Managing Stress for Maternal Health: The Important Role of Nutrition

Managing Stress for Maternal Health: The Important Role of Nutrition

2/22/2019 9:33 AM

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT and co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook

You’re trying to juggle work life, mom life and having a life but are feeling all out of balance. Your boss needed this yesterday, and your baby has been sick and you’re feeling under the weather yourself.

You run to the market to grab the ingredients to make homemade soup because surely that’ll be the ticket to getting you two to feel better in no time. But shoot! The market is out of the organic items you need and now you’re forced to buy conventional produce. You’ve been repeatedly told that organic is the safer, more nutritious option and now that you’re buying conventional instead of running to another store to purchase organic you are overcome with “mommy guilt.”

Does this sound familiar?

The onset of one stressful situation that then spirals into another stressful situation and viola, you’ve officially categorized yourself as the worst mom ever.

Friends, as a mother and registered dietitian nutritionist I want to tell you that thought couldn’t be further from the truth!

The thing is, we’re constantly bombarded with mixed messaging as to what is the best and right way to feed ourselves and our children. Rather than listening to health professionals, the media portrays the latest celebrity touting an organic celery juice and the trend of “dirty dozen” fear-mongering that leaves consumers like yourself questioning every single thing your gut (and science) tells you is correct.

Rest assured, we don’t want you to stress anymore. I’m here to help guide you with credible nutrition advice on how to manage that stress so you can be the healthiest for both you and your baby!

First things first, in order to be the healthiest for your family, you actually need to look at the entire spectrum of maternal health, which begins the moment you decide you want to conceive. Once you get pregnant, the rollercoaster of stress doesn’t end, it just becomes different. Thus, the phases of motherhood all build upon each other and learning how to manage your stress and form healthy habits allow you to create the nourishing environment you want for your baby, building their immunity, improving their health and fostering an intuitive relationship with all foods.

The American Heart Association (1) and the Center for Disease Control (2) recommend managing stress through finding support, moving more, laughing, getting enough sleep and nourishing your body with healthy foods — sounds doable (and fun) right?!

As much as moms (and moms in the making) want to conquer all of these things, time becomes an issue and then the above mixed messages begin to consume thoughts (as in said case of mom faced with ONLY conventional produce).

For instance, take the latest Nutrition Today study which found misleading messaging that labeled certain fruits and vegetables as having “higher” pesticide residues, leaving low income shoppers less likely to purchase any fruits or vegetables, regardless if grown organically or not (3).

Is that the message trained professionals like myself want consumers to be faced with?

Absolutely not!

You see, lists like the “Dirty Dozen” that are released every year contribute to the demonizing of fruits and vegetables grown conventionally and confusion amongst the public overall on what to eat.

If you’re actively concerned about finding out the pesticide residues actually found on your favorite fruits and vegetables, you can use the Pesticide Residue Calculator here. But, rest assured, the latest data from the United States Department of Ag’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) report has shown that 99% of pesticide residues on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pose no safety concern (4).

To show you how a nutritionist (and mama!) incorporates a variety of foods into her diet, here are my top five foods (all considered members of the “Dirty Dozen” list) that I actively eat as well as recommend to my clients. And spoiler alert, I help educate my clients on choosing the organic or conventional variety that they feel more comfortable with, can afford but most importantly, will eat!

Five Nutrient Dense Foods To Fight Stress & Improve Maternal Health

1.      Strawberries: Filled with vitamin C, this is a win-win for mom and baby! Try them in smoothies, popsicles or sliced over toast with cottage cheese for a quick snack.

2.      Spinach: A plant based source of iron that easily pairs with a citrus fruit like oranges to increase absorption, important for babies who are still nursing and need iron from outside sources.

3.      Apples: Focus on fiber with the pectin naturally present in apples! These make an excellent breakfast with whole grain oats and chopped walnuts, too.

4.      Potatoes: Power up with potassium found in the golden potato! Dice, roast and throw in a taco to create a portable (hello one hand mom) meal on the go.

5.      Tomatoes: An important antioxidant lies within the ruby red tomato — lycopene! Slice and dice in a salad to create a beautiful meal in minutes.

As you can see, it’s important to sort the facts from fiction and remind ourselves what we see in the media is not always based on science (read please don’t think you need to drink celery juice!)

Trust the science, your gut, and remember that MORE produce, over NO produce, always wins!






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