Expert tips by Deb Blakely (Dietician, Nutritionist and owner of Kids Dig Food)
FACT #1: Women fall pregnant every day without schedules, without plans and most wind up having perfectly healthy babies.
FACT #2: If you’ve made the decision that now is the right time to expand your family, nutrition can play an important part in increasing your chances of falling pregnant and growing a healthy baby.
Here are my 5 MUST DO’s for being in peak pre-conception form:
Choose nature’s multivitamins
Eat fresh vegetables in as many colours as you can, as often as you can. Think green, red, yellow, orange, purple… they’re packed full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Freshest fruits and vegetables with the most vibrant colours are the pick … make your plate a rainbow!
Top priority supplements – Folate and Iodine
Folate (or Folic Acid) is most crucial in pre-conception and early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. A supplement containing 500mg Folic Acid per day for at least 1 month pre-conception and throughout the duration of pregnancy is recommended. If you are at high risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect you need a much higher daily dose, so consult your Doctor.
Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production which increases in pregnancy. Foods in Australia contain only small amounts of iodine so a supplement containing 150µg Iodine per day is recommended during pre-conception and pregnancy. Kelp and seaweed supplements are not recommended as they contain unreliable levels of Iodine and may be contaminated with heavy metals.
Say Yes to… Iron and Omega-3s
You need more Iron during pregnancy, so starting with good iron levels in pre-conception can reduce your risk of anaemia during and post-pregnancy. If your periods are very heavy, getting enough Iron is essential.
Excellent sources: Lean red meats.
Good sources: White meats and fish, eggs, legumes (such as baked beans, chick peas, lentils, kidney beans), iron-fortified breakfast cereals, and MORE.
Eating foods rich in Vitamin C at the same meal helps your body better absorb Iron from foods.
Omega-3 fats are essential fats that play a role in hormone regulation. Good levels of these fats can help produce good quality cervical mucus, promote ovulate and are beneficial for the health of the uterus. Omega 3s can be found in fish and seafood (especially oily fish), plants (soybean, linseed and canola) and animal (eggs, chicken and beef). Fish and seafood that contain high levels of mercury should be limited or avoided.
Say No to… bad bugs
Listeria are harmful bacteria that can be found in ready-to-eat meats, soft cheese and unpasteurised dairy. Listeriosis (the infection caused by Listeria) has been linked to miscarriage early in pregnancy at that early time before you even know you are pregnant. It’s not worth the risk.
No dancing around the issue – drinking alcohol at any stage of pregnancy can disrupt foetal development. Avoid alcohol because you never know when you’ll fall pregnant, especially if you have an irregular menstrual cycle. If you must drink, choose the days between the end of menstruation and ovulation and never have more than 2 standard drinks in 24 hours. Bring out the mocktails!
It can all sound a bit serious, but pre-conception nutrition is a dish best served with a big pinch of common sense and a large tablespoon of “wish you well”. Good luck on your own special journey to pregnancy happiness.
Kids Dig Food is flavoured by Deb Blakely’s passion for sharing her love of food with kids and families. She delights in helping families put the joy back into eating together. Deb followed her heart to create Kids Dig Food in 2012 after over 15 years experience in diverse roles as a clinical dietitian, community dietitian and community nutritionist. Deb is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, recognised by the Dietitian’s Association of Australia. You can find her on facebook here.