Optimizing nutrition for pregnancy ideally should begin prior to conception, continue through pregnancy and extend through breastfeeding. These are crucial times in a woman’s life to remain optimally nourished. A mother’s nourishment provides her child with the strongest possible health foundation while also protecting her own body from depletion. This is the season of life when women run the highest risk for nutrient depletion, which plants the seeds for future disease, and also for emotional depletion, which can lead to postpartum depression, troubles with the family dynamic and child development issues. A mother is the true physical and emotional foundation of a healthy, balanced family and you can’t give it if you ain’t got it, right?
This is why we believe nutrition for pregnancy requires holistic nourishment, which supports you by replenishing and continuously maintaining all the “wells of wellbeing”: mind, body and spirit. Yes, it includes nutrition – the fuel you put INTO your body – but it also includes what you put ON your body, your whole lifestyle, and your thoughts. Your body is in a constant state of achieving homeostasis, or balance. So you can see, all these elements of your life are equally important for maintaining your physical, emotional and spiritual balance.
Nutrition for pregnancy including these three stages of life requires many of the same key factors: nutrition levels, supplements, lifestyle elements and environmental factors. We would like to share a few practical tips that are helpful through all three stages.
Nutrition for Pregnancy – Including Pre-Conception, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:
- Make every bite count! Consume nutrient-dense foods and avoid empty calories (processed, junk, high-sugar, fried foods).
- Eat clean more and more often, working your way up to a diet that consists of meals made from simple, whole, high-quality ingredients only. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen as a guide for organic produce.
- Choose organic or at least hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. Look for a farm or farmer’s market near you where you can ask the farmers themselves how the animals have been treated. In the Orlando area, Freshfields Farm carries fresh grass-fed beef while most Publix supermarkets and Whole Foods locations offer humanely-raised, organic and/or antibiotic- and hormone-free meat options.
- Ensure that all your meals and snacks are rich in protein, fat and fiber. This will give you even energy all day, balance your blood sugar and keep you satiated longer.
- Practice intuitive eating. This is especially helpful when managing cravings and aiming to make better choices. What are you craving? Is it chocolate ice cream? Do you have enough fat or protein in your diet? Or do you just need something cold?
Nutrition for Pregnancy – Advice About Supplements:
- Take them!!!
- Besides a high quality prenatal (with folate, not folic acid), we suggest an Omega 3 supplement from a pure source (due to the mercury content in fish), a homeopathic iron supplement, Vitamin D3 (get your levels checked) and a high-quality (ideally refrigerated) probiotic.
- Note: taking supplements doesn’t give you a free pass to eat nutrient-deprived food. You need the boost along with a nutrient-dense diet.
Nutrition for Pregnancy – Supportive Lifestyle Habits:
- Be conscious about your emotions and manage your stress! You are your baby’s immediate environment (when in the womb and out) for at least a good few years. Do you want your baby to live in an adrenaline-rushed, anxious, stressed environment or in a balanced, happy one?
- Sleep and rest as much as your body requires. (Yes, if you have a baby and maybe even a toddler running around, this might be difficult. Prioritize!)
- Practice self-care, even when you think you have no time for it. Once you do things for yourself, things you know that energize you, it will not take time away from you, but rather give back and make you more effective the rest of your day.
Nutrition for Pregnancy – The Role of Your Environment:
There are a lot of elements that you can’t/are difficult to control, but there are quite a few you do have control over. Learn about them and start making conscious choices to limit exposure to toxic chemicals that can cause developmental delays, hormone imbalances, cancer and other major diseases.
- Become aware of the products you and your family use – from laundry detergents and laundry sheets to candles/air fresheners to makeup and personal care products. Look them up for safety on the Environmental Working Group’s extensive database. As you use them up, gradually replace them with safer alternatives.
- Start thinking about water purifying systems for your drinking water and shower heads. Ditch plastic water bottles forever and get stainless steel or glass containers.
- Look through your kitchen. Step by step, strive to eliminate plastics, Teflon, aluminum foils, Styrofoam, etc. Switch to glass, wood, cast iron and stainless steel.
- Last, but not least, be conscious about your thoughts.
We know that being a mom (especially if you are a first-time mom) is very demanding on multiple levels — physically, mentally and emotionally. To avoid overwhelm, we suggest that you make step-by-step changes, implementing just a few or maybe one per week. We hope the above information gives you valuable tidbits that you can leverage to optimize your nutrition for pregnancy and beyond. And remember that we are always here for you with individualized advice and resources to help you remain an optimally nourished mom!
This article was written expressly for Cannizzaro Integrative Pediatric Center by health coach, Katinka Bencs. www.katinka.org
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