. Break the chocolate into bite sized “bark” pieces and return to freezer or fridge in an airtight container wrapped in baking paper. Make sure you keep the chocolate in the freezer/fridge to keep it from melting. 


Basil & Mango Green Papaya Salad

I fell in love with Thai food a few years ago on my honeymoon. One of the places we visited on our adventure was Chiang Mai. I will never forget the vibrance and culture I experienced on every street corner that we explored. There was always a market stall, food truck or street vendor nearby selling fresh local food made with love. We went for a casual ride on our scooter one evening and stopped off at the back of a food market where the locals were playing cards and drinking their local brew. We decided we'd stay for a meal and ended up with a feast of food paying only $1.50 for the both of us - it was honestly one of the best meals I ever had! 

One of the dishes we ended up ordering at almost every meal was green papaya salad. It is traditionally made with crunchy grated green papaya and the typical Thai flavours of chilli, garlic, shrimp and fish sauce. It is pounded together using a mortar and pestle with fresh beans and tomatoes. I wanted to give this traditional dish a makeover by using something else that I adore about Thailand - the tropical fruit! 

What is good about green papaya?

You're basically eating a very fibrous low-sugar vegetable, as the papaya hasn't yet ripened or developed any of the sugars. It is packed with vitamins (A, C, E and B's) as well as minerals (magnesium and potassium) and contains two enzymes known as papain and chymopapain. They work in the same way as the enzymes that our bodies produce to break down proteins. Therefore, it may be beneficial in helping with digestions and nutrient uptake in some people. There is also some evidence to suggest that the enzymes in green papaya can help prevent the overgrowth of unwanted bacteria in our gut, thereby helping to regulate the bacterial balance of our gut microbiome - linked to immune function, brain health and overweight/obesity. 

This salad is just lovely on its own or as a side at a BBQ with friends. I've teamed it panfried haloumi (an old favourite!) and fresh lime. It goes wonderfully with fresh fish or grilled chicken - versatile!

Ingredients:

1 large green papaya
½ cup coconut flakes
Juice of 2 limes
½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tb maple syrup
1 large mango
½ cup basil/Thai basil roughly chopped

Method:

Peel the skin of the papaya and then use a julienne vegetable peeler to make thin strips of papaya for your salad. Next, squeeze out the limes onto the papaya and add the coconut flakes.  Gently “massage” it to soften and evenly coat it with the juice.

Combine the coconut milk, vanilla and maple syrup and pour over the salad. Mix until well combined. Chop the mango and add to the salad. Garnish with basil. 

Savoury Pancakes with Labneh

Everyone's favourite weekend treat transformed into a savoury version. The best part is that it is not only super tasty and filling but healthy too. You don't have to be into health food to enjoy this, but for those who like to eat low carb or paleo, these pancakes will do the trick! They contain some sneaky veg that brings a beautiful colour to the batter. Best of all, the kids won't even know they're eating vegetables (minus the spinach on top)! These pancakes are really easy and quick to whip up. It took only 5 minutes to throw together the ingredients and maybe 10 minutes to cook. If you're looking to cut out or cut down on sugar or carb-heavy breakfast foods, this is a great alternative and will keep you full until lunchtime. 

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Healthy Chocolate Mini Cakes

These cakes are just perfect for when you need a little treat but you don't want to undo all the good work you've been putting in with sticking to wholesome foods and exercise. They're just the right size to have 2 with a cup of tea and feel satisfied. 

They're also conveniently grain-free, sugar-free, vegan, paleo (for those inclined) and a 100% delicious! It is a wonderful cake to have handy in the fridge (or even freezer) when people come over and they pair so nicely with a cup of coffee. That just gave me an idea. These cakes would taste even better with a shot of coffee added to the batter or even to the ganache. If you're a caffeine lover like me, maybe you can give it a try and let me know how you go?? Either way, you've got to make these healthy chocolate mini cakes. It has the tick of approval from the hubster...always a good honest reviewer of my baking. 

Recipe
makes 9 small cupcakes

Ingredients
1 small sweet potato (skin peeled)
1 medium banana
6 dates
1/2 cup almond meal (I made 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup sunflowers seeds into a meal)
2-3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon macadamia oil

for the ganache
1/4 cup cacao
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons water
chopped dates for garnish

Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and prepare a small cupcake tin. Add all ingredients to food processor and mix on high until well combined. Fill cupcake tin and put into oven for 35-40 mins or until golden and firm(ish). Meanwhile, prepare the ganache. Add cacao, syrup and water together and mix with a fork. You want a ganache texture so add more water if it is too thick or add more cacao if it is too runny. When cakes are done remove from oven and let cool. Smear with chocolate ganache and top with chopped date. Done! Enjoy!

Rainbow Tuna Bowl

Salads can get boring and it takes some motivation to keep up your recommended intake of at least 5 veggies per day. It really goes a long way if you can make your salads visually appealing, since we all "eat" with our eyes first. If our food doesn't look delicious we often expect for it not to taste delicious. Here are a few tips on how to zhuzh up your salad as we're coming into spring/summer:

  1. Location location location! as they say in property. Well the same goes for food. As in, what your present or store it in. If you pre-prepare your salad to take with you to work or on the go, make sure you have it in a clear container so that you can see the beautiful colours of the veggies and be reminded of the delicious flavours you have waiting for you at lunch. Studies show that if you store foods in clear containers you are likely to eat more of that particular food.
  2. Keep your salad dressing separate until its time to eat. No one likes a soggy salad or an undressed salad. So invest in a good quality no-spil tupperware container and take it with you for when lunctime comes around. 
  3. Salad alone won't fill you up. Include protein to your salad to help you combat those 3:30itis munchies. Good options include canned fish, grilled or poached chicken breast, boiled egg, quinoa or any leftover meat from last night's dinner. 
  4. Include a variety of different flavours and textures to keep it interesting. For example:
    Creamy - avocado, tahini, fetta
    Crunchy - nuts, seeds, pomegranate seeds
    Sweet - think mango, strawberries or peaches teamed with chicken and mint
  5. Experiment! Don't be afraid to try new things. Instead of cooking veggies try to have them raw or cut them in a different way (think raw shredded beetroot or grated raw pumpkin as seen in the recipe below). Caramelise nuts in a bit of honey in a pan and add that for extra crunch. Try different herbs and spices. The sky is the limit. 

Here is one of my favourite ways of having a plain old tuna salad :) 

Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup shredded baby spinach
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
1/4 avocado diced
1/2 cup shredded raw pumpkin
1 tomato diced
1/2 small cucumber diced
1 tin chilli tuna in oil drained
lemon juice
hot sauce
salt & pepper

Method:
Prepare ingredients and arrange in a large bowl. Dress with lemon juice, hot sauce, salt & pepper. Enjoy!