There’s so much advice out there on what to feed babies, and toddlers, and growing kids; but not a lot of focus on what pregnant women, nursing mothers, and new mothers should be eating. There are a few key principles that I believe should keep moms on the right track when it comes to making wise and healthy food choices. Let’s be honest…the FDA does not have a great track record when it comes to recommending safe additives and food guides. The food pyramid has drastically changed over the years, and our parents’ generation was given completely different advice from the FDA than what they are telling us now. With the addition of fears and concerns over GMOs, widespread pesticide use on crops, and allowable food additives that are often banned in most European and other countries, it’s no wonder there is such confusion on what is “safe” and “healthy”. So those two words are the focus of this post.
Focus on eating “safe”. This means basically to “keep it simple”! Don’t buy food with words that you can’t pronounce on the box. Buy local ingredients from farmers or local grocery stores. Buy eggs from your local farm with cage-free chickens. Use real ingredients. Stay away from artificial colors and added sugars. Buy organic if available and affordable. I try to stay GMO free but that’s a more debatable topic. Buy organic frozen fruits and veggies if fresh isn’t available. Do you want to expose yourself, your unborn child, or your small baby to any more environmental toxins than you have to? Fruit and veg that has been sprayed with toxic pesticides and insecticides will leach into that produce and you will incidentally be ingesting that as well. Cord blood taken from newborns has shown an alarmingly large amount of environmental toxins. Babies grow in the womb and are exposed to numerous toxins before even being born…it may not be impossible to protect your child 100% but you can reduce the exposure by eating fresh local produce for a start. Buy wild caught fish and if it isn’t labeled at your meat/deli counter than ask what fish is wild caught. Farmed fish has less available nutrients and are often raised in deplorable conditions. Don’t think “organic” fish means wild caught…it doesn’t!
Next, keep it healthy. While pregnant and breast-feeding I used the thought process of “is it good for me and my baby?” as a guide on what to eat. If it’s not good for me, then it’s probably bad for me. Think protein, healthy fats, fresh fruit and veggies; and limit your sugar, added saturated fats, and refined carb intake. If you like carbs (like me!) switch out that white pasta and bread for whole wheat pasta or brown rice pasta, and use a whole grain bread or thinner pitas instead. Cook in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. I eat lots of protein-rich quinoa and wild rice. Add some avocado, eggs, and whole milk plain yogurt or kefir to your diet. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods, just have it in moderation. Eat lots of fruit and veggies that are rich in color. Think bright orange carrots, sweet potatoes and squash, green leafies like spinach and kale, and rich berries like blueberries and raspberries. People talk about the sugar content of fruit all the time…trust me, that naturally occurring sugar does not negate the positive effects of the phytonutrients and antioxidants loaded in berries and they are not bad for you in a moderate amount. Throw some in some plain greek yogurt, add in some chia seeds and some crunchy whole grain granola, and there’s my favorite breakfast. So what’s not good for you? Baked goods loaded with saturated fats and sugars, too many carbs from sources like white rice, bread, white potatoes, and pastas. Stay away from anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce, fast food, fried foods, oily and greasy foods, and be aware that some babies may be sensitive or get gassy from too much dairy if breastfeeding.
If you eat “naturally” then you will automatically be eating much more “healthy” and “safe”. Keep it simple!! I try to eat fish 2-3 times a week, and limit beef to once or twice a week. I try to buy pasture-raised beef and I avoid chicken unless it’s organic and- once again- pasture raised. Have you seen any of the documentaries out there on the state of these chicken farms? Its disgusting and put me off chicken for almost a year. I have a “vegetarian day” once or twice a week. This will force you to get creative and you may come up with a recipe that you really enjoy! Please take advantage of Pinterest…there’s so many great recipe boards out there. My board is called “MAMAwellness” and I have recipes on there as well. Sometimes on a Sunday night all I really want is bread and cheese. So I treat myself to a block of brie and a crusty baguette and I am in heaven. Treat yourself so that you don’t make a food plan that is unsustainable!