A Quick Guide to Healthy Eating

What is healthy?  Healthy eating is about consuming food for a more than adequate nutritional profile. Here are a few tips to ensure you eat foods high in nutrients rather than empty calories.

Focus on real food

Real food is fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and beans.  Concentrating on these foods means reducing your consumption foods that a processed and come in a packet, box, jar or can.

Consume healthy fats

Healthy fats are found in avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and oils like olive oil.  These will keep you feeling fuller for longer and is essential to help lower cholesterol and keep your skin and hair looking good.

Eat quality protein

Quality protein is lean meat, tofu, fish, pulses and nuts/seeds.  Protein is very important macronutrient required for our body to grow and function.  Protein breaks down into amino acids which form building blocks for DNA, cells, muscle, organs and more!  When it comes to processed meats such as salami and mettwurst remember…focus on real food.

Eat the rainbow

I suggest trying to incorporate at least 3 differently colours of fruit/vegetables in each meal.  This ensures you get a variety of nutrients your body needs.

Portion control

This is often the hardest for people.  A couple of strategies is to portion your meals before eating and pack away leftovers so you are not tempted to go back for seconds.  Another strategy is to pack you plate with vegetables. I like to cook extra vegetables with my meals and try to have at least half of my plate in vegetables.

Cut back on sugar

Sugar found in fruit is fine but it’s the added sugar that is the problem.  Sugars are hidden in processed food which is another reason why I recommend to eat real food.  Sugar raises insulin levels which leads to weight gain, hormonal issues and more.

Should you snack?

Technically, unless you are burning a lot of calories because you are a professional athlete you don’t really need to snack.  It is ok to feel a little bit hungry every now and then.  In fact, a substantial break between meals allows your gut to rest and detoxify.  You may also find after a couple of weeks of no snacking that your blood sugar levels will be more stable, you will no longer have the urge to snack and you might also say goodbye to the 3pm slump.  If you can’t wait for next meal I suggest choosing real food options like veggie sticks, fruit or nuts.

Plan your meals

We are all time poor which is why meal planning is so important.  Once you have done it you will see how much time it saves you and how much cheaper it is. The key is to choose easy recipes that you know don’t require too much fuss especially after a long day at work.

  • Take 15-20min on the weekend to pick out 4 meals (you can choose more or less depending if you want to have a night out)
  • Write them on a calendar or meal planner for dinner
  • double or triple the recipes according to your family size so you at least have leftovers for lunch the next day
  • Write your shopping list.  This also helps to prevent impulse buying especially when that block of Lindt chocolate is on special.
  • Cook your first scheduled dinner and portion out your dinner plates and lunches

 

The Egg and the Sperm

Evidence suggests that infant health is linked to the health of the mother and Father.  Preconception care is about what you do 3-6 months prior to becoming pregnant with a focus on reducing conception related risk factors and improving health to have a healthy baby.

Preconception for Egg and Sperm

It takes 3-4 months for a female’s eggs to mature before being released for ovulation and a male’s sperm to mature and fully form.  Any non-viable egg/sperm will not reach maturation and will not be released.  This highlights the importance of starting preconception care 6-12 months prior to give yourselves the best possible chance of a healthy pregnancy. More studies are emerging on an infant’s health stemming from pre-birth and even prior generation’s, this is known as foetal Programming. (so yes, your parents and grandparents can influence your health!).

Many lifestyle factors dramatically affect fertility, birth success and infant health.  Preconception care aims to promote fertility, conception and a healthy pregnancy outcome.  Here are a few factors you should consider:

Diet and nutrition

Diet is important when planning for pregnancy.  Certain deficiencies such as iron, selenium and zinc have been linked with poor ovulation, thyroid disorders and certain autoimmune conditions.  On the other hand, a diet high in simple carbohydrates and refined sugars is also associated with decreased ovulatory fertility.

Weight

Overweight and obese women are less likely to conceive than those with normal weight.  Increased weight also increases the risk of pregnancy complications.  Over- and underweight women may have difficulty conceiving due to hormonal imbalances and ovulatory dysfunction.  Furthermore, obesity can also contribute to reduced outcomes of IVF.  Weight loss (and weight gain with underweight women) has been shown to improve fertility in obese women.

Preconception care recommendation is to cease smokingSmoking & Alcohol

We’ve all heard how important it is for women to cease smoking and consuming alcohol during pregnancy.  But it is just as important for males as these can adversely affect fertility for both sexes due to increased toxin load and damage to DNA in sperm and ova.

Furthermore, smoking reduces sperm production, motility and causes DNA damage in males.  In females, smoking can affect hormone levels particularly during the follicular phase which is the time the ovary matures and ovulation occurs thus affecting fertility.

Stress

Psychological stress is an added risk factor for reduced fertility in both females and males.  Couples should undertake stress reducing activities whether it is acupuncture. exercise, meditation, dancing or cooking during all stages of preconception and pregnancy.

Toxin Exposure

Exposure to herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, other chemicals and heavy metals have been associated with decreased fertility, a higher risk of miscarriage and increased risk of the child developing ADHD and autism.

It is important to examine your exposure to chemicals not only in food but everyday chemicals around the house including cleaning products, cosmetics and skincare.  If you experience high exposure to chemicals due to work or where you live (farming districts), I recommend testing for heavy metals and undergoing a detoxification program 6-12 months prior to trying to conceive to ensure not only improvement of your own health but also oocyte and sperm quality.

Pre-natal vitamins

Pre-Natal supplementation should ideally commence 3 months before conception to ensure that the mother is not deficient in nutrients required for hormone production, oocyte production and has ample stores during gestation; as well as for male sperm production and quality.  When choosing supplements:

  1. Quality is very important as you are looking to form new life into this world.  Not all supplements are created equal with some forms being more absorbable than others
  2. More is not necessarily better.  Too high doses of anything is not always good.  Again, this goes back to quality
  3. Get tested.  In some cases, if you don’t have a deficiency you don’t need the supplement.  Some nutrients in excess can actually cause harm
  4. Seek professional advice – practitioner only supplements that can only be prescribed by your healthcare professional (ie. Naturopath, nutritionist, doctor) may sometimes be better quality than cheaper over-the-counter supplements.  These will also often be formulated on based on scientific research.

Preconception care for a healthy babyIt takes 2 to tango

Men also experience declining fertility as they age.
Lifestyle factors that may affect fertility in males include wearing tight-fitting clothing, using hot baths and spas and saunas.  Diets high in meat and dairy have also been associated with compromised semen quality, whereas diets high in fruit and vegetables have shown to be more beneficial to sperm and men’s health overall.

Other factors that should be considered when planning for pregnancy is medications such as cholesterol lowering and blood pressure medication that can affect the health of the sperm along with over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

It is important to remember that fertility and improving egg and sperm quality is not always an overnight fix.  Even if you are healthy and seemingly doing all the right things your ferility may be affected by an undiagnosed condition. Thus, whilst it is important to follow some general dietary and lifestyle advice it is imperative couples have an individual assessment and the correct tests. As without the correct diagnosis, there is no correct treatment and without correct treatment there is no improving egg and sperm and your situation remains the same!

 

Tips to reduce your toxin exposure for pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, looking to conceive or are concerned about your overall health, here are a few tips to reduce your toxin exposure.

Opt for natural

Less is more. Reduce the number of personal care products and make up and opt for natural and if possible organic.  This includes your nail polish, hair dyes, sunscreen, toothpaste and more!  Just be mindful that just because the label says “natural” it might not always be the case.  Always read the ingredients.  If you don’t know what they are, then it’s often likely they aren’t natural.

A great website to source natural skincare, cosmetics and household care items is Nourished Life (www.nourishedlife.com.au)

Clean Green

Household cleaners, insect repellants and air fresheners often contain harmful chemicals that can penetrate your skin, irritate your lungs and enter your blood stream. Furthermore, these can often irritate babies lungs and children with asthma.

Cheaper and safer alternatives for cleaning include basic household items such as vinegar, baking soda and a good micro fibre cloth.

Go fragrance free

Phtalates (endocrine disruptors), linked to reproductive, motor and behavioural development are commonly found in fragrance ingredients.  Furthermore, no one knows what’s in synthetic fragrances as manufacturers only have to indicate the combination of chemicals used with only the word “fragrance”.  There are now many fragrance-free products available and if you do want some scent, opt for products scented with essential oils instead.

 

Choose organic whenever possible (or grow your own)

Eating organic means reducing your pesticide exposure. Research has shown that switching to an organic diet reduces pesticide remnants found in urine after just five days.  In addition organic foods cannot be genetically modified.

If switching to an organic diet is not affordable for you, I recommend choosing organic (or at least grass fed) meat and dairy, eat fruits and vegetables that are in season and buy organic fruits and vegetables that are known to retain the highest levels of pesticide residue.  These can be found on EWGs dirty dozen list.

Cook your own

Preparing your own meals using fresh, whole ingredients gives you maximum control over what ends up on your plate.  And is great practice for when baby comes along.

It is important to note that safer cooking option include example coated cast iron and stainless steel cookware.  Until recently non-stick cookware was made of a chemical, PFOA, which has been linked to cancer, heart disease, infertility and pregnancy complications.  New chemicals are now being used to produce non-stick cookware however their safety is still unknown.

Swap your plastic for glass

Plastics have been shown to contain many toxic compounds that can end up in your food, especially when the plastic is heated.  Avoid canned foods as they are lined with BPA. Switch your Tupperware and drink bottles for glass.   If that is too costly, start by just replacing the old, scratched containers.  Many plastic containers have a number on the bottom indicating the type of plastic it is.  Re-use only #2, #4 and #5.  Avoid #1, #7.

Not only will this be better for your health, it will also be better for the environment.

Eat small fish

Fish are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which are important for a healthy pregnancy and foetal development.  Eat seafood no more than 2-3 times per week and opt for smaller fish such as sardines which have less mercury contamination than deep sea fish such as swordfish and tuna.

 

By making a few changes to minimize your toxin exposure you can protect yourself and your family from possible risks.