You've heard the old phrase "you are what you eat." Well, once you get pregnant, that goes double for your child. And not just in utero. Studies show a mother's diet during pregnancy may affect a child for the rest of their life, according to Dr. Seema Venkatachalam, MD. The physician at Northwestern Specialists for Women and clinical instructor at the Northwestern University School of Medicine says that a high-fat diet, for example, may lead to an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and obesity later on in her child's life.
Venkatachalam recommends that women talk to their physicians about nutrition before or soon after they become pregnant. "The nutritional status once you are pregnant is really important because it not only may change the health of the mother, but it also does have a determination on how well the fetus grows inside," she says.
Eating the right foods can have a positive impact on how your baby's brain develops. Find out how.
Worried about eating right? Mothers-to-be should focus on a balanced diet full of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and resist the temptation to "dine for two." Venkatachalam says that a woman need gain no more than 25 pounds throughout her pregnancy. That means that if a woman is at her ideal body weight and eats between 1,800 and 2,200 calories a day, she doesn't even need to increase her calorie count. Rather, she should try eating six small, nutritious meals throughout the day and stay within that caloric range.
Confused about food? Get help with Parents.com's quick and simple guide.
Here are Venkatachalam's recommendations:
For a balanced diet
40 percent of the diet should be carbohydrates with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
30 percent of the diet should be lean protein. Fish, such as shrimp, shellfish, light canned tuna and more, can supplement poultry, pork, beef and tofu, and serves as an excellent source of protein and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids help the development of the fetus (note there are types of fish that pregnant women should avoid, more on that later).
Remaining sources should come from unsaturated fats-such as olive oil-as best as possible.
Produce: Go organic?
Certain fruits and vegetables seem to take in more pesticides than others. Green peppers, red peppers, peaches, raspberries and apples are among the most absorbent when it comes to non-organically grown fruits. Of course, not everyone can afford to buy organic. If you buy non-organically grown foods simply make sure you wash them well before eating.
Milk: Organic or non-organic?
The most important thing is that your milk is pasteurized and served in a dark container, if possible. Light actually decreases the amount of vitamin D in milk. Other than that, organic versus non-organic is up to the consumer. Jury's out on what's actually more beneficial.
Foods to Avoid
It's important for pregnant women to avoid foods that have a higher potential for food-born illnesses. Getting food poisoning while pregnant can lead to an increased risk of spontaneous miscarriage, fetal death and congenital anomalies. High-risk foods include the following:
Raw meat and fish
Moldy and unpasteurized cheeses
Pregnant women should also avoid fish with high mercury counts, such as ahi tuna, mahi mahi, mackerel, sardines and albacore tuna (if you're buying canned tuna go for the "light" variety).
By Kate Silver for parents.com