Healthy Prenatal Nutrition Begins Before PregnancyTo celebrate National Nutrition Month, we focus this week on Prenatal Nutrition.  Good nutrition for a healthy pregnancy and baby starts before you get pregnant, not simply once you learn you have conceived. This is especially important for folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal column of the baby.

So what are the best nutritional choices you can make when you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant? It’s time to think not only what’s best for your health, but what’s also best for your baby. What you eat and drink has an overwhelming effect on the development of your infant.

Foods to Eat Before & During Pregnancy

Foods high in fiber – Keep your body moving with high fiber foods including beans, whole-grain breads, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and high fiber cereals. The USDA recommends pregnant women eat 6-11 servings of grains and 4+ servings of vegetables a day.

Dairy (or non-dairy alternatives) – Drink your calcium! Whether you choose cow’s milk or non-dairy drinks like rice milk, soy milk, or almond milk, make sure you drink at least four servings a day so that you reach the necessary 1000-1300 mg of calcium that your body needs during this time. Yogurt and cheese are other excellent sources of calcium, but be aware that some yogurt is loaded with sugar.

Iron-rich foods – Enjoy iron rich foods that are also high in protein including meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, but make sure they are fully cooked or pasteurized (see Foods to Avoid, below). You should be getting 27 mg of iron each day. Take your iron with vitamin C rich foods to ensure good absorption.

Foods high in vitamin C and vitamin A – Did you know that a green pepper has more vitamin C than an orange? To get the daily recommended 70 mg of vitamin C, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Orange vegetables and green vegetables will help you meet your vitamin A requirements.

Folic acid – Many cereals are fortified with folic acid, but you can find it naturally in beans and dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. It is vital to start taking folic acid before you conceive to decrease the risk of birth defects.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Fish with high mercury levels – Although fish and shellfish are excellent sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, the experts at the Mayo Health Clinic recommend that pregnant women avoid seafood that is high in mercury including shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, limit your intake of canned light tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab, catfish, cod, and tilapia to no more than two meals per week.

Undercooked meat, seafood, poultry and eggs – Even though food poisoning won’t likely affect the infant growing inside you, you run the risk of dehydration if you experience food poisoning symptoms from eating undercooked protein. Besides, when you fall ill, you feel lousy and your body works overtime to help you feel better, when it needs energy to help your baby develop.

Unpasteurized cheeses – To eliminate further risk of food poisoning, avoid brie, blue cheese, camembert, feta and queso cheeses unless they have been labeled as pasteurized. Stay on the safe side by purchasing eggs that have been pasteurized.

Alcohol – Even moderate drinking can affect a baby’s development. Steer clear of wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages.

Nutritional Supplements During Pregnancy

It might feel overwhelming to plan your diet to meet the necessary nutritional requirements that you and your growing baby need.  Even if you do eat a healthy diet, the USDA and doctors recommend taking a prenatal multivitamin every day. Organic Prenatal VitaminsA prenatal vitamin like Prenatal One™ Multivitamin or our Complete Prenatal System™ Multivitamin provides the extra folic acid, iron and other nutrients that support the important nutritional needs that your growing baby requires. Just one prenatal vitamin a day can help prevent neural tube and developmental defects.

Rainbow Light offers a full line of prenatal vitamins to meet the needs of your body and your lifestyle. For women who have a difficult time swallowing large capsules, we offer Prenatal Petite™ Mini-tab Multivitamin in easy-to-swallow mini-tabs. We also offer a Certified Organics® Prenatal Multivitamin derived from organic fruits and vegetables. Women who are looking for supplemental omega-3 will get additional support with our line of DHA Prenatal Multivitamin - available alone or in a combination pack with our Just Once Prenatal Multivitamin.

We are fortunate to live in a time where we are enlightened by so much nutritional research. Use this knowledge to your advantage by doing what’s nutritionally best for you and your baby. We wish you and your baby a happy and healthy pregnancy!