By David Grotto, RD, LDN
Wait a minute…let me clarify that. I’m not pregnant. I mean, “we’re” not pregnant at the Grotto house. But the “we’re pregnant” term was used by my wife and I for all three of her pregnancies and I have to admit, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with it. I know I participated in the conception part, but I never really felt I made much of a meaningful contribution during her pregnancy. I don’t think I’m that much different from other guys in that regard: we really do want to help out but could use a little guidance on what to do to help our spouses’ pregnancies run a little smoother.
The obvious. Helping your honey out with anything that can ease her burden is a no-brainer, whether it’s house cleaning, cleaning up after yourself, doing the shopping or running errands. I can assure you new dads-to-be out there that no good deed goes unnoticed. But for the sake of this post, I thought I’d stick to my area of expertise and offer some advice on how you can help mom meet her growing nutritional needs. I pulled out all the stops for this one and enlisted the help of expert Tara Gidus, MS, RD who is a mom of two boys, nutrition advisor for American Baby magazine and author of the new book Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition for Dummies.
Tending the fertile soil. Many guys think “getting pregnant” is solely in the hands of the woman. Well, as the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango”. Guys, take note that how you eat and live can greatly affect the quality of your sperm. Tara Gidus suggests focusing on foods that are rich in the b-vitamin folate, such as turkey, lentils and spinach, and zinc-rich foods such as beef, oysters and crab to aid in sperm production. Ready-to-eat cereals are also rich in folate and zinc. She also warns against smoking and overindulging in alcohol. Smoking and too much drinking can damage sperm.
Eating a healthy overall diet that includes lots of colorful fruits and veggies is the best bet for reproductive health of both the man and woman. Being overweight for both can decrease chances for conception. Guys can help by modeling reasonable portion sizes and encourage participation in regular physical activity. Lastly, a multivitamin for both partners can help meet critical nutrient needs during this time. And according to Gidus, it doesn’t have to be a prenatal formula for the woman. “Just a woman’s formula with iron should do the trick until she becomes pregnant; then switch to a prenatal formula.”
Shop right for her. Make a list that includes low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean meats and plant proteins and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Tara features a list of 11 optimal foods to eat during pregnancy in her book. The list includes:
- Asparagus – rich in folate
- Beef – rich in iron
- Avocado – heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats
- Eggs – rich in the brain nutrient choline
- Berries – high in antioxidants, including vitamin C
- Edamame – protein and fiber rich
- Greek Yogurt – packed with protein and friendly bacteria for digestive challenges
- Milk – loaded with bone-building calcium
- Salmon – swimming with the omega 3 fat DHA for brain development
- Legumes – fiber, protein, potassium and lots of other vitamins and minerals
- Quinoa – “Mother of all grains,” bursting with protein, fiber and b-vitamins
But don’t bring home unwanted guests. Gidus says keeping an eye out for food safety is as important as shopping for the right nutritious foods. “Keep meat and veggies separated in the grocery cart to avoid cross contamination – especially in warm weather. It’s important to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot during food preparation as well,” warns Gidus.
Cook for her. Making breakfast, packing a lunch and preparing dinner can score big points at home. If grillin’ is your thing, than make sure you have the ‘cool tool’ in your toolbox – a meat thermometer. “Make sure you grill to the right internal temperature,” encourages Gidus. “Try not to char the food either. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that develop when meats are charred are not good for her or the baby.”
Take her out. Gidus suggests simply monitoring portion sizes rather than worrying so much about eating the right foods when dining out. “Overeating can really be a problem, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters when heartburn flare-ups can easily occur,” warns Tara. “Order small plates, split an entrée or order a few appetizers. Taking a pass on the takeout box may also help reduce the risk of food infection.”
Eating for two? Don’t encourage your spouse to overeat. Midnight ice cream runs might be necessary to keep the peace, but don’t bring home more than she needs to satisfy a craving. Don’t forget, you’ll be most likely eating ice cream (and the extra calories) right along with her! “And when she says ‘Ben & Jerry’s,’ don’t get cute and bring home any of that fat free frozen yogurt stuff,” strongly suggests Gidus. “Best let her have what she wants.”
Before, during and after pregnancy. Tara says the overarching theme is to not treat pregnancy drastically differently when it comes to following a healthy lifestyle. “Whether pregnant or not, eating a healthy diet throughout all of your life is important. Also, being pregnant is not a license to fry everything or go crazy. You don’t have to go out of your way to get in extra calories – they will easily find you.”
Got any tips on how guys can help out? Feel free to impregnate the comment section or the WebMD Pregnancy Community with your thoughts.