You have to begin a healthy eating plan when you get pregnant to ensure you and your baby get the nutrients you need to fuel the complex process of pregnancy. You don’t have to wait until you actually become pregnant to begin this type of diet. In fact, starting a healthy eating plan now, before you conceive, offers many benefits to you, the conception process and your future pregnancy.
What to Eat
Shift your focus away from fast food and processed foods. Focus instead on fresh, minimally processed fare like fruits and vegetables. Experiment with whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds you may have never tried. Eat lean meats and fat-free dairy products. Choose organic produce and grass-fed meats when you can to limit hormone and pesticide exposure. Eat foods from every color of the rainbow to get a wide array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
How Much to Eat
How much you eat in the months before pregnancy depends on your body composition. Underweight women should increase calorie consumption by adding extra servings of healthy foods until they reach their healthy weights. Overweight and obese women should use this time t o cutcalories slowly until they reach a steady 1- to 2-pound weekly weight loss. Tools like the American Cancer Society calorie counter can help you estimate how many calories you need.
Junk food isn’t necessarily your enemy. It isn’t your best friend, either, but a little of it may help you achieve your healthy eating or weight loss goals by keeping cravings in check, according to registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, who authored the best-selling weight loss book “Intuitive Eating.” Work the occasional treat or indulgence into your calorie budget if you have cravings or if you feel like you’re missing out. Skip foods with trans fats altogether because they increase your risk for heart disease.
It’s safe to take prenatal vitamins before you become pregnant. Doing so will help you build up your stores of certain essential vitamins and close any minor nutritional gaps. Look for a vitamin that contains at least 400 mcg of folic acid, recommends the University of Maryland Medical Center. Don’t rely on the vitamin to meet your nutritional needs. Instead, depend on healthy foods to meet most of your body’s needs.
Diet alone can make some significant changes to your body, but to achieve the highest level of fitness or to speed up your wight loss, you need to add exercise. Thirty minutes of medium-intensity exercise each day burns calories, increases muscle mass and improves how all your body systems function. Improved muscle mass will come in handy as your bones and joints work to adjust to pregnancy weight gain. It can also help you deal with any stress that comes with getting pregnant and making so many life changes.