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Healthy Daily Diet For Pregnant Women

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Healthy Daily Diet For Pregnant Women

If there’s one topic where everyone seems to have a different opinion, it’s around the subject of health. It can be very difficult to get a straight answer on what we should and shouldn’t eat. First, we hear about a study showing something is bad for us. The next day, another study comes back that it’s good for us. It can make it very hard to know truth from trumped up.

The stakes, and often the confusion, are even higher when you become pregnant. The one thing that all studies agree on is: what a woman eats when she’s pregnant is very important for both her health and her baby’s.

So, if you’re pregnant, and are wondering what should you eat or what you should avoid we’ve got you covered. Here are a few things that are universally important for all pregnant women to include in their daily diets.

Water

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    It may seem like common sense, but many people forget how important it is to include water in their diets. In a world that runs on sugary drinks, teas, and coffees we sometimes forget that water is a huge part of our make up. We need to replace it throughout the day to stay healthy.

    If you’re pregnant, getting eight full glasses of water per day is even more crucial for your health. Your body is doing a lot of changing and adapting to grow a new life. Make sure you stay hydrated with pure water.

    If you find pure water too boring, you can also add lemon, lime, fresh cucumber, or fruit into your water to give it an extra kick. Keep a 16-oz water bottle with you to remind yourself to keep drinking. Fill it up at least four times throughout the day.

    Fresh Fruits and Veggies

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      This should come as no surprise to anyone. All studies tell us that getting enough fresh, whole fruits and vegetables in our diet keeps us healthier. Pregnant women should strive to get at least five servings per day from this food-group. Try to get a rainbow of colors on your plate to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals possible.

      Orange Vegetables

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        Make sure to include one serving of an orange vegetable per day within the recommend five overall servings. Some good choices are carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes. The orange color indicates the presence of beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in your body.

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        While there are warnings about consuming too much Vitamin A during pregnancy, this is not a concern with beta-carotene. Your body will only convert what you need. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant. It helps protect your body against free radicals and ensures your immune system is strong.

        To make sure that you get enough orange veggies, keep a bag of carrots next to you to snack on. You can also cook squash or sweet potatoes in your oven and eat them as a healthy side dish.

        Dark Green Vegetables

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          Out of the five overall fruit and veggie servings, you need to eat at least two servings of dark leafy vegetables per day during your pregnancy. When it comes to greens, the darker the color the better. Some nutritionally dense veggies portraying the darker green color are kale, spinach, collards, and turnip greens. These power foods contain calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid, magnesium, and again beta-carotene — the superstar phytochemical that is vital to your baby’s skin, bones, eyes, and cell growth.

          Try to eat these leafy green veggies both raw and cooked. You can throw all of your greens into a fresh salad and add extra color – or nutrients – by throwing in a rainbow of bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and cranberries. You can also sauté these greens lightly for a hearty side dish. Kale also can be dried in the oven to make yummy kale chips – which is a healthier alternative to potato chips.

          Citrus Fruit

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            Make sure to include citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit in your diet. While these fruits provide many important nutrients, the most important one is Vitamin C. This vitamin helps with the immunity of both mom and baby.

            Try to eat at least one serving of citrus fruit per day. You can start your day with a grapefruit or peel an orange as a midday snack. Try to choose the fruit over the juice, as the added fiber will help slow the absorption rate of the fruit sugars into the blood stream and avoid a sugar spike. Gestational diabetes also occurs in about 18% of all pregnancies. For these ladies, it’s crucial to keep their blood sugar stable. The extra fiber found in the fruit also helps with digestion.

            Whole Grains

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              Most dietitians also recommend six servings of enriched whole grains and cereals per day. Make sure you eat whole grains, not refined grains. The nutritional difference is night and day!

              Some good whole grains to work into your diet are oats, whole wheat, barley, quinoa, and rice. These foods contain B vitamins (like B1, B2, folic acid, and niacin), which are necessary for just about every part of your growing baby’s body. They are also packed with iron, selenium, and magnesium. Grains supply energy for your baby’s development. They also contain nutrients that help build the placenta.

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              Most grains also have plenty of fiber. Fiber is your new best friend when you’re pregnant. It helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids, which can become more common during pregnancy.

              Grains are fairly easy to add into your diet. You can eat a cup of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with fruit. You can add whole-grain pasta to your dinner, or even have a couple slices of whole-grain bread to surround a healthy sandwich full of fresh veggies and avocado for some healthy fats.

              Dairy

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                Many doctors also recommend that pregnant women get at least three servings of dairy products to provide calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous, and protein. Your baby needs these nutrients to develop teeth, bones, muscles, nerves, and a healthy heart. They also help your baby’s blood clot.

                Some healthy choices to include in your diet are cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and some grass-fed butter spread on those yummy veggies.

                Protein

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                  Protein is a vital building block for both your body and your baby. Not getting enough protein can contribute to low birth weight. You should aim to get three servings of healthy protein per day.

                  Some great choices are lean meats, eggs, low mercury fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. In addition to protein, fish provides an important Omega 3 fatty acid – DHA. This is crucial for the brain development of your little one.

                  You can eat lean meats in sandwiches or as your main dinner course, along with fish. Eggs can be hard-boiled for easy access later and used in salads or as a quick snack. Legumes are also a great choice in salads and sides. You can eat nuts and seeds as a snack, or enjoy fresh nut butters on whole wheat bread.

                  Supplements

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                    While it’s always best to get your vitamins and minerals naturally in your food, this doesn’t always happen. It’s a good idea to supplement your diet with critical prenatal vitamins such as omega 3 fatty acids, folic acid, iron, iodine, calcium, and vitamin D.

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                    What Foods Should Pregnant Women Avoid?

                    The foods that women should avoid when pregnant are often foods anyone else should also avoid to remain healthy. The stakes are just raised a bit higher when a baby’s development is tied to the mother’s dietary choices.

                    Junk Foods

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                      In general, highly processed junk foods should be avoided. If you can’t identify half of the ingredients on the nutrition label, it’s probably best to leave it alone. You and your baby don’t need all the excess salt, preservatives, and additives. However, just because a food is healthy doesn’t mean it can’t be a fast food. You don’t need that drive-through! After all, it’s just as easy and fast to grab an apple instead of an order of fries.

                      Sugar

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                        You should also watch your intake of sugar, as well as avoid soft drinks and other sweets during pregnancy. Too much sugar in your diet not only puts you at risk for insulin issues and gestational diabetes, it can also cause your immune system to weaken. Sugar actually inhibits phagocytosis, which is the immune system’s response to eliminating germs in the body that can make you sick.

                        Under-cooked Meat

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                          Now is not the time to have a rare steak or a slice of sushi. The bacteria that can sometimes be found in under-cooked meat can cause contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.

                          Even though they are cooked, it is also best to avoid deli meats. They can be contaminated with listeria, which can cause a miscarriage. If you must eat any hot dogs or packaged meats, you should cook them until they are steaming to kill the bacteria.

                          Fish High in Mercury

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                            Unfortunately, our oceans have become polluted. When larger fish ingest smaller fish, this level of pollution becomes much more concentrated within their meat. The biggest concern is the level of mercury found in these fish.

                            The top offenders with higher mercury loads are swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tile-fish. Tuna may also be on this list depending on your source. The general rule of thumb is: the smaller the fish, the cleaner the meat.

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                            Unwashed Fruits and Veggies

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                              Make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables to avoid pesticides. If possible, buy organic to avoid contaminates found on commercially-grown produce.

                              Avoid raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean. You can eat them, just cook them thoroughly first to avoid bacteria.

                              Limit Caffeine

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                                Caffeine has been shown to cross the placenta and affect your baby. Some studies suggest that caffeine may play a role in miscarriages; however, this risk is only seen after more than two cups of coffee per day. Many women avoid it all together to stay safe. However, if you just can’t function without that morning cup of coffee, you are probably okay as long as you limit it to 200 milligrams per day.

                                Avoid Alcohol

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                                  This point isn’t really up for much debate. No level of alcohol has been shown to be safe for your baby. Women who drink during pregnancy have higher risks of miscarriage and stillbirth. Even moderate drinking can impact your child’s brain development. Finally, too much alcohol during pregnancy results in fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause facial deformities, heart defects, and mental issues.

                                  Your Choices Matter

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                                    Being pregnant is a very special time in a woman’s life. However, it is also a time where her choices affect the life of another. One of the best ways to ensure that you have a healthy baby is to offer every chance possible to start out well in this life.

                                    In fact, scientists are now studying a mother’s diet during pregnancy and its affect on epigenetics. Recently, an entire new field of nutrigenomics has been created to study the effect of diet on gene expression. While it’s not within the scope of this article, scientists are discovering that the nutrients a baby receives while developing and in early infancy can alter their very DNA structure. This further shows the importance of diet in not only helping to prevent illness, but also in shaping a future life at the cellular level.

                                    With new studies coming out all the time, some things remain constant. Eating fresh, whole foods has worked for centuries. If we continue to eat food found in its natural form, unaltered for the convenience of shelf life, presentation, profitability, sales growth, or higher yield returns, our kids should turn out alright.

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                                    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

                                    More by this author

                                    Sarah Hansen

                                    A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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                                    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

                                    Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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                                    Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

                                    In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

                                    Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

                                    There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

                                    Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

                                    Let’s get started, shall we?

                                    Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

                                    Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

                                    1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

                                    When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

                                    Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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                                    “Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

                                    2. Teaches the Value of Family

                                    Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

                                    According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

                                    3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

                                    Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

                                    “Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

                                    For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

                                    4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

                                    How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

                                    “If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

                                    5. Creates a Safe Environment

                                    If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

                                    Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

                                    6. Reduces Stress

                                    This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

                                    According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

                                    So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

                                    How to Make Family Time Happen

                                    Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

                                    1. Family Dinners

                                    This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

                                    Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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                                    “Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

                                    According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

                                    As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

                                    2.  Regular Movie Nights

                                    This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

                                    Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

                                    3. Game Night

                                    This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

                                    In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

                                    So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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                                    4. Sharing a Hobby

                                    If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

                                    Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

                                    Final Thoughts

                                    Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

                                    Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

                                    The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

                                    Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

                                    Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

                                    Reference

                                    [1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
                                    [2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
                                    [3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
                                    [4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
                                    [5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
                                    [6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
                                    [7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
                                    [8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
                                    [9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
                                    [10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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