Notes from the Salon: The Power of Nutrition During Pregnancy

By: Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer


“The most significant prenatal care a woman can get is the care she gives herself.”

-Ashley Spivak

On February 18, about 25 people settled into couches, chairs and floor-spaces in the brightly painted living room of BADP volunteer Christine Litas. It was the night of our Salon, and Ash Spivak, a certified food educator and nutrient-dense recipe developer visiting from New York, shared her wisdom, science-based knowledge, and passion for nutrition. I know I am not the only person who left this 2-hour Salon equipped with new tools to support my Mama-clients and apply to my own eating habits.

Ash began the evening with a stress-reducing exercise, where each participate was asked to close their eyes and feel where our bodies touched a surface, to take deep breaths, then to bring awareness to our senses: touch, taste, sound, and smell. Not only was this a relaxing erxercise, but it led into the fact that we experience a lot of stress, and stress effects digestion, among other areas of our health. When we experience stress, our liver creates glucose (sugar) so we have the energy to escape dangerous situations. Because we experience so much stress in our culture, Americans typically have bodies overloaded with sugar that we don’t burn off, because the nature of the stress is no longer running from wild animals, but experiencing traffic or job stress. So, de-stressing every day is key for healthy Mamas and for everyone. Even for a few minutes.

But rather than feel overwhelmed by any of this, I felt empowered because Ash shared very accessible tools to help combate negative influences in our health. 

Rather than measuring foods or following a plan, Ash introduced an interesting and more creative approach: think about what you eat in terms of color. For example, processed foods like potato chips (even organic ones) are gray, kale would be green; raw, it’s bright green. We each drew a picture (with crayons) of what we’d eaten that day, not actually physical representations of the foods, but color representations. Some people drew landscapes, other looked like Rothko-esque blocks. Pictures with a variety of bright colors are the ones we’re most attracted to, the ones that represent the healthiest foods.

Another point I loved was Ash’s focus on creating nutrient-dense meals. “It’s not about eliminating pizza, but throw some arugula on it,” Ash said. “If you’re having a burger, add an avocado. Avocado supplies Omega 3 fatty acids, arugula is loaded with antioxidants.”

In the same vein, if you have use sugar, choose one that also benefits you. For example, honey contains minerals that white sugar does not. Better yet, blackstrap molasses contains iron, magnesium, and Vitamin B6.

In terms of pregnancy or fertility-specific eating, Ash posited that if a person is considering getting pregnant, they want to create a nutrient reservoir, since many people don’t know they’re pregnant for quite a while. 

As doulas know, in pregnancy a person’s protein requirements double. So, it’s optimal to eat protein with every meal. But there are complete and incomplete proteins. Incomplete proteins need to be combined with other incomplete proteins, such as brown rice and beans and/or nuts. News to me: Spirulina, buckwheat, and quinoa are complete proteins, equal to animal meat.

For morning sickness, try keep something in the stomach at all times. “Keep an orange next to the bed,” Ash suggested. “Don’t eat meals, but graze all day.”

Ash closed the evening by distributing two different varieties of chocolate as well as roasted almonds. We were instructed to slowly chew each piece and think about the flavor, the way one would taste wine. What an amazing evening!

Check out Ashley Spivak’s work at and

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