Nutrition for pregnancy, birth and beyond

Tabitha McIntoshThere are so many different ways that you can prepare for a better birth experience. Over on our blog we will be interviewing various experts to provide you with interesting and useful information to support your pregnancy, birth and journey into parenthood.

If there’s a particular topic you’d like us to cover, or someone you’d like us to interview please let us know!

Our first interview is with Tabitha McIntosh who I have known for many years. She is a brilliant Naturopath and Clinical Nutritionist who runs her own private clinical practice in Sydney, Awaken Your Health. She has also just published a book, co-authored with Dr Sarah Lantz, on nutritional and environmental health solutions, called One Bite at a Time: Reduce Toxic Exposure and Eat the World you Want.

At She Births we take our nutrition protocol and suggestions pretty seriously. So many little things you can do for an easier pregnancy and birth plus a healthier microbiome.

This week Tabitha offers her top tips to couples preparing for pregnancy, and shares a yummy simple healthy recipe.

As part of a three part mini-series, next week we’ll discuss with Tabitha the key nutrients you need throughout pregnancy, and we will cover nutrition requirements for the fourth trimester and breastfeeding the following week.

Nadine. xxx

Why is it important for couples to consider their nutrition and lifestyle when preparing to conceive?

Just as we plan for other big events in our lives (exams, weddings, interviews), so we should plan for one of the most important decisions in our life: to have a baby. There is an abundance of research to indicate that our health in the months leading into pregnancy (nutrient status, toxic load, lifestyle habits) not only impacts pregnancy outcomes, but also influences the genetic material that is passed on to the next generation. This is both incredibly empowering, and an enormous responsibility!

Establishing a good nutrition and lifestyle program that both partners can follow for three months before conceiving is a wonderful way to ensure you are stacking the odds in your favour for the best pregnancy outcomes.

What are some key priorities women need to consider?

Discussing with your health care provider the best way to ensure you are getting enough folate, iodine, iron and vitamin D three months prior to conceiving is a great way to begin. Cleaning up your diet to ensure an abundance of colourful, in-season plant food is also protective: I call it ‘eating the rainbow’ every day. Also discussing with your health care provider the benefits of choosing some organic produce is advisable, so that you can be making informed decisions to prioritise your organic dollar.

Reaching a healthy weight is paramount, as individuals that are a healthy weight tend to have quicker time to pregnancy and also less pregnancy complications.

Another key priority when preparing your body for pregnancy is coming back to basics with your lifestyle. Minimal alcohol, very little caffeine, avoiding passive cigarette smoke, and avoiding traffic-related air pollution have all been shown to contribute to healthier pregnancy outcomes.

And for the guys?

As much of a cliche that it is, it certainly takes ‘two to tango’: the male’s role in preparing for pregnancy is equally as important. In fact, the sperm is the smallest cell of the entire human body – making it exquisitely vulnerable to environmental toxins and adverse impacts from heat (choose boxer shorts over tight undies!); from wifi; and from electromagnetic radiation via laptops and smart phones. I always remind men planning a family to keep their phones out of their trouser pockets, or at least on aeroplane mode if they must be carried on the body. And no laptops or ipads on laps – ever.

Any other tips?

Pre-conception is a great time to reduce plastics in your life, as plastics can leach chemicals that interfere with natural hormone balance in the body. Switching to steel food containers, and glass water bottles and pyrex dishes for freezing leftovers is a simple way to reduce chemical exposures in the pre-conception stage. I also encourage clients to ditch the perfumes, smelly candles, and heavily scented personal care products: and to treat their bodies in the three months prior to conceiving as if they were in fact already pregnant.

Making some of these simple changes to your daily choices in the months prior to pregnancy is not just about maximising your own health, but also the health of your next generation.

Broccoli and quinoa rainbow salad

Being a ‘seed-grain’, quinoa offers a complete protein, making it a filling and nourishing complement to the veges here. Quinoa also is generous with its mineral content – magnesium, iron, manganese, and zinc – all wonderfully protective pre-conception minerals. Really any vegetables work, as long as they offer up a rainbow of colour. Broccoli, adparagus, corn, snow peas, purple carrots, red capsicum – all contain generous amounts of fibre and plant-based antioxidants to protect the health of your cells and DNA. When you combine a rainbow of foods, you not only have a beautiful plate, but an antioxidant and nutrient dense one too.

1-2 cups cooked quinoa
3 cups raw broccoli, cut into small florets and stems
2 medium garlic cloves, roasted for a softer taste
1 bunch finely chopped curly parsley
1 cup raw nuts – cashews, almonds or pine nuts
200g Goats fetta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil and fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
Yummy optional toppings- sliced avocado , hemp nuts,
raw chopped nuts or seeds. You can also add a can of red salmon
or tuna for an extra protein hit.

Rinse the Quiona then bring it to boil with 2 cups water. Then simmer for approx 10 mins until water is mostly absorbed, then set aside with lid on for a wee bit to soften further and absorb remaining liquid. Stir and then allow to cool (pour off any excess liquid).

Bring a pot of water to boil and season generously with 1 tbsp good sea salt, then add the broccoli florets and allow to turn bright green with just 1-2 mins max cooking time. Drain and then run cool water over to stop it from cooking further. Set aside 3 cups of this cooked broccoli for
use later.

Roast the garlic and finely chop. Now halve the cherry tomatoes, finely chop the parsley, and add to the cool quinoa in a large bowl.

Add the olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, and crumb the feta through the mixture.

I also add a few tablespoons toasted seeds mixture. Obviously if you use 2 cups of Quinoa this will be a larger and more grainy salad. For a dairy-free option refrain from using the feta and try some extra toasted seeds, fish or roast sweet potato instead.

To get in touch with Tabitha, or to find out about her special pregnancy package head to www.awakenyourhealth.com.au

nutrition pic
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