We live in a society where there are many toxins and environmental hazards, and it difficult to assess exactly what we’re getting from our foods. The soil is not as rich and fertile as it once was, so some of the minerals that would come to us through our foods we must now get in the form of supplements. However, taking supplements is no excuse for skipping a meal or for choosing ice cream over kale salad because we already took our mega-greens supplement for the day.
Think about it: An orange that grew on a tree is not the same as an orange-flavored vitamin C tablet. The orange grows until it’s ready. It contains the right amount of fiber, water-soluble nutrients, sugar, and phytonutrients. It grows in an environment where it’s exposed to sunlight, moonlight, rain, and wind, and it keeps growing until it’s ripe and ready to fall from the tree. A vitamin C tablet was developed in a lab and, at best, it provides fragmented and synthetic nutrition. Our proper diet should provide us with most of the nutrients we need during pregnancy and our supplements are there as a backup. If we eat well we give our body the best building blocks to work with. If there’s a time in our lives where we need to eat and treat ourselves well, pregnancy should be it.
Let’s review some general guidelines for healthy eating.
1. Eat food that is locally grown. The shorter the distance the food has traveled to get to your plate, the fresher and less contaminated it is, and the better it is for you. Less fossil fuel is used and fewer greenhouse gases are emitted when the food is not being shipped long distances. Plus, by eating locally grown food, you’re supporting farmers and, usually, farming practices that are more sustainable and in line with the local ecology. Where do you get locally grown food? Farmer’s markets. Learn more with ecomii’s Farmer’s Market Guide.
2. Support organic agriculture. Organic farmers use fewer or no synthetic chemicals to grow and process your food, which is not only good for the external environment, but it’s good news for your body, too. And what’s good for you is good for the baby, since everything you eat passes through the baby’s umbilical cord – not only nutrients, but also toxins. It’s worth bearing in mind that the umbilical cord is where these toxins are most concentrated, if the liver doesn’t clear them up first.
3. Celebrate seasonal foods. This means eating the foods that grow in your region and during their harvest season. Mother Nature gives us the foods we need in abundance to get us through each season and prepare us for the following one. So, we should eat greens in the spring: shoots and other sprouting plants that represent the emergence of new life after winter. During the summer we should eat water laden fruits and berries: foods that grow on trees and bushes. In the fall, we should eat squashes and other robust leafy vegetables, i.e. cabbages, collards: things that grow along the ground. In the winter, we should eat root vegetables and foods that grow underground. Nature can help prepare us for the transitions: In autumn, for instance, nature provides us with the nutrients we need to survive the harsh winter. In other words, we get what we need a season ahead of time.
4. Eat food that is full of flavor. Food should be enjoyable and it should be delicious. If you’re eating “healthily” but not relishing your food, then you’re missing a big part of the purpose of eating in the first place. The entire sensory experience – the preparation, the consumption, the flavors and scents, and feeling of satisfaction after eating – should be pleasurable. If the food you prepare tastes bland, then why not experiment with introducing more spices and herbs to the dishes to infuse them with more life and accent their natural flavors.
5. Eat colorful foods, on a color-balanced plate. Sourcing a variety of full spectrum foods will ensure that you get a broad spectrum of nutrients, as each pigment corresponds to beneficial substances in our food. These phytochemicals are natural compounds that give our foods their color, smell, taste, and health benefits. For example: Carotenoids are orange in pigment and found in yellow, orange, and green leafy vegetables. Carotenoids are responsible for fighting harmful free radicals; supporting a healthy immune system; providing protection against heart disease, stroke, and cancers; and promoting nerve and eye health. Anthocyanins are water-soluble compounds that impart orange, red, purple, blue, magenta, and violet pigments unto a variety of fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins protect against degenerative diseases, premature aging, and inflammation, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They also support a healthy brain. When you go shopping, be sure to select colorful foods from the rainbow spectrum and keep it simple. Just think: The more colors, the more balanced. It also makes your meals look great when they are color balanced. When you look at appealing food, it sends a signal to your brain to prepare for digestion. Your mouth waters; your saliva becomes laden with digestive enzymes, and your stomach prepares for work.
6. Eat mindfully: Slow down. Eat with awareness, and attune yourself to the subtle energies at work in your body and the make-up of your food. Listen for feedback from the body, be present, enjoy, and then release the meal from your body. What does it mean to eat “mindfully”? It means, simply, focusing on the food. Too often, we’ll focus on anything but the food when we eat. We sit in front of the TV, check email, surf the Net, or talk on the phone – sometimes all four at once: anything but concentrate on the plate in front of us. Eating, however, is not a time for multi-tasking. It’s a time for us to be with ourselves if we’re dining alone, or in the company of friends or loved ones. (We not only get nourishment through our foods, but also through our company.) During pregnancy the body responds very quickly to the foods we eat, so developing a practice of mindful eating can help you learn what foods your body prefers as building blocks for your little one.