Food is such a hot topic when it comes to pregnancy—what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, what's a healthy amount of weight to gain while pregnant...the list is endless! The amount of information out there can be overwhelming! So I spoke to Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietician and author of Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy, to give you a quick and easy rundown of what to eat and what to steer clear of. Here are her recommendations.
The five best foods for fertility and pregnancies:
- Eggland's Best Eggs: "EB eggs contain four times more vitamin D than ordinary eggs and they provide a lean source of protein," says Ward. "In addition, they contain no trans fats and nearly all the fat in EB eggs is unsaturated. Eggs are also a source of choline. In observational studies, choline has helped reduce the risk for birth defects in the first month of life. During pregnancy a child's brain is developing at a very rapid pace. It needs the omega-3 fats found in seafood and in Eggland's Best Eggs, which provide twice the amount of omega-3s in ordinary eggs. Healthy women can have 2 EB eggs a day."
- Canned light tuna and salmon: "They are excellent sources of vitamin D and lean protein. They are also relatively low-risk fish in terms of mercury. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating at least two fish meals a week."
- Legumes: "Chickpeas, black beans, and other beans are free of trans fat, are low-glycemic carbohdyrate sources and are full of filling fiber. Start with 1/4 cup to your daily diet, and you can eat up to a cup of beans daily."
- Fortified whole grains: "Whole grains have fiber and are low-glycemic carbohydrate sources. Women should eat at least three servings of whole grains daily."
- Full-fat vitamin-D fortified milk: "According to the research, full-fat dairy is associated with fertility. A total of three servings from the dairy group daily is the goal." Also, according to some research, drinking milk while pregnant can cause your children to be taller!
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Five things to steer clear of if you want to get pregnant or are pregnant:
- Alcohol: "Alcohol is of course bad for pregnancies, but what all women don't know is that drinking can also put a damper on fertility."
- Caffeine: "It may also be surprising to know that there is a lot of conflicting research about caffeine. Some studies say it causes miscarriage and small babies and others say no. I err on the side of caution and go with the March of Dimes suggestion to limit caffeine during pregnancy to 200 milligrams a day or less. When you're trying to conceive, excess coffee may be crowding out other more nutritious beverages but may not actually be limiting fertility."
- Red meats: Lean red meat is one of the best sources of iron, "but fatty meats should be avoided."
- Trans fats: "Things like French fries, donuts and pastries, and margarine may sabotage fertility."
- Refined carbs: "Excessive amounts of refined carbs (white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc) and added (not naturally occuring) sugar are also problematic."
According to Ward, "Women should take their preconception diet and lifestyle very seriously." Weighing too much delays time to conception (being underweight can, too) and starting your pregnancy overweight may mean a bigger baby who goes on to be overweight later in life. "The number one issue for women," says Ward, "is achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight (based on BMI) on a balanced diet to encourage fertility and to help insure a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby."
Always try to start pregnancy in the best shape possible. "Manage any underlying health conditions, including body weight, high blood pressure, and anemia before conception occurs," advises Ward. "There's no way to figure how much of a change women will see in their fertility based on healthy eating but it is known that they will begin pregnancy in a much healthier state that will reduce complications for them and their child."
TELL US: Did you make any dietary changes before getting pregnant or during your pregnancy?
Image of woman drinking milk courtesy of Shutterstock.