Healthy Eating Today May Brighten Future Pregnancy

New guidelines show what teens should be eating today to help them have a healthy pregnancy decades from now.

When it comes to pregnancy, everyone knows that you're eating for two. In fact, when you're pregnant, your body needs more nutrient-rich foods than almost any other period of life. But did you know that what you eat, even decades before you get pregnant, can have as much or even more impact on your baby's future as what you eat during it?

New recommendations on maternal nutrition emphasize that nutritional choices starting as young as 10 years old have a huge impact on one's ability to safely and healthily have children decades later. So, what should teens be eating today?

  • Iron – Very important for teen girls and pregnant women to make up for what is lost from menstruation and increased demands during pregnancy. Found in meat, liver, nuts, beans, dark leafy greens and tofu.
  • Iodine – Vital during the early days of pregnancy but is often missing from diets that do not include iodized salt. Found in seaweed, seafood and iodized salt.
  • Folic acid – All women of reproductive age are advised to consume 400 μg/day as supplements or through fortified foods. Found in dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens or romaine lettuce.
  • Vitamin B12 – Since vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal products, it's often difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get enough of this important nutrient. Vegans can make sure they don't miss out by choosing B12 fortified plant milks and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Calcium – If you're not getting enough dairy, chances are you may also be low in calcium. Higher intake is particularly important for adolescents during their growth spurts. Found in dairy products, fish canned with their bones, tofu, and beans.
  • Vitamin D – Unless you’re eating fortified foods, Vitamin D deficiencies are common. For people with limited sun exposure or darkly pigmented skin, you can keep up your body's supply with fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms and egg yolks.

To raise awareness of this important topic and to help spread the word about nutrition's critical role in future health, Abbott provided a grant to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) to produce the first ever Think Nutrition First nutrition recommendations which were recently published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.