Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN

Faith Bontrager, RN, BSNFaith's passion in nursing is to help people find the options they need to discover their personal path to optimum health. Ask her friends and they will tell you that their appreciation of nutritious food has grown through Faith. About Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN


A Healthy Pregnancy

three smiling pregnant women in a row, all seated cross-legged

Thinking About Getting Pregnant?
One important step you can take to help ensure a healthy pregnancy is to consider your weight before even getting pregnant. Obesity has major effects on placental, embryonic, and fetal growth. Obese mothers are more likely to have large for gestational age (LGA) babies than lean moms, no matter how much weight they gain during pregnancy.

Congratulations on Your Pregnancy! (for those who are newly pregnant)
My first recommendation would be to find a doctor or midwife with whom you can comfortably talk and who makes nutrition a priority. Don't be afraid to call several offices and ask, "Dr Smith, how does your belief about nutrition affect your practice?"

What is a healthy pregnancy weight gain?
I remember talking to an elderly family member who related to me the pregnancy diet advice she received from her mother-in-law. "You are eating for two now!" Wanting to be a good mother (don't we all?) she diligently doubled her food intake - and then had a terrible time attempting to lose her "baby weight."

Can I continue to eat a vegetarian diet during pregnancy?
Yes, you can. Here are some guidelines.

A Pregnancy Menu For You and Your Baby
How do you choose a menu that will benefit you and your baby? Googling the phrase "healthy pregnancy diet" returns more than two million responses. Even reputable groups like the USDA and Harvard School of Public Health disagree. Where do you start?

Treating Nausea and Vomiting
According to researchers, over 70% of women suffer from nausea during early pregnancy. Despite the name "morning sickness," pregnancy nausea happens throughout the day for many women. It is most common in the first trimester but 13% of women had nausea past their 20th week of pregnancy.

What About Seafood?
Seafood is a great, healthy choice for expecting mothers. It's both high in protein and naturally low in saturated fat as well as being high in omega-3 fatty acids. Adequate levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA has been linked to increased intelligence in children. One study indicated that fish consumption during pregnancy decreased the child's chance of developing asthma.

FDA Updates Recommendations for Fish Consumption in Pregnancy
On July 2, 2019 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated their recommendations for fish consumption for pregnant women. Here's what's changed - and what hasn't.

Don't Eat That!
Many of these articles are about things that you should eat. The focus of this article is about things that you should either limit or eliminate entirely from your diet.

Pregnancy and Cholesterol
A Reader Asks: I'm writing because my primary care doctor wants to put me on a cholesterol-lowering drug as soon as I deliver. I don't want to do that, though, and am wondering if you might have any insight into this topic?

Wash Those Veggies!
Pregnancy is a time when many women (and their partners) think about pesticides on fruits and vegetables. Are they dangerous to our unborn child? Does washing the produce do any good? Should I use some type of special wash? Should I buy organic? Is it worth it?

Breastmilk, the Healthiest Diet for Babies
As a site dedicated to the best in food and nutrition, we HAD to address the issue of breastfeeding. While we respect a woman's right to choose formula, just as we respect her right to eat spaghetti from a can, we can't honestly recommend either as first choice nutrition. (See also: Healthy Communities Breastfeed Babies)

What DOES that Broccoli Do for My Baby?
All of us have days when we would rather have a tall cappuccino than a spinach salad. Holding up a glass of milk and saying, "Here's to you, baby; I'm building your bones!" can be a great motivator. This article mainly includes nutrients that are challenges to a number of pregnant women.

Vitamin D Supplements in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Browse any health website or magazine and you are likely to see something about vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for the absorption of calcium and for bone health. It is also important for cell health, the immune system and neuromuscular function. Recent studies have indicated that adequate levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of other diseases including cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, immune disorders, and other health conditions.

New Research Affirms Individualized Vitamin D Supplementation for Pregnant Women
While we know that Vitamin D levels which simply prevent rickets are not adequate to provide optimal health, we are continuing to explore exactly how much vitamin D supplementation is beneficial. There is controversy among scientists over this issue. Some researchers and professional groups now recommend 75 nmol/L and perhaps higher.

Breastfeeding: Developing a Future Gourmet
In other articles we have covered how breastmilk is excellent nutrition for your baby, but this site isn't only about nutrition. It is about food that tastes great! Babies, like their parents, appreciate wonderful flavors. Breastmilk provides a variety of flavors that may influence baby's palate for years to come.

What to Do About the Flu
You know that it is flu season and in addition to the seasonal flu, you need to be aware of H1N1 ("swine flu"). You may or may not know that pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to be hospitalized or have complications than non-pregnant women.

Gestational Diabetes
About halfway through your pregnancy, you are likely to have a "glucose tolerance test" to test for gestational diabetes. What is this condition and why do we test for it?

Decreasing the Risk of Gestational Diabetes
Women who are obese are more likely to develop gestational diabetes (GDM) than women with normal weight. Losing weight before becoming pregnant can help decrease your risk of developing GDM.

Keeping and Storing Breastmilk
Most doctors and mothers would agree that breastmilk is the best diet for a newborn. But what if you aren't going to be with your baby 24 hours a day? Many women choose to express (pump) milk for their babies.

Breastfeeding: A Woman's Health Issue
Most of our readers are aware that breastfeeding is THE standard for good infant nutrition and that it has many health benefits for babies. You may or may not be aware that her breastfeeding choice may significantly impact a woman's future health.

Eating During Labor
Many hospitals currently restrict food intake during labor. A few hospitals allow laboring women to have only ice chips, others allow clear liquids only. These policies are based on work by Dr. Mendelson in the 1940s that indicated that under general anesthesia there was a possibility of acidic stomach contents entering the lungs and causing damage.

Probiotics and a Decreased Risk of Gestational Diabetes
You know that yogurt helps to supply your daily calcium, but can it decrease your risk of gestational diabetes? Possibly. "Probiotics", those friendly bacteria in yogurt, miso, cottage cheese, aged cheese, kimchi, and other foods have been discussed in everything from research journals to commercials for "active" yogurt.

Pregnancy - a time to be ACTIVE!
Exercise provides many health benefits to all of us, but there are extra benefits for pregnant women. Exercise helps keep weight gain at appropriate levels. It may help prevent gestational diabetes. It decreases problems with constipation, which also helps avoid hemorrhoids. It certainly helps you feel better.

Clearing the Air : Quit Smoking for You and Your Child
We at Dr. Gourmet encourage our readers who are pregnant or would like to become pregnant to stop smoking. We would also like to encourage their partners and families to stop smoking as well.

What is a Healthy Pregnancy Diet for Obese Women?
In previous articles we have discussed the value of reaching a healthy weight before planning a pregnancy. However, life doesn't always go according to recommendations. If you are overweight or obese and pregnant, what does a healthy diet look like for you?

Does Iron Intake Matter?
The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of iron for pregnant women is 27 mg daily, compared with 18 mg for non-pregnant women. During pregnancy a women not only increases her own blood supply, she also gives her baby the iron needed to support his growth before birth and gives him supplemental stores which will help his growth in early infancy.

One Fish, Two Fish... Full Term Birth?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women eat fish up to two times per week. Fish is a great source of protein, it is a heart healthy fat for moms and may be important for baby's brain development. Fish can be great sources of vitamin D and iron. But can eating fish decrease your risk of a pre-term birth?

Best Early Nutrition Provides Lowered Disease Risk
Those who have read this column for any length of time are already quite aware that breastfeeding is GREAT nutrition for babies, know that it helps protect baby from infections, know it decreases the mother's risk of disease and are aware that Mom's nutritious, varied diet can help develop baby's sense of taste when they eat solid food. Who could ask for more? But there is!

Folic Acid and Language Development
Adequate folic acid, a B vitamin, can reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects. The concept that women should have adequate folate pre-conception and in the first weeks of pregnancy was an early message in modern public health. This led to supplementation of foods such as cereals and bread in the United States. Most women who plan pregnancies are now aware of this association. Rates of neural tube defects have declined.

A Mediterranean Diet, Pre-Pregnancy, Helps Prevent Birth Defects
Researchers evaluated the quality of a woman's diet using both the Mediterranean Diet Score (encouraging legumes, grains, fruit, nuts, vegetables, fish, more monounsaturated fat than saturated fat and cautioning against over use of dairy, meat, and sweets) and the Diet Quality Index (which follows the USDA's plan of encouraging grains, vegetables, fruit, folate, iron, and calcium and cautioning against overuse of fats and sweets).

There is No Substitute for a Healthy Diet
Pregnant women often ask me, "What brand of prenatal vitamins should I take?" before they ask about a healthy diet. My response is that prenatal vitamins can never replace healthy food.

Honest Healthy Diets for Babies
For many years doctors told pregnant women, "Infant feeding is your choice; your baby will be fine with either breast milk or formula." This advice was still given long after research showed the value of breast milk to infants and the health benefits of breastfeeding to the mother.

Exercise for New Moms
Resuming exercise as soon as appropriate after birth can benefit new moms. Exercise can help a woman recover from birth more quickly and make her more resilient in learning new parenting skills and dealing with night-time feedings. Exercise can help mothers return to a healthy weight in a timely manner. It may even play a role in helping defeat the "baby blues."

A Healthy Pre-Pregnancy Diet and Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes (GDM) can have long-term and short-term complications for both mother and baby. While early detection and treatment can help prevent some of those complications, prevention is always preferable. Unfortunately, the rate of gestational diabetes in the United States is approximately 7% and is increasing as obesity among childbearing women rises.

Vitamin D and Gestational Diabetes
Several new studies have indicated that low Vitamin D levels in early pregnancy are associated with a higher risk for diabetes during pregnancy. We have known for some time that Vitamin D is important for bone growth and normal nerve functioning because of its role in calcium absorption and helping the body to use calcium efficiently. Vitamin D helps cells "differentiate" (become the type of cell they will be) and is important for a healthy immune system.

Great News About Breastfeeding
The CDC released some great news this week.  From 2000 to 2008 the percentage of mothers who initiated breastfeeding increased over 4 percentage points. 

Peanuts and Pregnancy
Research tells us that 70% of allergies are identified at the child's first known exposure to the food and that food allergies require previous sensitization. In the past, this led some experts to recommend that women avoid nuts during pregnancy.

Iodine supplements - should you take them?
You may have seen on the news recently that the Council for Responsible Nutrition has recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a supplement that includes 150 micrograms of iodine daily. They further encouraged supplement manufacturers to include this amount of iodine in any supplements designed for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Prevent Gestational Diabetes with a Mediterranean-style diet
It is common for pregnant women to ask about certain nutrients such as calcium or B vitamins. At one point research focused on individual nutrients and their role in a healthy mother and baby. However, the reality is that we don't eat "calcium" or "vitamin C," we eat food.