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The minute I learned I was pregnant, I cut out coffee (and wine)
and otherwise spruced up my diet. My objective? Do everything I
could to get baby off to a good start. Every mother-to-be wants the
best for their baby, so let's take a look at the latest nutritional
Choline. This B-vitamin plays a key role in developing the
hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. It's also involved
with building the neural tube and central nervous system. Egg yolks
are a particularly rich source. Find smaller amounts in beef,
poultry, pork and fish, as well as pistachio nuts.
DHA omega-3. DHA is the building block of our brains, according
to Tara Gidus, MS, RD, author of Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition
for Dummies and the mother of two. "Aim for low mercury, high
omega-3 fishes like salmon or sardines or take a supplement," she
Folate. This B-vitamin is needed to prevent birth defects even
before you're pregnant. Take a prenatal or multivitamin or folic
acid supplement when you're trying to get pregnant. Eat folate-rich
foods like asparagus, spinach, orange juice and legumes.
Iron. Blood volume increases in pregnancy and so do iron needs.
Meat is the best source.
Protein. You need a significant amount of additional protein to
support the growth of the baby. Aim for things like Greek yogurt,
lean meats and beans.
Vitamin D. "Most women enter into pregnancy deficient in this
vital nutrient and you need more when you're pregnant," Gidus says.
"Supplements are the best way to get it."
Gidus points to three categories of foods that pose a food
safety risk: Anything unpasteurized, such as milk, cheese, or
freshly squeezed juices; undercooked or raw meats, fish, seafood,
or poultry; and raw or runny eggs.
Food cravings are normal, and for the most part, hormonal,
according to Gidus. "They don't necessarily mean you are
'deficient' in a nutrient if you are craving it. For example, you
may not be deficient in iron if you're craving a steak," she
She suggests you enjoy what you want: "Go with the cravings and
have small amounts of the foods you are craving as long as it's not
a dangerous food or a non-food substance."
As every mom of two knows, every pregnancy is different, so
don't be surprised if one pregnancy finds you with extreme cravings
and the next without many at all.
Gidus says if food allergies run in the family, it's best to
limit the allergens during pregnancy. However, with no history of
allergies, "there is no need to limit milk, eggs, peanuts, soy or
any of the other common allergens."
In two studies presented at the American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma and Immunology's annual meeting in March, researchers found
that nursing mothers who attempt to ward off allergies by
eliminating high-risk foods did not reduce the development of food
allergies in their children.
Many new moms are anxious to get their bodies back to normal.
Gidus suggests patience. "Don't expect too much too soon. Make sure
you rest and recover," she says.
She recommends plenty of fluids as well as eating to keep your
strength up. "Focus on nutrient-rich foods like lean meats, low-fat
dairy, whole grains, and of course, lots of fruits and veggies. Eat
small meals and frequent snacks so you give your body energy
consistently throughout the day."
Christine M. Palumbo is a registered dietitian in Naperville
who experienced stronger food aversions than she did cravings
during each of her three pregnancies. Find her on Facebook at
Christine Palumbo Nutrition or contact her at [email protected]
Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a nutritionist living in Naperville.
See more of Christine's stories here.
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