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Pre-Pregnancy Diet: Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips

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Pre-pregnancy nutrition is extremely crucial if you are thinking to have a baby. It increases your possibilities of getting pregnant, maintains a healthy pregnancy, helps you have a healthy body, and improves the possibility of giving birth with few or no complications. In fact, it prepares your body and mind for the arrival of the little one.

Pre-Pregnancy Key Nutrients And Foods To Eat

You need to prepare your body for pregnancy by supplementing some key nutrients to your diet. Here’s a list of the nutrients and their food sources.

Folic Acid

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise all women of reproductive age to take 400 mg folic acid per day along with folate from different food sources. Folic acid helps decrease the risk of birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Folic acid (or vitamin B9) is utilized by our body to make new cells. Women who want to get pregnant or are pregnant can benefit from eating folic acid as it helps in the development of the neural tube.

Folic acid is found in several vitamin supplements and in natural form as well as fortified foods. Here’s a list of sources of folic acid.

Food Sources

Green Vegetables –Spinach, kale, radish greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, celery, okra, and broccoli. Blanch or sauté them in good quality olive oil to enjoy a yummy and wholesome meal.
Root Vegetables – Beets and turnips.
Fruits – Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, strawberries, raspberries, papayas, bananas, and avocados. Have at least three different kinds of fruits twice a day.
Beans And Nuts– Kidney beans, lentils, peas, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts. Do not eat too many nuts if you are trying to lose weight to improve your possibilities of getting pregnant.
Seeds – Flax seeds and sunflower seeds.
Animal Products – Eggs, dairy, meat, dairy, and salmon (be careful with the mercury levels in fish).
Whole Grains –Wheat germ and bulgur.
Fortified Foods – Breakfast cereals, fortified bread, and fortified pasta.

Calcium

Calcium is a very essential micronutrient for you and your baby. Your baby’s bones and teeth will need calcium, and so will you to carry your baby for nine months in your womb and be capable to walk and do moderate to easy chores. Taking calcium supplements or calcium-rich foods also aids counteract osteoporosis when you conceive. You must aim at getting 1000 mg of calcium per day.

Food Sources

Vegetables –Kale, spinach, and broccoli.
Dairy – Milk, calcium-fortified milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Calcium Fortified Juices –Calcium-fortified cranberry juice, orange juice, and other vegetable juices. Make certain that these juices do not have too much sugar to limit excessive weight gain.

Iron

The WHO advises taking 30-60 mg elemental iron per day.

Taking iron before you get pregnant will prepare your body for the improvement in blood volume (by 30-40%) during pregnancy. When blood volume rises, the iron levels are reduced in many pregnant women, leading to anemia.

Consuming iron-rich foods or taking iron supplements will also assure that there is sufficient oxygen available for you and your baby.

Food Sources

Animal Sources – Chicken, ground turkey, beef, poultry, lamb, pork, oysters, fish (find out the source of the fish to prevent heavy metal poisoning), and yogurt.
Vegetables –Broccoli, spinach, tomato, bell pepper, asparagus, edamame, snow peas, potato with skin, turnip, beet greens, peas, beetroot, and kale.
Fruits – Apricot, prunes, and hearts of palm.
Proteins – Eggs, lentils, beans, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, peas, hummus, and canned baked beans.
Grains And Grain Products –All types of cereals, granola bars, oats, and pasta.
Nuts And Seeds – Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachio, toasted sesame seeds, and nut butter.

Iodine

Iodine is extremely vital for your child’s healthy brain development. The WHO advises consuming 150 mg of iodized salt daily.

Food Sources

Salt – Iodized salt (Do not consume too much salt, especially if you are hypertensive).
Dairy –Milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats (or omega-3 fatty acids) help overcome inflammation in the body and check inflammation-induced weight gain. Omega-3 fatty acids also stimulate ovulation-inducing hormones and increase the blood flow in reproductive organs. These healthy fats are also the building blocks of the fetal brain and retina. Moreover, they are good for preventing perinatal depression. You must have at least 320 g of seafood per week.

Food Sources

Seafood – Wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna
Fruit– Avocado
Nuts And Seeds – Walnuts, peanuts, macadamia, cashews, nut butter, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and pepita.
Oils – Olive oil, avocado oil, and rice bran oil.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber helps increase bowel movement, improves satiety, and benefits weight loss. If you are planning to have a baby and are overweight, we recommend that you bring your weight down to the range that is right for your height, weight, and age. Being overweight or obese can trigger hormonal imbalances that may preclude you from getting pregnant. Consume high-fiber foods and get your metabolic rate kicking.

Food Sources

Vegetables –Spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, sweet potato with skin, beetroot, carrot, celery, bok choy, arugula, and okra.
Fruits– Prunes, strawberry, orange, plum, cranberry, peach, pineapple, blueberries, and blackcurrant.
Beans And Legumes –Lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, edamame, garbanzo beans, Bengal gram, and dried white peas.
Nuts And Seeds – Walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, nut butter, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and pepita.
Whole Grains – Brown rice, black rice, red rice, buckwheat, broken wheat, wheat, barley, sorghum, and oats.

Protein

Proteins are the building blocks of your body. Your hair, nails, saliva, hormones, muscles, cells – everything is made of proteins. Proteins can also help you lose weight and build lean muscle mass. Consume 1.1-1.5 g protein per kg body weight before pregnancy depending on your weight, height, age, and everyday activity level.

Food Sources

Plant-Based Sources – Lentils, soybeans, lima beans, peas, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, soy chunks, and edamame.
Dairy –Milk, yogurt, buttermilk, and cheese.
Seafood– Fish, clams, prawns, crab, and mussel.
Meat –Chicken breast, beef, pork, and turkey.
Poultry – Eggs.

Choose foods that will help build a strong and healthy body for you and your baby. Make sure that you consume foods that you are not allergic to.

Lifestyle Changes

Quit Smoking

Smoking is harmful not only for you but also for your baby. It can increase the risk of gestational hypertension and put your baby’s health at risk. So, quit smoking if you are trying to get pregnant.

Consume Limited Amounts Of Alcohol

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a strict no-no. However, you may take confined quantities of wine while preparing your body to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor to figure out your alcohol intake limit.

Become Active

Being overweight or obese can prevent you from getting pregnant. It can also lead to complications during pregnancy and birthing. To avoid such complications, start getting active. Join a gym or a physical activity class maybe a sport, dancing, or swimming. Working out regularly will also stimulate the secretion of the “feel good” hormones that help you stay motivated and feel good about yourself.

Take Supplements

Consult your doctor to find out if you lack any micronutrients. If you do, you must take supplements to make up for them. Certain micronutrients directly or indirectly help improve the levels of reproductive hormones and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.

Reduce Stress

Stress is a silent killer. It increases the circulation of harmful free oxygen radicals, which can alter the DNA structure and cause the production of faulty proteins. The more stressed you are, the lesser your body and brain function normally. Decrease stress by sleeping well at night, spending time doing what you love, taking up a hobby, meeting friends, and taking time out for yourself.

Limit Caffeine Intake

Coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks are sources of caffeine. You may drink two-three cups of green tea, shots of espresso, and have a piece of 80% dark chocolate per day, but do not exceed this limit. Avoid caffeine altogether if you are caffeine sensitive.

Your lifestyle also means a lot when it comes to a pre-pregnancy diet. Get active, sleep well, decrease stress, and discard all your unhealthy habits.

Bottomline

Preparing to get pregnant can be stressful. But, you can do it peacefully if you have the correct guidance. Speak to your doctor frequently, track your ovulation cycle, consume the appropriate foods, and follow a healthy lifestyle. Prepare your body and mind to experience the best feeling in the world.

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