Program Your Baby's Health: The Pregnancy Diet for Your Child's Lifelong Well-Being
By Dr. Barbara Luke
Prenatal nutrition is at the heart of metabolic programming. So keep in mind this one simple goal: You want to create an optimal nutritional environment for your unborn baby so that he or she can grow and develop in the very best ways possible. This is achieved by eating the right kinds of foods, in the right amounts, at the right time of day, throughout your pregnancy. As a consequence, you greatly reduce your child's risk of developing any of a number of chronic diseases associated with poor prenatal nutrition.
If you are already pregnant, congratulations! The majority of the nutrition information in this chapter can benefit you and your unborn baby, whether you conceived just a few days ago or are already well into your pregnancy. Please read it carefully before moving on to the later chapters, where we'll discuss issues specific to each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. In this way, you help to ensure that your unborn baby will reap the benefits of positive programming.
If you're reading this book in anticipation of becoming pregnant, know that the effects of metabolic programming begin from the moment of conception, so you want your body to be as prepared as possible for that moment. Through the foods you eat, you can do a great deal in the weeks and months before you conceive, to set the stage for a healthy pregnancy. As you read this chapter, pay special attention to the end of each section, where you'll find subheads that begin, "If you're planning to get pregnant..." By following the advice meant specifically for women who have not yet conceived, you will set the stage for having a pregnancy in which you will feel your best and your baby will thrive.
Your Personal Nutritional Status
You can't fool Mother Nature: Nutrition is the foundation for good health. In order to feel and look your best, a healthful diet must be a regular part of your daily routine. Diet is even more important during pregnancy for two reasons. First, pregnancy places additional physical and emotional demands on a woman, and these demands are met primarily through appropriate nutrition. Second, and most important in terms of metabolic programming, an unborn baby's ability to grow is determined mainly by the mother's supply of nutrients. Almost all of the nourishment your unborn baby receives comes from what you eat.
Your ability to nourish your unborn baby is also affected by the circumstances of your own fetal life-in other words, by how well nourished you yourself were before birth. Adverse nutritional effects from one generation can negatively affect the next generation. Health professionals have noted that among immigrants to the United States the benefits of improved nutrition are often not seen until the second generation. Similarly, studies have shown that women who suffered from malnutrition during the first half of their pregnancies often had daughters with a normal birthweight, yet a generation later these daughters' babies showed an increased incidence of growth restriction.
Furthermore, your nutritional history from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood plays a role in your baby's development. For certain nutrients, an unborn baby draws on the mother's own reserves. When those nutrient reserves are deficient, the baby's development is compromised. You can't change your nutritional history. Nonetheless, you can greatly improve the odds of good health for your unborn baby and for yourself by taking steps now to improve your nutritional status. And you'll also be improving the health of your future grandchildren.
Don't Worry, It's Easy Are you worried that it seems like a lot of work to figure out what and when and how much you should eat? Well, take heart-I've done all this work for you. Look at the menus and meal plans at the end of each chapter, as well as the recipes in the back of the book. They take the guesswork out of eating right when you're expecting so you can concentrate on the joys of being pregnant.
If you're planning to get pregnant, understand that your partner's nutritional status affects your ability to get pregnant. For instance, men whose diets are deficient in zinc or vitamin C can become infertile. Severe nutritional deficiencies can cause a decrease in sperm count and quality, and a weight loss greater than 25 percent of normal body weight can cause sperm production to cease entirely". So, as you improve your diet in preparation for pregnancy, encourage the future father to eat right, too.
The Top 25 Food All-Stars
Here's a simple way to improve your diet, starting today: Eat more of what I call the Top 25 Food All-Stars. In compiling this list, my main criteria included high nutrient content, flavor, and versatility as an ingredient in recipes.
I've also featured these All-Stars in the recipes at the back of this book. Each recipe is rated in two ways: (1) with a spoon rating for the number of Top 25 Food All-Stars included in the recipe; (2) and with a star rating indicating the number of nutrients the recipe provides, per serving, at a level of 20 percent or more of the Daily Recommended Intake for adults.
For most people, a diet that is defined in terms of grams and milligrams of food means next to nothing. People want to read recommendations that give specific numbers of servings-like how many pieces of chicken, slices of cheese, and glasses of milk to eat daily. So that's exactly what I've done. Table 2-2 tells you how many servings of real foods to eat each day. The recommendations are further divided to reflect the specific dietary needs of four different types of women:
- women who are planning to get pregnant
- women in the first trimester of pregnancy
- women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy
- nursing mothers
In using Table 2-2, please pay attention to the section called Portion Size, which gives examples of typical serving sizes for each category of food. For instance, my recommendation to get six daily servings of meat or meat equivalents (such as eggs, peanut butter, and beans) during pregnancy means you need six ounces of meat total-not six porterhouse steaks!