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FAQ - Starting a family - dietary advice

By Debbie Paddington DipION

Expert nutritionists share their frequently asked questions…

Q - "My wife and I are planning to start a family shortly. We would appreciate any dietary and supplement advice for before and during pregnancy."

A - Most women only think about taking a folic acid supplement once they know for sure that they are pregnant, but it is important that your wife starts taking folic acid now, to ensure good levels. I would recommend that she takes a good multivitamin and mineral, designed for pregnancy which, ideally, has the recommended 400mcg of folic acid included. I would also advise that she takes an omega 3 fish oil supplement as these oils may help the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system (check that the fish oils are scrupulously screened for PCBs, heavy metals and other pollutants, to ensure the highest standard possible).

B vitamins can also be helpful for energy levels throughout pregnancy and before.

Balancing blood sugar levels is very important to help with energy levels during pregnancy and can help with morning sickness. Avoid sugar and sugary foods, including refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white pasta and white rice. Instead, eat the wholegrain alternatives, such as oats, brown rice and wholemeal bread / pasta. Try to eat good quality protein with every meal, e.g. fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables. Eating little and often is better for balancing blood sugar levels than three large meals.

If you have a peanut allergy in the family, it is advised to avoid peanuts during pregnancy. It is also recommended to avoid soft or blue cheese, green or sprouting potatoes, shellfish, raw eggs and alcohol, and not to have more than three potions of oily fish, particularly tuna, due to the possible mercury content, per week. Recent studies seem to indicate that it is also best to reduce caffeine levels before and during pregnancy.

For yourself, vitamin C, essential fatty acids, selenium and zinc are very important for sperm quality and quantity, so I would recommend that you take these nutrients along with a good general multivitamin and mineral. 

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