What can you do to maximize the health of your baby…BEFORE you conceive?

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Pregnancy with author Bridget Swinney, RDTips to maximize health of baby – Part 1

Bridget Swinney is a registered dietitian and author of Eating Expectantly: Practical Advice for Healthy Eating Before, During and After PregnancyWhat can you do to maximize the health of your baby...BEFORE you conceive?, 4th edition due to arrive in 2013. We had the opportunity to talk about her expertise in Philadelphia at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference. (To watch the video, scroll to bottom or click here.)

Before you conceive – nutrition

Neily: So, let’s talk about the book. It focuses on…
Bridget: Everything you need to know about eating before and during pregnancy and also after pregnancy to feed the baby right.
Neily: What are some of the key messages?
Bridget: What’s really interesting that I found on researching the book is that you can actually program your baby for good health depending on a lot of different factors. One of them is starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight. That’s really vital. But, unfortunately, about 50% of the pregnancies are unplanned. So, that always doesn’t happen. The next thing you can do is make sure you gain the right amount of weight for your height.
Neily: How does someone know what the right amount of weight is?
Bridget: Well, there is a chart based on BMI, based on underweight, normal weight and overweight and the Institute of Medicine actually has a guide for how much you should gain. So for a normal weight woman, it should be 25 to 35 lbs over the 9 months of pregnancy.
Neily: Being at the right weight. Since pregnancies are often unplanned what if somebody is significantly overweight. What would be some risks?
Bridget: You know, one of the biggest risks is that their babies are more likely to be born with more fat cells so that can put them at a higher risk of childhood obesity. But, just because you are overweight does not mean this is going to happen. You can change the programming by gaining the right amount of weight and watching what you eat because specifically what’s in  your diet—especially antioxidant-rich foods can actually decrease your risk of some high risk conditions like preeclampsia as well as diabetes, which can also lead independently to problems related to childhood obesity.
Neily: Somebody is overweight. Unplanned. They get pregnant. What is the best thing they can do?
Bridget: The best thing they can do, really, is to follow the ‘My Plate’  (www.choosemyplate.gov) guidelines, which recommends that half of your diet be based on fruits and vegetables—the other on whole grains and lean protein. Because whole grains and fruits and vegetables will help you to have a diet that is high on fiber and low glycemic load, which is really what I call smart carbs. Eating mostly whole grains, cutting the sugars—most of the sugars in your diet can make a difference to your blood sugar and that can also impact childhood obesity risk.
Neily: So, there are some things a mom can do proactively—lose weight if she is overweight before she gets pregnant. And in an unplanned pregnancy eat right, eat healthy, a plant-based diet and we can reduce those risks.
Bridget: That’s right. And exercise. Exercise is also part of that equation. Eating right, gaining the right amount of weight and also having regular physical activity which is recommended at least 30 minutes a day unless there are contra-indications.
Neily: Excellent. Again, Bridget Swinney, author of ‘Eating Expectantly’. Thanks for watching Neily on Nutrition!

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