In an ideal world we would all eating well, achieving optimal and a healthy wieght all the time. Unfortunately this isn't the case, so planning ahead and improving out diets well before trying to become pregnant is definitely recommended. I'd suggest 6 months ahead as a minimum, if possible.
Good nutrition is important for a healthy pregnancy and foetal health, and these are the strategies I recommend for women planning a pregnancy:
1. Make your diet more nutrient dense by focussing on minimally processed plant foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) and minimising your intake of "empty calories" from foods that are high in calories but not in nutrients - such as fried foods, oils, butter/margarine, sugary drinks/foods, refined grains (such as white flour products) and alcohol.
2. Aim to be in the "healthy weight range" for your height, as this can reduce risk of health problems during pregnancy.
3. Getting enough of all essential nutrients is important, and nutrients that I recommend paying particular attention to include:
Folate, vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D, iron and the omega 3's DHA and EPA.
For people on plant-based diets (my area of specialisation) I recommend they boost their intake of these nutrients with a prenatal multivitamin supplement, plus additional vitamin B12 (as this vitamin is not always well-absorbed from a multivitamin) and an algal-derived DHA/EPA supplement.
I tailor the brand and dose of each of these to suit the individual, depending on their diet, the results of blood tests and particular health needs.
I definitely recommend anyone considering a pregnancy consults an Accredited Practising Dietitian for dietary advice before tyring to conceive.
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