Healthy diet, healthy child – even years later

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What can you do to ensure your child stays healthy years down the line? Take care of yourself before and during pregnancy. This advice is nothing new, but across the pond in England, a new report shows that the vast majority of health care providers don't monitor or advise women on health, nutrition and exercise.

This study, released by the Infant and Toddler Forum, called doctors, midwives and parents alike to view preconception and pregnancy as a "window of opportunity" that would lead to a healthier generation of children.

How this applies to you

You may notice that your prenatal appointments consist of a urine and weight check, belly measurement and blood pressure monitoring, with nary a thought to what you're eating. Your doctor may check in and ensure you're taking a prenatal vitamin, but other than that, he or she is out the door before you can think to raise a question.

Because your diet is so important, it's worth intentionally carving out time to chat with your doctor about it. What you eat today not only affects the growth of your fetus – but also influences your child's health years from now. Before each appointment, make it a focus of yours to jot down a few notes or questions about your nutrition. Once your doctor enters the examining room, ask if you can have a quick review about your general health before getting started. He or she may have suggestions for how you can take in more vitamins and nutrients to benefit baby.

What you may be missing

Most women of childbearing age may be lacking in folate, iron, calcium, iodine and vitamin D. You can request blood work from your doctor to determine your levels, and even work with a nutritionist to ensure you're getting what you and baby need through both a balanced diet and vitamin supplements.

Tips for a more healthful diet

To achieve a well-rounded diet and make sure you up your levels of vitamins and minerals associated with healthy pregnancies, try the following:

  • Eat three servings a day of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Or be sure to consume calcium-fortified non-dairy milks and take a dietary supplement approved for moms-to-be.
  • To increase your iron intake, combine iron-rich foods with those boasting high levels of vitamin C such as citrus, kiwis or tomatoes.
  • Consume two servings of oily fish each week. A good, safe pick is always salmon which is high in healthy omega-3 fats.
  • Take a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.
  • With your doctor's permission, take a daily vitamin D supplement.
  • Limit the amount of sugar you eat and drink, by cutting out sweets, juices and sports drinks.
  • Toss out the notion that you're eating for two. Doctors recommend merely 300 additional healthful calories for moms-to-be.

Taking charge of your health today means a fitter pregnancy and healthier baby at delivery – and years after. 

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