A healthy diet involves eating foods that provide nourishment for growth, tissue repair and energy.
The most effective way to improve and maintain wellbeing is through a combination of nutrition and exercise. A healthy diet and adequate exercise are essential for health and although many books, magazines and television programmes are dedicated to health and fitness, many offer conflicting theories and methods. It needn’t be that complicated. A healthy diet involves eating foods that provide nourishment for growth, tissue repair and energy.
Scientific research is constantly progressing in the field of nutrition and many traditional and wholelistic approaches are being rediscovered. Organic foods are more readily available and people are becoming more aware of genetically modified produce and the levels of additives in processed and packaged foods.
Always read labels when buying foods. Often high sugar content is disguised under words such as fructose, glucose, sucrose, and salt content is often labelled as sodium.
If you are already pregnant, it is not the time to radically alter your diet or go on a diet. You are growing another human being and every mouthful that goes into your body counts. It is possible to modify your diet by eating fresh and wholesome foods in their most natural form. You will notice your own wellbeing improve and know that your baby is being provided with all the essentials.
Pregnant women often comment that their intuition is heightened during pregnancy. Vegans and vegetarians may be drawn to dairy, eggs, fish or other animal products during pregnancy. This could be particularly true for women who have recently turned vegetarian as it can take ten years to completely adjust to a primarily vegetarian diet.
The Essential Food Groups
Carbohydrates such and sugar and starches provide the fuel on which the body runs. Although the body can burn fats and proteins it does not do so as efficiently as it burns carbohydrates. For efficient physiological functions, substantial quantities of carbohydrates are constantly needed.
The body can convert excess carbohydrates into fat that acts as a storage form of fuel. This can later be burned when there is no ready use of carbohydrate. When animal-based foods are eaten, fat becomes a significant part of the diet. Plants provide some fats too although these are usually encountered in liquid forms which we call oils. Certain oils cannot be made by our bodies and therefore must be included in our diet in small amounts.
Protein is the basic building block of the body and is the framework of the body’s more rigid structures such as the cell walls, skin, bone, solid organs, and blood vessels. During pregnancy, more protein is needed.
Adopting Positive Habits
At a time when everything you consume, or do not consume, is important the following dietary suggestions are safe to follow:
- Replace refined foods with whole fresh foods. For example, use wholegrain breads instead of white bread, fresh vegetables instead of canned or frozen or packet foods, fresh fruits in place of confectionery
- Eat lots of green vegetables. These contain nutrients needed in greater quantities during pregnancy including: Omega-3 fatty acids necessary for foetal brain development, folic acid which works with vitamin B12 to build blood and promote foetal growth, magnesium which is essential for calcium uptake. Green vegetables are also important during breastfeeding and are a Japanese folk remedy to increase milk supply.
- Avoid mega doses of vitamins and other nutrients without a specific medical reason. Most prenatal supplements contain safe nutrient levels and can be helpful if the diet is not of high quality. Strict vegetarians should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
- Avoid all intoxicants and strong substances including cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, coffee and unnecesaary medicines.
- Avoid adding salt to cooking. Try tamari instead.
- Avoid pre-packaged and processed foods.
- Choose butter over margarine (at least its real!)
- Use first-cold pressed extra virgin olive oil over any other. Oils of lower quality produce toxins when heated.
- To preserve oil quality, always store in a cool dark place.
- Choose fresh herbs rather than dried.
- Where ever possible eat fresh and organic.
- Shop more regularly and buy smaller quantities to maintain nutrients.
- Thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruit before eating.
- Chop vegetables just before you intend cooking to preserve vitamin and mineral content.
- If you find onions difficult to digest, try leeks or shallots instead.
- Avoid aluminium cookware (due to leaching of metal surface) instead use stainless steel cooking implements.
- Buy nuts and seeds in small quantities to preserve the natural oils and nutrients. Kept too long, they turn rancid.
- Begin each day with a large glass of boiled water containing the juice of half a lemon.
- Coffee first thing is hard on the liver.
- Your first piece of food should be a piece of fruit.
- If you produce a lot of mucus in your system, cut out dairy products.
- Always have some form of fresh vegetables with both lunch and dinner.
- Avoid drinking large amounts when eating as it dilutes the gastric juices and decreases the efficiency of digestion.
- Make breakfast and lunch hearty meals and dinner the smaller meal. Avoid eating dinner later than 8.30pm.
- If you are eating later than 8.30pm, ensure the foods you choose are easily digestible otherwise the food will tend to sit undigested in your stomach.
- Stock up on dried fruits for when you have the sweet urge.
- To improve bowel health, add Lactobacillus acidophilus to your daily supplements to maintain a balance of healthy bowel flora.
- Eat slowly and savour the taste sensation.