Nothing shines the spotlight on your diet more than pregnancy. All of a sudden, that daily soda or your favorite soft pungent cheese becomes the enemy. It’s true that what you eat – and what you don’t eat – can play a large role in your pregnancy health as well as the health of your baby. But recent research out of Sweden indicates that augmenting your diet with all the healthy stuff (fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and water) rather than avoiding processed foods altogether, may be the key to eating a little bit more of what you want, while still providing your body, and your baby’s developing systems, with all the vital nutrients they need.
One of the most striking features of the study, directed by Dr Linda Englund-Ögge of Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy and her colleagues, was that they studied the diets of 66,000 women. That makes for more reliable results. They found that women who consumed what they termed a “prudent dietary intake” had a 15% lesser chance of having a pre-term delivery. This is important because pre-term deliveries are associated with both physical and developmental issues for babies, and result in extended hospitals stays that prevent the mother and baby from returning home and enjoying traditional post-natal bonding time.
Here are 5 foods you can add to your diet to reduce your risk of pre-term labor.
1. Drink plenty of good old-fashioned water. Water is so important to pregnant women and their babies. It is necessary for the healthy exchange of amniotic fluid, to replenish your increasing blood supply, flush toxins, and water is the purest form of hydration for all of your thirsty cells. You can still drink the occasional soda, coffee, tea, fruit juice, etc., but when you drink a tall glass of water, you never have to think about sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine, etc. Try to drink a minimum of ten 12-ounce glasses of water a day. Try drinking your water with a straw – it can help you drink it faster.
2. Fruits. Fruits are vitamin and mineral-rich, have natural sugars that are easier for your body to process than corn-based and other manufactured sweeteners, and have lots of fiber, which helps to keep you regular. Try to incorporate some fruit at least a few times a day (3 to 4 servings are ideal). Starting the morning with a fresh fruit smoothie, blended with yogurt, is a wonderful way to get your fruit servings for the day, along with an extra dose of calcium, protein, and probiotics.
3. Vegetables. Add a side salad to that pizza, steam some broccoli, spinach or Brussels sprouts to garnish that burger and fries. Ideally, a pregnant woman should eat at least 4 to 5 servings of veggies per day. Try to “eat the rainbow” as they say; by eating a wide range of vegetable colors, you know you are getting the very most out of your veggies. If you aren’t a fan of veggies, try chopping them up and adding them to soups, mixing steamed leafy greens into your mashed potatoes (this is a great trick for your baby later on!), or juicing some raw veggies with orange, apples, carrots and a little ginger.
4. Whole grains. Whole grains are significantly healthier for you than their processed counterparts. They have higher levels of protein, nutrients, and fiber. Switch out your breads, pita, tortillas, pasta, etc. for whole-grain versions. Look for the words “100% whole grain” on your cereal boxes or crackers, and make brown rice instead of white. These simple menu substitutions can have a positive impact on your overall nutrition.
5. Lean proteins. Can you swap your pepperoni pizza for a veggie version once in a while? How about eating a turkey burger instead of one made from ground beef? Eat a portion of salmon or tuna once a week and opt for chicken fajitas instead of steak here and there. Leaner meats are healthier meats. They are better for your heart – as well as your weight.
The great news coming out of this study is that augmenting – not completely sacrificing – your diet looks like the key to a healthier, full-term baby.
Schedule an appointment with Overlake OBGYN to learn more about a healthy pregnancy diet and to receive attentive and compassionate prenatal care. We love to help mothers and babies enjoy a healthy, happy pregnancy.