A healthy body ensures a healthy pregnancy. Taking steps to improve your health during pregnancy is great but improving it even before you plan to get pregnant is the catch! For this, one needs to plan in advance about how to work on health even before planning for a baby.
Research says that 1 in every 8 pregnancy is an unplanned one. This has resulted in an increased rate of preterm birth, health issues at birth, over or under-weight babies at birth. Thus, planning is a crucial aspect that decides health of the mother and baby to a larger extent.
Before knowing how to plan your nutrition one must understand that making time for exercise, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are vital aspects of preparing for pregnancy and that you cannot miss anyone of the former while you plan for pregnancy. It is also important to understand that preparing for pregnancy is not a one month thing; it’s a planning for 6 months to a year before you think of getting pregnant.
The Diet Make-over
Planning your nutrition is crucial as 70-80 % of your health is decided by what you eat! Having said that, the nutrient rule for preconception diet make over is – “TO EAT WHOLESOME & EAT IN MODERATION”.
- Food first – There is no replacement for healthy food and its role in optimal health.First focus on foods that come from these 5 food groups – cereals-grains & millets, pulses & lentils, nuts and oilseeds, eggs, chicken (choose lean cuts, without skin) or fish if you are a non-veg lover, milk & milk products, fruits & vegetables followed by supplemental support. Supplements have to act as a bridge, when trying to meet a therapeutic level of specific nutrients.
- Eating food for liver detoxification – To ensure that your body can detox more effectively, make neurotransmitters, make energy in your cells, improve your cardiovascular system health, and decrease waste build-up, eat beets, figs, watercress, green beans, kidney beans, garlic, bell peppers, fruits, chia seeds, carrots, tomatoes, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach-kale-fenugreek, mushrooms, whole grains- nachni & jowar, sprouts, kefir, tofu, egg whites.
- Meet your methylation (activation) needs – Choose foods that are high in B vitamins, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, l-methionine, and l-cysteine such as sprouts, garden cress seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseed, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, fish, lean meats, eggs, dairy, whole grains.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants – They help fight off damage that is happening to your body internally, or externally. All Fruits and vegetables have oodles of them, so grab one right away.
- Keep physically active – Stay active by walking, practicing yoga and trying moderate aerobic exercise. Do not indulge in strenuous physical activity.
- Eat probiotic rich foods – 70% of your immunity comes from your gut lining. Probiotics are necessary and healthy bacteria that help your GI stay happy and balanced. These friendly bacteria are crucial to nutrient absorption. Indulge in yogurt, curd, buttermilk, Kefir, single polished rice, fermented foods.
- Include herbs and spices in your diet – Herbs and spices help to decrease free radical damage done to your body, and promote balance along your digestive tract, while supporting your detoxification pathways. Try turmeric, cinnamon, basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary.
- Supplement your meal when in need – When diet alone does not fulfil the requirement for nutrients, you can always go for supplements such as:
- Activated B Complex
- Activated Multivitamin
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
1. Eat every 2-3 hours as this ensures nourishing the body the whole day, makes you eat the right portions every time, increases nutrient intake, helps you deal with deficiencies and curbs cravings for foods that are not good for you.
2. Home cooked wholesome meals are the best. So make sure you eat fresh home cooked meals for better nutrient availability to your body.
3. Choose the right cooking oil. Filtered oil such as kachi ghani, mustard or groundnut oil are better rather than refined ones with fancy packages.
4. Take it easy on simple sugars or carbohydrates – no syrups, juices, packed beverages or food, bakery and confectioneries.
5. Eat whole fruit instead of juice. Juice increases on the number of fruits per glass, whole fruit ensures better nutrient availability and saves fibre in its original form that will help cleanse the body internally.
6. Cut down on eating outside to twice a month.
7. Homemade ghee for CLA burns stubborn fat and helps absorbs vitamins.
8. Include a rainbow of foods daily to ensure proper phytonutrient intake.
9. Red/Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue/Purple, White/Tan; try for at least one food from each colour daily.
10. Avoid skipping breakfast, late dinners, never indulge into diets that promise quick results. For example – fad diets such as low fat, low carb diet plan or no carb diet.
These steps improve your reproductive health and prepare your body for conception. Remember that you don’t have to be perfectly systematic in your eating, but you do need to be consistent. Consistency leads to sustainability and gradual steps take to success!
Akansha is the Founder and Consultant at Beyond the Weighing Scale. With a wide range of expertise and skills, she is adept to speak about nutrition, health, lifestyle management and physical activity. She is a popular food columnist, a passionate foodie, a health enthusiast, an avid traveler and a happy yogi.