Bite This, Not That
May 11 is Mother’s Day! And while many women spend a good part of their adult life (read college years) trying to avoid getting pregnant, infertility is on the rise as many women wait to start a family while pursuing their careers.
But what many women don’t realize is that what you eat prior to pregnancy is just as (if not more) important than what you eat once you’re expecting. Below are some guidelines of what to eat and what to avoid to improve your chance of conceiving.
Whole grains. Researchers reviewing diets from the Nurses Health Study have found that choosing higher fiber carbohydrates (whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal) improve the chance of ovulation as they have a more positive effect on insulin levels, which affect fertility.
Not that. Women attempting to get pregnant should avoid/limit easily-digested carbohydrates (read cake, pie, doughnuts, candy, regular soda), as they interrupt the balance of hormones needed for pregnancy. They may also lead to excess weight gain, which impacts chance of pregnancy.
Healthy fats. While foods containing fat tend to be higher in calories, it is the type of fat that matters when it comes to fertility. Studies show that women consuming mono and poly unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil have better chances at pregnancy than those consuming unhealty fats (see below).
Trans fat. There are many reasons to avoid trans fat- mainly to do with your arteries and risk for heart disease. Trans fat is the type found in highly processed foods (like stick margarine and commercial cookies) as well as fast food. Research indicates that even 4 grams of trans fat per day can impact ovulation.
Beans. While beans may not be popular due to their “gassy affect”, scientists believe protein from plant sources improve chance of ovulation over animal sources. Dried beans, tofu, nuts & seeds, whole grains and vegetables all provide protein. Beans are also a source of folic acid- a B vitamin needed to prevent spina bifida.
Animal protein. Research suggests too much animal protein (beef, chicken, pork) may affect chance of ovulation. Consume animal protein in moderation (3-4 x/week) as it is a good source of iron, which is needed in higher amounts during pregnancy.
Full fat dairy products. Yup- you read that correctly. Scientists evaluating the Nurse’s Health Study diet database found that those consuming more full fat (read ice cream, whole and 2% milk) had higher rates of fertility than those consuming lower fat dairy products. Researchers believe the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid may be protective. Aim for 3 servings/day, 2 being full fat.
Low fat dairy products. Consuming low fat dairy products (skim, 1% milk) have been linked with higher rates of infertility according to the Nurse’s Health Study.
Prenatal vitamin. Even if you’re not planning on becoming pregnant, up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and all women of childbearing age are advised to take a multi-vitamin (or prenatal) containing the RDA for folic acid to prevent birth defects such as spinal bifida.
Caffeine and alcohol. Not surprising, risk for miscarriage increases with excessive caffeine consumption- especially when combined with smoking. And while the jury is still out regarding alcohol (some doctors say “ok” in small amounts, others advise against it), I’d advise avoiding booze when trying to conceive and especially during pregnancy.
When taking “diet” histories, I always ask about liquids, too. Water, coffee/tea, soda, juice and alcohol can affect our health in positive or negative ways. We all know water consumption is associated with good health and that soda, sweetened tea and juice contribute calories from sugar. But what about alcohol? The reviews and research are mixed like cocktails! Below are the pros and cons to alcohol.
Drink this (in moderation…)
- Heart disease. Research suggests that moderate alcohol intake (1 drink/day for women, 2 drinks/day for men) may aid in raising HDL (“healthy”) cholesterol and lowering LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol.
- Dementia. While alcoholics have a higher risk for dementia, individuals that drink moderately actually have a lower rate of dementia over time than abstainers.
- Weight loss. While too many cocktails can lead to the dreaded beer belly, a 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drank 1-2 drinks/day were less likely to gain weight than those who didn’t imbibe.
- Reduced risk for diabetes. A 2005 study found suggests that moderate drinking 1-2 drinks/day cuts risk for diabetes up to 30%.
- Less risk for gallstones. Moderate drinking has been found to reduce the risk of those pesky hard stones made of cholesterol that cause pain in the middle of your gut.
Put down the bottle
- Breast cancer. While we all may be thrilled that moderate drinking may prevent weight gain, we’re not too excited that even 1 alcoholic drink raises the risk for breast cancer by 12%. Oral cancer and rectal cancer are also increased with excessive alcohol consumption.
- Liver disease. Since alcohol is metabolized in the liver, this vital organ takes a hit when abused.
- Cardiovascular disease. Too much alcohol not only raises blood pressure, it also increases risk for cardiomyopathy- a condition that leads to weakened heart muscle as well as dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation.
- Depression. Depressed individuals may turn to the bottle to reduce stress or anxiety. But most depression subsides when alcohol is reduced or avoided.
- Gout. Gout is a type of arthritis that’s caused when uric acid levels in the blood are elevated. Alcohol raises uric acid levels, which can exacerbate a gout attack.
If you want to enjoy a glass of wine or beer now and then, moderation may be beneficial to your health. But if alcohol intake is out of control or worsening any of the conditions above, it’s time to get off the sauce. Instead, try a ‘mocktail’- club soda, tonic water or carbonated water with a twist of lemon or lime. Bottoms up!
National School Breakfast Week (March 4–8)
School Nutrition Association
You’ve likely heard over and over about the importance of breakfast. In growing children, it’s especially important. Kids that eat breakfast have better behavior, more focus and score higher on tests than children that skip it. But many families say “there’s no time for breakfast” and may feed their kids something quick, but not so healthy (read Pop tart) while running out the door. Below are some better options for breakfast.
Trail mix. The beauty of trail mix is it can be made ahead of time and you can add virtually anything to it. If your child needs a gluten free diet, you can use corn or rice chex in place of wheat chex, Cheerios or other cereal. Add mixed nuts or seeds and dried fruit to boost protein, healthy fat and nutrient content.
KIND bars. There’s a reason these bars are named KIND! They are loaded with all natural, gluten free, organic ingredients with nothing funky like maltodextrin or chickory root. Choose nut-based bars that pack a decent amount of protein to help keep energy levels up throughout the morning. Check out www.kindsnacks.com for more information on their products.
PB and J. Peanut butter and jelly is not just for lunch. You can make sandwiches ahead of time on whole wheat bread with a glass of milk on the side for more calcium and protein. I’m a fan of natural peanut butter- less sugar and saturated fat than regular peanut butter.
Yogurt and fruit. Yogurt is loaded with calcium, potassium, protein and B vitamins, which all growing kids could use more of. Pair it with some frozen fruit or low fat granola for a simple breakfast parfait.
String cheese and fruit. I always keep string cheese on hand because it’s so portable. Pair it with a handful of grapes or apple slices and you’ve got breakfast to go. Try low fat varieties if you’re concerned with fat or calorie content.
Bagels. While bagels may seem like a good breakfast choice, most are made with white flour, which does not provide much satiety (meaning, you are full for a few hours, then hungry again). In addition, the calories with cream cheese added can reach over 400.
Granola bars. While granola bars are convenient, unless you choose ones with at least 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams or protein, your kid will be hungry within an hour of eating them. Limit the type containing inulin and chickory root as these tend to cause more gastrointestinal distress.
Sweetened cereal. There’s a myth that kids won’t eat cereal that’s not sweet. Most cereals are already sweet if they contain dried fruit or yogurt bits. Go for cereal with less than 5-6 grams of added sugar and at least 4-5 grams of fiber per serving. These are more filling and will help your child focus longer.
Donuts. Who doesn’t love a donut now and then? Save these treats for the weekend (and eat them only on occasion). I call donuts “crispy crime” as they have litte if any redeeming nutritional value.
Nothing. The worst breakfast is NO breakfast. Growling tummies make for limited focus, poor learning and behavioral issues. A handful of pretzels or crackers can suffice if nothing else is available.
For more information on School lunch, see http://www.schoolnutrition.org/nsbw
If you haven’t heard about the DASH diet, it’s time you knew about it. DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was developed by the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in 1997. Since then, multiple research studies have discovered that this style of eating not only reduces blood pressure, but also reduces the risk of heart disease through cholesterol reduction. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, nuts and beans are the basics of the diet. Below are what you should eat or avoid for better blood pressure.