When I ask expecting parents what they hope their baby will be like, whether a boy or a girl, most reply that they don’t mind as long as their baby is healthy. Health is central to happiness and wellbeing, and is the benchmark for living a long and fulfilled life. Although we can’t control all factors for health, diet is certainly one that we can and it is unquestionably fundamental to our health.
By eating healthily during pregnancy you are giving your baby the best possible start in life. A healthy diet is also linked to a long list of benefits for mums, such as reducing the risk of developing long term diseases, minimising discomforts of pregnancy, contributing to increased energy and balanced emotional state, maintaining a healthy weight, and the list goes on. The benefits have also been shown to carry on as parents learn and appreciate the importance of eating a healthy diet even after pregnancy and will teach their children to do so too.
During pregnancy your developing baby is completely dependent on you to meet his or her nutritional requirements needed for growth and development. Whatever you eat and drink, he or she eats and drinks too. If your intake of vitamins or minerals is too low to meet your baby’s demands, your body will draw on your reserves to give your baby everything they need. As a result you will be left more deficient, which can then lead to health problems during the pregnancy and in the future.
Although you may find all the different advice out there conflicting sometimes, the general consensus is always to follow a balanced, varied diet. The following principles may help make things a little easier to remember:
- Go back to basics: focus on food that the earth has given us in their whole, unprocessed form such as veggies, fruits, nuts, pulses, grains, eggs, meat, fish, and small amounts of dairy.
- Make fruits, vegetables and pulses the main focus of the meal: Fruits, vegetables and pulses all contain an array of vitamins and minerals, proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates as well as fibre that are essential for growth and development. You can have the meat & grains as a side dish.
- Choose wholegrain and wholemeal products: These still contain the fibre and nutrients that haven’t been refined and stripped of all of their nutritional value as with ‘white’ products.
- Avoid processed foods: This means anything that contains ingredients in it that have been made in a lab or that you couldn’t make at home
- Prepare your own meals: When you cook your own meals, you not only see what goes in, but you’ll also ensure that everything is fresh, and as unprocessed as possible. In addition, during pregnancy hygiene is especially important, and cooking your own meals means you can control the environment and minimise your risk of contamination with dangerous bacteria like listeria.
- Everything in moderation: This is a tip my mom has always sworn by and it makes complete sense. Life is not about depriving yourself, so when you’re at a birthday party have that slice of cake that’s making your mouth water. Just don’t have it every day. During pregnancy however, there are certain things that are best not to give into, so leave that glass of wine for later.