A healthy pregnancy begins with a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet. These ten diet and lifestyle tips are not just for getting pregnant -- they're also perfect for carrying a healthy baby to term!
"Indeed, these 10 tips are probably best... throughout one's life for optimal health and prevention of virtually all the major illnesses of American society, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and even many cancers," says James Kenney, PhD, Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida and fellow of the American College of Nutrition.

Here's how to start:

1. Enjoy a variety of vegetables every day (not just spinach, a la Jennifer Lopez). Shoot for at least 5 servings daily. How can you do that? Start by helping yourself to big salads. Also try bringing large bags of baby carrots and other veggie munchies to work. And when dining out, ask your server to double -- even triple -- the amount of vegetables in your entrée or pasta. For both you and baby, the benefits are priceless.

2. Eat at least 4 servings daily of fruit. And no, fruit won't make you fat! "Numerous studies have found just the opposite. People who eat a lot of fruit are far more likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout life compared to people who don't," says Dr Kenney.

3. Eat at least 6 servings daily of whole grains and starchy vegetables, like whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, corn, yams and potatoes. They're filling, satisfying, and chock-full of nutrients. Plus, these fiber-rich foods will help prevent constipation, a common complaint during pregnancy.

"One reason women have trouble with constipation is because they've been prescribed large amounts of supplemental iron, which can cause constipation. The good news is that women who eat a healthy diet usually don't need a lot of supplemental iron during pregnancy," states Dr Kenney.

4. Drink or eat moderate amounts -- about 3 to 4 servings daily -- of calcium-rich foods. Calcium is needed for proper bone formation in the baby. It also helps build and preserve mother's bone density. For heart health, stick to lean, low-in-saturated-fat choices like nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt, nonfat sour cream and cheese, and fortified soymilk. Many vegetables, especially leafy greens, also contain a lot of calcium.

5. Enjoy moderate amounts, about 3 servings daily, of protein-rich foods. Protein is important for the baby's growing tissues. Your best bets are foods low in fat, advises the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excellent lean, protein-packed choices include most selections of seafood, skinless white poultry, lean red meat like grass-fed, free-range bison and elk (limit animal protein to 1 serving daily), and plant proteins like beans, peas, tofu, tempeh, and seitan.

6. As healthful as most fish are, rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats, do steer clear of varieties that are high in mercury. Too much mercury may cause neurological damage in fetuses. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration advised that women who are pregnant or might become pregnant avoid high-in-mercury fish like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Lower-mercury fish may be consumed up to 12 ounces weekly, advises the FDA. Common varieties of lower-mercury fish and seafood include mussels, salmon, pollock, lobster, and canned mackerel and sardines (with no salt added).

7. Avoid alcohol. There is no safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal alcohol syndrome, caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy, is characterized by growth retardation in babies, facial abnormalities and central nervous system dysfunction.

8. Limit caffeine-rich food and drink, such as tea, coffee, soft drinks (including Sunkist orange soda) and chocolate. Be sure to read labels when grocery shopping -- more than 200 foods, beverages, and over-the-counter medications contain caffeine!

9. Queasiness and morning sickness are common during pregnancy. To help you feel better, try eating five or six smaller meals a day instead of three large ones. "In fact, eating smaller, more frequent meals is a healthy way to eat throughout life," advises Dr Kenney. "The healthiest, longest-living people on earth, the men and women of Okinawa, Japan, enjoy several small meals over the course of a day and have a centuries-old tradition, called hara hachi, of eating only until they are about 80% full. We recommend the same for guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center and call it 'Don't stuff, don't starve.'"

10. Exercise regularly. It can lessen fatigue, provide a sense of well-being, and increase the likelihood of early recovery after delivery. "But always check with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise program, especially during pregnancy," cautions Scott Danberg, MS, Director of Exercise at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

For most pregnant women, safe exercises include walking, swimming, and cycling on a stationary bicycle. "And keep in mind that continuing to exercise after the birth of your baby is a great idea. Exercise can really help get you back in shape ?- and stay in shape throughout life," says Danberg.PregnancyAndBaby.com


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