Weve all heard the adage ‘you are what you eat. And if youre pregnant, this doesnt just mean you; it means your baby-to-be, too.
Thanks to scientific research, we know the importance of supplementing the diet with folate during very early pregnancy to avoid brain and neural tube defects. More recently, essential fatty acids, like omega-3, have been demonstrated to have significant benefits to brain and eye development, especially during trimester three. Consequently, Australian food authorities now encourage pregnant women to regularly eat good sources of omega-3, like low mercury fish.
On the flipside, the ability of the diet to ‘program the foetus future health means that consuming too much food could predispose your grown up child to diseases like diabetes or obesity. Eating too little may mean a lower birth weight and compromised immunity for life, such as food sensitivities or allergies.
With experts now predicting 6% of Australian children will be born with an allergy in 2010 alone, parents need to know how they can take action as early as possible.
The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, NSW undertook a study showing that seven out of 10 babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures had no food allergies compared to 45% of babies whose mothers didnt. They eliminated potential allergens from their diet and their environment, starting in trimester two and continuing until 18 months. By avoiding over-exposure to common allergy foods, the babies reaction to the nutrients was lessened or removed.
Dietary and lifestyle changes that might help your baby avoid allergens include:
1. Identifying a family history of food allergies and removing that food from your diet;
2. Cleaning your living environment thoroughly to remove traces of food allergens in your immediate surroundings;
3. Recognising and rotating common allergy foods:
a. Try substituting pasteurised goat or sheep milk and yoghurt instead of regular cows milk from time to time;
b. Eat different types of grains; try spelt pasta, quinoa instead of rice and breads made with ancient grains;
c. Munch on different types of raw nuts and seeds; try walnuts, pistachios, brazil, almond, cashew, hazelnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and try to avoid peanuts altogether.
4. Get into new habits with your diet, especially if you usually eat the same thing for breakfast or lunch, by trying a new dish every day:
a. Breakfast for one week could include toast with tahini and avocado plus a banana; scrambled eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms; Bircher muesli with mixed berries; beans and cheese on grainy toast; cereal with full fat milk and fruit; quinoa porridge with dried fruit and nuts or ricotta hotcakes and bacon (for a weekend treat)
5. Aim to breastfeed when your baby is born as lower rates of allergies have been linked with the immune support breast milk provides (5), and maintain dietary balance and elimination of eggs, wheat, dairy and peanuts foods during breastfeeding.
Mothers have a wonderful opportunity to give their child the best start by laying foundations during pregnancy that will last a lifetime. So embrace this opportunity and enjoy eating a varied, balanced diet that will nourish you and your baby now – as well as for the future.
 National Institute of Clinical Studies; Evidence-Practice Gaps Report Volume 2 2005
 Koletzko B, Lien E, Agostoni C, Böhles H, Campoy C, Cetin I, Decsi T, Dudenhausen JW, Dupont C, Forsyth S, Hoesli I, Holzgreve W, Lapillonne A, Putet G, Secher NJ, Symonds M, Szajewska H, Willatts P, Uauy R; The roles of long?chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation and infancy: review of current knowledge and consensus recommendations. J Perinat Med. 2008;36(1):5?14.
 West Z; Babycare Beofre Birth 2006
 NSW Food Authority – Fish and mercury FAQs
 Walker A; The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy 2006
 Australian Food News (page on the internet), sighted 11th March 2010 http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2010/03/11/childhood-food-allergy-on-the-rise.html
 WebMD (page on the internet) sighted 10th March 2010 http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20100301/how-to-avoid-food-allergies-in-babies