You Are What Your Parents (And Grandparents) Ate
Eat Real Food
Processed foods aren’t good for mama, papa, or baby. These junk foods put unnecessary stress on our systems and are void of nutrients. A healthy preconception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding diet will be rich in the following foods.
What to Eat During Pre-Conception, Pregnancy & Breastfeeding:
- High quality protein may reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy (like common iron-deficiency). Look for wild-caught fish (canned sardines and salmon in water are easy and inexpensive), oysters, pastured meats, and grass-fed/finished beef. Decades of research supports the fact that grass-fed beef contains significantly higher omega-3s levels which are essential for baby’s brain and eye development. It also has more Vitamin A and E precursors, and cancer fighting antioxidants. Eggs are easy and nutrient-dense too.
- Plenty of vegetables, avoiding pesticides. Aim to cover most of your plate in veggies.
- Plenty of fat with every meal – Grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, eggs, etc. This article/video by Dr. Mark Hyman is a great and simple introduction to understanding the importance of eating a diet rich in high quality fats. Fat is essential for organ and brain development. (Don’t worry about gaining too much, the right kind of fat doesn’t make you fat, rather it burns fat.)
- Fruit and nuts are a great snack. Eating a varied diet will ensure that you and baby are getting all the essentials.
- Pure water should be our main drink all day long. Mom’s blood volume increases during pregnancy and her body has to constantly flush and replenish the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Staying really well hydrated is crucial for mom’s health and baby’s proper growth. Avoid chemicals and contaminants in tap water crossing the placenta by using a water filter.
What to Avoid:
- Any kind of chemically processed food, which contain excess sugar, artificial ingredients like preservatives, colorants, and flavorings, refined carbs, and hydrogenated (trans) fat. Processed foods tend to be low in nutrients and it’s easy to overeat this addicting junk. Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients on every single bottle, bag, can, jar of “food” that you’re thinking about consuming.
- Sugar is simply devoid of any nutritional value. It’s addicting and threatens the healthy balance of gut flora. Added sugar intake leads to disease and feeds disease.
- Fruit juice, especially pasteurized commercially available juices, have way too much sugar to be healthy. Homemade fruit smoothies are better because they contain the fruit’s healthy fiber and nutrients.
- Grains can be replaced with foods of a higher nutrient-density like proteins and veggies. It’s tempting to fill up on carbs but much healthier to focus on nutrient-rich foods.
Most women can continue their normal exercise routines during pregnancy. If you sit at a desk most of the day, consider using a standing desk and taking a walk (or a short sprint!) during breaks. We all know the benefits of regular activity, but studies have also shown that moms who are active may have an easier pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and healthier baby too. Walking even 30 minutes a day is a great way to stay active. Swimming is also a great exercise and provides relief from the extra baby weight. Squats, lunges, and weights (within your capacity) are great to strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and preparing you for delivery. Be sure to check with your midwife or doctor to make sure that your exercise routines are safe for you.
A study by the EWG reported over 200 toxic chemicals, including BPA and flame retardants, in the umbilical cord blood of minority infants. Anila Jacobs, EWG senior scientist stated,
We know the developing fetus is one of the most vulnerable populations, if not the most vulnerable, to environmental exposure. Their organ systems aren’t mature and their detox methods are not in place, so cord blood gives us a good picture of exposure during this most vulnerable time of life (Source).
Our modern society is steeped in chemicals – even baby products contain toxic ingredients. We can’t eliminate our exposure altogether, but there are some things we can do:
- Make your own personal care and beauty products (also saves money) or purchase more natural brands.
- Make your own cleaning products. Diluted vinegar does a great job of disinfecting in the kitchen and hydrogen peroxide in the bathroom sans the toxic overload that comes with commercial cleaning products.
- Avoid plastic. As this article states, “Most plastic products, from sippy cups to food wraps, can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives.“
It can be difficult to get all the rest and relaxation you need when you’re going through the discomforts of pregnancy or nursing a baby through the night. As with everything else, we can only do our best. Some ways to encourage sleep: Prioritize sleep. Make a nighttime routine and set a bedtime and stick to it. Eat right and exercise – nutrient deficiencies can prevent hinder sleep. Being tired at the end of the day really helps. If you’re pregnant, sleep on your left side to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby. Also, after sunset avoid blue light from energy efficient bulbs and electronic devices. Prayer, meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing may also help you relax before bedtime.
Like I mentioned, I wish I would have known this information and had these resources before I conceived. Over the last few years my husband and I have been learning how to take better care of ourselves as we create and support life. Certainly everyone is different, but I hope this inspires you on your health journey!