It's rare that great nutritional advice is provided for women considering becoming pregnant. Our Western lifestyle often has led to unhealthy and out-of-balance choices. Many chiropractors who provide family wellness care often provide nutritional or healthy lifestyle information to their patients.
So what does the body require to have a healthy pregnancy? Start with the whole-food concept. To eat a balanced diet, a woman should understand that living a "whole foods" rather than a "processed" lifestyle is best for her and her future baby.
Balanced Whole-Food Diet
- Proteins and iron are important. These can be found in preferably organic, grass-fed, or hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, lamb and poultry. Eggs will give additional vitamin A. Additional sources of iron can be found in wheat germ, bran, nuts, parsley and molasses. Essential fatty acids and protein can be found in fatty fish (salmon, black cod, etc.); fish oil supplements should be a part of her regimen as well.
- Dairy products are a great source of calcium and protein, but her diet should be balanced with other healthy calcium sources such as soy products, nuts, seaweed products, wheat germ or wheat bran.
- Beans, legumes and green leafy vegetables provide fiber, protein and other essential vitamins for a healthy balanced diet.
- Folic acid and vitamin B are addressed with a diet of whole grains, nuts and dairy products. Mono-unsaturated fats also can be found in nuts and avocados. Also, berries provide antioxidants, additional vitamins and phytonutrients.
Pre-Conception Lifestyle Changes
A "wellness pregnancy" should occur four to 12 months prior to conceiving. We should encourage our patients to inform us in enough time prior to conceiving so we might launch into a dialog of healthy nutritional advice.
One way of starting is to request that your patient fill out a nutritional journal for one week so you can review her "lifestyle of eating and drinking." Often, it's not how much she is consuming that should concern us, but rather her lifestyle choices. When reviewing her nutritional journal, it would not be unusual to see a lifestyle of missing breakfasts and consuming high carbohydrates, low proteins, unhealthy fats, processed foods, high caffeine and chemicals.
So where to begin? If you have months to alter her eating lifestyle, encourage her to change a little at a time - always explaining the why behind the change. For example, a high intake of caffeine is known to decrease the opportunity of conceiving and slightly increase the likelihood of miscarriage in the first trimester. With the craze of specialty coffees not going away and the high consumption of diet colas, we have a caffeine-driven society.
A woman with a caffeine addiction should be encouraged to slowly eliminate this habit. If she consumes five cups of coffee a day, give her an attainable goal that would be easy to reach quickly. For example, recommend that she goes down to four cups of coffee a day for a few weeks, then slowly lower the consumption to three cups a day with the goal of being down to one cup of coffee or tea per day in 12 weeks.
Many women who drink diet sodas for caffeine also are addicted to carbonation. As she slowly reduces her daily intake of diet soda, have her use carbonated water to satisfy her fizz need. Like the coffee drinkers, many women will follow your advice. Letting them know they can have a diet soda once or twice a month allows them to feel as if they are not being totally cheated from what they like. (However, as they get closer to their conception window, this diet soda would be eliminated.)
Eating Whole Foods
Breakfast is an important way to start the day and women should be directed to start with proteins (eggs), vegetables and legumes. For example, a scrambled egg with lightly steamed spinach and black beans wrapped in a whole grain tortilla can be an easy way to fuel her body.
Healthy snacks for women should include raw nuts, fruits, and dairy and soy products. For example, a handful of raw almonds and a slice of apple or a slice of avocado mixed with black beans is a much healthier choice than a diet soda and a few cookies.
Whether going out to eat or staying in for lunch or dinner, her choices easily can be adjusted to a meal of broiled chicken or fish, green vegetables in substitute of white products (rice, potatoes, etc.), and a glass of water rather than a soda. Desserts can be fresh berries and yogurt.
Recommending women change their eating and drinking lifestyle for them and their future baby is important. With as many unhealthy choices out there, we easily can show our patients that it's best not to wait until after they are pregnant to change their eating lifestyle. If we can teach them that this new eating lifestyle is a great habit to adapt for everyday living (even if not pregnant), this change can have a bigger impact on how they will feed their children more healthfully in the future.
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