Planning for a baby? Pregnancy can be a very joyful life event, and eating a healthy diet is an essential part of it. Everything you eat matters even before the bun is in the oven.
When we were planning to start a family, one of the most important things I focussed on was following a healthy pre-pregnancy diet and lifestyle. In fact, the right pre-pregnancy diet can fuel fertility and help you get a healthier baby on board.
Pre-conception nutrition is a vital part of preparing for pregnancy. Eating healthy during pregnancy can have a lasting effect on your baby’s brain development and behavior.
If you’re planning to get pregnant, eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you stay well throughout your pregnancy and will be good for your baby’s health.
1. Watch Your Weight
Achieving a healthy pre-pregnancy weight can improve your chances of getting pregnant and minimize your risk of pregnancy complications. Studies have shown that being both underweight and overweight can have an effect on fertility and fetal health. Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of various pregnancy complications, including:
- The risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and recurrent miscarriage
- Gestational diabetes
- A pregnancy complication resulting in high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, often the kidneys (preeclampsia)
- premature birth (where the baby is born before they are fully developed)
- obesity and diabetes in their later life.
- A difficult vaginal delivery
- The need for a C-section and the risk of C-section complications, such as wound infections
TIP: Losing weight before pregnancy may improve fertility and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications. The best weight range for fertility seems to be a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20 to 24.
2. Get Active
Even if you’re at your ideal weight, being physically active before (and during) pregnancy has benefits.
Regular physical activity increases metabolism and optimizes your reproductive system. Exercise stimulates the endocrine glands, which release hormones that help egg production and maturation. Exercise also decreases stress, an added benefit for fertility.
TIP: If you are new to exercising daily, start out slow. The body will be sore after the first few workouts and this is often the reason people stop exercising. Instead of slamming in an hour that first day, start out with 20 minutes (10 minutes, twice a day) and build from there.
3. Say ‘Good-Bye’ to junk food
It’s really hard to say ‘good-bye’ to those delicious candy bars and chocolate chip cookies but the goal is to increase your fertility and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
A well-balanced pre–pregnancy diet will set you on the right track to conceive. Eliminate refined carbs (cookies, cakes, cupcakes, deep-dish pizzas, bread, etc.), sugary foods (candy bars, soda, intense desserts, etc), and any kind of fried food. This will help you keep your blood sugar in control.
TIP: Take one tablespoon apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water first thing in the morning. This will help you to maintain your blood sugar levels.
4. Eat Fresh & Green
So now you know what you shouldn’t eat and you’re probably wondering what’s best for left on the menu. To start your pregnancy off right, eat foods from each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins (like chicken, eggs, and beans), and dairy products.
– Fruits and veggies, particularly brightly colored ones (berries, mangoes, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, green leafy). These are high in antioxidants, which means they’re vital to your baby-making effort.
– Calcium-rich food such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy product should form a part of your diet before pregnancy. Eating calcium-rich foods will help ensure the proper functioning of your reproductive system and will help you to store this vital nutrient, good for your bones and those of your baby-to-be.
– Iron is important to help prevent iron-deficiency anemia and has benefits for the baby’s development too. Low iron can contribute to ovulation problems, making it harder for you to conceive. Iron can be found in leafy greens (collard, kale, spinach), lean beef, peas, dried apricots, and oatmeal. Your iron requirements also increase significantly with pregnancy as you make more blood for yourself and your baby.
TIP: Start by assessing the quality of your diet using the free Healthy Eating Quiz and check how it suggests you boost your score. Eat fruits and raw vegetables as snacks
5. Pop A Prenatal Vitamin
When you’re trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to start taking your prenatal vitamins. It can start boosting your baby’s chances of being born healthy and full-term even before sperm and egg meet.
There are many pre-pregnancy vitamins available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Consume prenatal supplements packed with folic acid. Having enough folic acid can help prevent birth defects in a baby’s head and spine.
TIP: Get 400 milligrams of folic acid every day as well as eating high-folate foods.
I hope these tips will help you achieve your health goals before pregnancy! Comment below if there are any tips you are willing to share!