I learnt something very interesting today, which I had never considered before. The window of opportunity for introducing new foods to infants is limited. It best time usually ranges from around 4-6 months to around 12-14 months. This, interestingly, corresponds to the time at which they begin to sit up with support to when the begin walking and running around freely on their own. This is an evolutionary protective mechanism so that once kids are up and running all over the place they become suspicious of unfamiliar fruits, vegetables and meats. This is a good thing because, lets face it-we can’t keep an eye on our kids every second of the day. This protective mechanism is designed so that if we were still ‘in the wild’, it would (hopefully) protect our kids from picking up and eating something which could potentially be poisonous. As this time frame is limited, it is so important to introduce infants to a wide range of colorful foods. According to Dr Greene, ‘if you let them sample something enough times…they can more easily acquire a taste for it than at any other period in life’. It is important to make the most of this nutritional window. Introducing infants to a rainbow of colorful tasty fruits and vegetables, whole grains and varied textures, rather than bland processed flavors, will set them on the right path for healthy eating through in to adult life.
During pregnancy it is not uncommon to find yourself as a human magnet. You will find that without realizing it, you have entered in to a new ‘members only’ club. Women of all ages will smile at you in the street, random people will stare at your belly in awe, doors will be held open for you, and total strangers will feel the need to put their hands on your bump. People love to tell you all sorts of things when you are pregnant. They will relish in telling you the joys, the horrors, the hells, the triumphs of their pregnancy and birth experiences. People will tell you ‘you should never do this’, and ‘definitely do that’, whether you ask for their opinion or not! You will hear things from your mother, your mother in law, your aunty, your cousin, your best friend, your boss’s wife, the elderly lady down the street, people on the bus, mom’s in the park, and it is likely that they are all saying completely different things. All this advice can become overwhelming and confusing, and is often not based on anything more than old wives tales. So I wanted to set a couple of common pregnancy myths straight.
The common pregnancy myth about ‘eating for two’, is just that-a myth. Although you want to nourish yourself during your pregnancy, you do not want to over eat. In reality, we only require an additional 100 calories in the first trimester, and 300 extra calories during the second and third, which when you think about it really isn’t a lot. During pregnancy your body becomes more efficient at absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat. Eating twice as much does not double your chances of having a healthy baby. Have you ever wondered why pregnant women are so prone to constipation? Unfortunately, constipation affects approximately half of all women at some point during their pregnancy. Although it may be annoying, it does have its purpose. The passage of food through the gut is slowed down due to the effects of pregnancy hormones progesterone and relaxin. The hormones relax the muscles of the intestines, which takes the body longer to move food along. The longer the food sits within the intestines, the more time the body has to absorb its nutrients needed to grow a healthy baby. Unfortunately, this can lead to constipation. The best ways to avoid constipation is by increasing your fiber intake, drinking plenty of water (around 2-3Ls a day) and by doing regular exercise.
Make healthy choices during your pregnancy. Your baby’s health is directly related to what you eat before, during and after pregnancy. Nutrition is key to a healthy pregnancy and birth and is the biggest and most valuable tool you have for avoiding discomforts and complications, such as nausea and vomiting, heartburn, leg cramps, high blood pressure and swelling. Overall, healthy moms have healthy babies.
Think quality over quantity. Nutrition is one of the only things you have complete control over. So make every bite count. Eat nutrient rich, organic whole foods whenever possible. Avoid processed and refined foods, artificial sweeteners and preservatives. This is important throughout, but especially during the first trimester, as many women will experience ‘morning sickness’, (which by the way is another myth, morning sickness can occur at ANY time of the day!) where it may be difficult stomach a lot of food. If you are throwing up, you want to be sure that the food you are getting is the best it can be, and full of all the vitamins and minerals you need for your baby.
It is normal to gain between 25-35lbs during pregnancy, but remember that weight gain is individual. If you start off with a BMI (body mass index) slightly lower than average, you may find your put on a little extra weight-don’t be alarmed! We put on weight for a reason, and it is normal. Do not try to diet or loose weight whilst pregnant. It is dangerous and can lead to a number of complications. Also, don’t expect the weight to just fall off once you’ve given birth. Although breastfeeding does help to loose some of the weight put on during pregnancy, our body does still need additional calories and weight whilst nursing. Be kind to yourself. Remember that the pregnancy weight took 9 months to put on, and it is perfectly acceptable for it to take 9 months, if not longer, for you to return to your normal weight again. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t just ping back in to shape the moment we give birth. Don’t be put off by stories of celebrities or even friends, returning to their pre-pregnancy skinny jeans 3 days after stepping foot outside of the hospital doors! This is not a reality, and we should not adopt these unrealistic expectations. It is not healthy for anyone!
Myth number 2 ‘fats will make you fat’ is another common misconception, not just in pregnancy but in general too. Avoiding fats will not stop you from gaining weight. Gaining weight is inevitable during pregnancy. In fact eating the right kinds of fats will actually help you burn fat, control your moods, and fight fatigue.
For years nutritionists and doctors have preached from the low-fat bible, claiming that cutting fats will aid weight loss, prevent heart disease and manage cholesterol. But eliminating fats entirely from our diets is not the answer. In our culture we are obsessed with fat-free, dairy-free and low-fat alternatives, we forget that certain amounts of fat are essential for our bodies to function effectively. Fats are crucial for the nervous system and the development of the baby’s brain. It is not about the total amount of fat in our diet, it is about the type of fat that we eat. We have to remember that not all fats are equal.
A walk through the aisles of Albertsons or Ralphs provides us with many supposedly ‘guilt free’ alternatives: Fat free ice cream, low fat candies, cookie and cakes. When you come to browse the shelves for milk, for example, it is pretty hard to come across a carton of whole, or full fat milk. The array of low-fat and fat-free alternatives are all around us, but they do not take the importance of essential milk fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins (A & D) in to consideration. Today most people think they are doing a good thing by drinking low-fat milk, but most of these commercial milk products are completely deficient of these vital nutrients. These products are marketed to our nation’s insecurities surrounding body image and weight gain. The low-fat label is a marketing tool, and a good one at that. One that’s had us fooled for many decades. If you think about it another way, 2% milk still has a very low fat content-2%-that’s 98% fat free!
The truth is, pregnancy is not the time to be doing fat-free anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating bingeing on nothing but cheesey fries with lashings of ranch dressing, Twinkies and chocolate sundaes, but the key is seeking out the ‘good’ fats. Ones which really are healthy for us. It is about cutting out the bad fats and replacing them with healthier choices to promote optimum health.
Remember what your mother always told you, ‘You are what you eat’.
‘Pre-pregnancy diet affects health of future offspring’-Science Daily, July 4th 2011
Eating Habits Programmed During Infancy-Healthy Child Healthy World
“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” –Hippocrates, ancient Greek physician
We have all heard the phrase, ‘You are what you eat’, but now according to an article in Time magazine, ‘We are also what our mothers eat’!
Your baby’s health is directly related to what you eat before, during and after pregnancy. ‘Healthy Mothers have healthy babies’, as Robin Lim states in her book, ‘Eating for Two’. Nutrition is key to a healthy pregnancy and birth and is the biggest and best tool you have for avoiding discomforts and complications, such as…
- Hemorrhoids (Piles)
- Leg Cramps
- Pre-term labor
- Anemia (Low Iron)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lactation problems
Since around 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, living a healthy, eco-conscious lifestyle may be the best thing you can do to prepare your body for having children, planned or not.
It is important to focus on good nutrition as soon as you can. Eat wholesome organic foods whenever possible. Remember that good nutrition is like an investment-You have to pay upfront to get the desired result. The majority of birth defects occur in the first three weeks of pregnancy, often before many women know they are pregnant. It is therefore important that you already have your nutrient reserves boosted. If you are currently trying to conceive, now is the perfect time to make changes to your diet, to ensure you are getting the essential nutrients for your pregnancy. Often perceived ‘infertility’ can be resolved through dietary changes and/or alternative therapies, such as Acupuncture. Start taking a prenatal multivitamin (even if you are not pregnant yet). This acts as an ‘insurance policy’ for anything you may be lacking in your diet. In our modern world, unhealthy farming practices, such as spraying crops with chemical fungicides and insecticides, rob our soil and therefore our foods of vital nutrients, which is why I would recommend taking a prenatal vitamin, even if you already have a healthy diet. However, simply taking a multi-vitamin, is not enough by itself. Supplementation should not take the place of food. It is always better to get nutrients direct from food sources rather than from a synthetic source, as your body will be able to digest and absorb them more readily.
If you are already pregnant, don’t worry-it is never too late. You may find completing a food diary helpful. Jot down everything you are eating over the course of a week (and be honest). It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you will find you pay more attention to what you’re eating, and you’ll be more cautious about your food choices when you know you have to write it down. Show it to your healthcare provider, to see if they have a recommendations. It is also important to remember that the benefits of eating wisely during pregnancy are not just confined to the womb, it lays a strong foundation for our children’s future health and their eating habits for the rest of their lives.
As some of you may already realize, Folic Acid, or Folate, is one of the important nutrients a woman needs during pregnancy (especially in the first 3 months) to prevent against Neural Tube Disorders, such as Spina Bifida, but how many of you know that Folic Acid is great to take PRE-pregnancy too? Folic Acid can be depleted by oral contraceptives and is helpful for enhancing fertility in both men and women. Think, leafy greens, nuts, green beans, asparagus, legumes, lima beans, wholegrains and oranges for healthy sources of Folic Acid.
Below are my 2 favorite Prenatal Multi Vitamins. There are both organic whole food based supplements, rather than synthetic versions. This means the nutrients are more easily broken down, processed and absorbed by the body (bio-available), and you are highly unlikely to get any allergic reactions or unpleasant side effects.
Related Article – ‘Ten tips to prepare for your pregnancy’ – Healthy Child, Healthy World
A short video clip from a Midwife who discusses ways to avoid and minimize perineal tearing
Iron deficiency, or anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, and is a common problem that many women face during pregnancy. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only 1 in 5 women have adequate iron stores at the start of their pregnancy. Even if women don’t start pregnancy anemic, it isn’t uncommon for them to develop anemia during the second or third trimester as the maternal blood volume dramatically expands by around 50%, in effect, diluting the iron levels (Hemodilution). During pregnancy a woman’s iron requirements increase significantly from 18 to 27mg per day. This occurs for a number of reasons, firstly to provide the baby with a sufficient oxygen supply, secondly to account for the expanding blood volume and the transfer of iron to the growing baby and placenta, and thirdly to accommodate for normal blood loss at birth. A deficiency can lead to a number of adverse health outcomes such as impaired aerobic fitness and endurance capacity, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, reduced short-term memory and attention span, suppressed immune function, and can lead to complications such as low birth weight and prematurity. Therefore poor iron status is a public health problem, which warrants greater attention. Luckily, although a common occurrence, anemia can be easily remedied by nutrition, and is something a pregnant woman can take control of during her pregnancy without too much difficulty.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends pregnant women take an additional 30mg of iron as a preventative dose throughout pregnancy, though many conventional iron supplements often prescribed by doctors have unpleasant side effects including (but not limited to), nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea and dark stools. I believe the best way to tackle anemia is by preventing it in the first place. Try to include a number of different iron rich foods, animal and plant-based, in to your diet daily (see below), even if your iron levels are currently normal, as they are likely to decrease as you progress through your pregnancy. Don’t wait until your levels have dropped before you decide to start doing something about it. It is far easier to bump up an already healthy iron level than it is to bring up a drastically low level. Having a good iron level will help your energy levels throughout your pregnancy, and will aid your recovery post partum if you were to have a heavy bleed at birth.
A great natural iron supplement that I recommend to all my clients (in addition to their daily prenatal vitamin) is Floradix. Floradix is a tonic which helps prevent iron deficiency or anemia. It contains 20mg of plant-based (non-heme) iron, plus digestion-promoting herbs to help avoid constipation, in addition ocean kelp, rose hips and wheat germ extracts which yield 60mg of vitamin C, vitamin K and B vitamins. The iron in Floradix is very bio-available, meaning it is highly absorbable to the body. 83% of the iron absorbed is absorbed immediately, which lessens the likelihood of constipation as very little is passed in to the lower GI tract. In other words, it’s a highly effective and safe supplement for women to take throughout their pregnancy, without having to deal with nasty side effects of conventional iron.
Iron Rich Foods
- Red meats
- Poultry (dark meat)
- Shellfish (oysters especially)
- Eggs yolks
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews
- Fruits such as prunes, apricots, dates, figs
- Dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, swiss chard, spinach, collards, parsley
- Beans, lentils and whole grains
- Black strap molasses
- Iron fortified cereals
* Try taking iron rich foods with a glass of orange or tomato juice, as the vitamin C helps the body to absorb the iron efficiently. Avoid taking with milk or tea and coffee, as the calcium and the tannins present in tea and coffee impede the absorption of iron