It can be difficult to plan a pregnancy and oftentimes diets have not been changed specifically to nurture a baby prior to conceiving. That said, there may be different approaches to take depending on whether you’ve been planning a pregnancy for years, or didn’t realize it until well into the pregnancy. Either way, there is no need to panic. Being cognizant of how you want to make changes to your diet and lifestyle is an important step in itself. If you are looking for the perfect diet for a pregnancy, you might be disappointed to hear that it may not be quite that simple. But there are clear guidelines that can help you through this process. Here are some ways to think about how your diet is related to the periods of time before, during, and after a pregnancy.
What is an Ideal Diet to Prepare for a Pregnancy?
The best time to plan for a pregnancy is at least 4-6 months ahead of time. This is because it takes about 4 months to renew our blood once, which directly nourishes the baby. Even more so, it may be recommended to create a plan for 9-12 months to give yourself as much time to make any dietary transitions you want to make, if that would be possible for you. When preparing for a pregnancy, the goal is to have a variety of healthy foods in the major food categories.
Grains, beans, vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, and fermented foods are all very important! Try to have this variety in your overall diet without putting too much emphasis on any individual meal. Blood plasma, the liquid portion of your blood, renews itself every 10 days. So, whatever you eat in a 1-2 week period, directly affects the quality of your blood. Simply put, just have a well-stocked, well-balanced pantry and refrigerator where you implement a good mix of ingredients, dishes, and meals. These guidelines will provide good nourishment for you and the baby.
Are prenatal vitamins necessary to take? Nutrients within foods are the most absorbable and beneficial. The variety of foods that we have suggested should supply most essential nutrients. Try to get the bulk of your nutrition through food. In my decades of travel, I have seen dozens of macrobiotic children nourished and raised according to these principles. They are all noticeably strong and vibrant.
Is it Too Late to Start Eating Healthy During Pregnancy?
No, but you cannot make an abrupt change once you’re pregnant if you’ve previously had an unhealthy diet. This can actually make the baby weaker. The best thing is to add about 50% healthy foods into your existing diet. This approach will only benefit you and the baby. Again, try to choose a variety of foods from the different categories. These guidelines apply to both partners because sperm is directly transmuted to blood and the quality changes day-to-day. Men’s fertility has steadily decreased ever since the end of World War II due to the decline in dietary and lifestyle practices, so their inclusion in these choices are also important.
To summarize, fertility is a communication between both partners. When they are both aligned by healthy diet and lifestyle practices, it increases the chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
How to Eat Healthy During a Pregnancy
As previously mentioned, it is not recommended to completely replace an unhealthy diet and lifestyle with a healthy one. This is in contrast to thinking that you should instantly eliminate foods you find to be unhealthy and replace them with others. Of course, if you are smoking, drinking heavily, or taking drugs, those behaviors should be changed right away.
If you change a diet rapidly, the unhealthy foods that were consistently being consumed, may ultimately be eliminated through detoxification into your blood. That means those unhealthy foods are then transferred to the baby through the umbilical cord, ultimately having a negative impact that causes a baby to be weaker. So, begin to make changes without too much shock to your system. For example, if you eat a burger for dinner everyday, start slowing that consumption down by adding in healthier foods, rather than just eliminating it from your diet.
Try to have a variety of cruciferous (cabbage, broccoli, napa, etc.) and allium (onions, scallions, garlic, etc.) vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, especially bok choy, napa cabbage and arugula, are as important as ever when trying to make sure you have enough nutrients for the baby. Use a combination of unrefined sesame oil and extra virgin olive oil in food preparation. Focus on adding these – even as a small side dish to your meal. A baby has a clear appetite from day one, so try to listen to its appetite and desires. These are what pregnancy cravings really are, requests from your baby.
Beyond food consumption, avoiding other things that are considered shocking or negative in your routine may be a good idea as they should also be considered unhealthy for the baby. Literally, good people, thoughts, atmosphere, environment, and activities, in addition to a healthy diet, can help introduce the baby to a healthy lifestyle. A variety of physical activity is arguably just as important as the diet. You are beginning to train the baby while still in the womb, so act as if they’re already there hanging out with you. It is also a good idea to consider taking prenatal yoga classes to develop flexibility for the delivery.
How to Stay Healthy After a Pregnancy
The single most important thing for a new mother to do is to rest and do as little as possible for the first 2-3 weeks after giving birth. Try to arrange this support for as much time as possible well before the birth. This time is required for the mother to repair and re-nourish herself. This significantly reduces the chances of having postpartum depression, or other physical issues arise from not giving your body enough time to recover. After birth, a mother’s role is to nurse and get to know their baby through touch and as much eye contact as possible. You, and your baby, will be rewarded for a lifetime if you follow these guidelines.
In terms of diet, the healthy variety that you have hopefully developed before and/or during pregnancy, should be maintained. This is especially important when you are breastfeeding. It is also important to use oil daily in food preparation. Women generally crave richer tasting foods after birth. Since the baby receives their nutrients through the mother’s milk, it is vital to keep as many different healthy nutrients going into your body as possible so you can send them to the baby. This will also help you to heal and recover more quickly.
It Takes a Village. . .
In the past, we had extended families and communities to guide us through this process, including the early education of children. These things are not natural or innate, but they are learned. Now that we have nuclear and single families, it is important to get good guidance for this whole process. Try to connect with women who have healthy children. This is more important than any book or other support. Lastly, if you’re planning on a home-birth, make sure to research a good midwife with hospital backup.
For more details about maintaining a healthy, well-balanced and varying diet, consider reading “The Ultimate Guide to Eating for Longevity.” You can also get a more specific plan designed just for you by calling 1-215-271-1858 to request a macrobiotic consultation appointment with Denny.