Every parent has an “aha” moment when that image of the child-to-be first shows up on a sonogram. For me, it was the beauty of my son’s spine. When I laid eyes on Luke at 12 weeks, I was dumbfounded that his body, not much bigger than a peanut, already displayed such magnificent architecture. At the same time, I was struck by his fragility, his dependence on his mother for nourishment and safety.
More than any other time, pregnancy gives you a chance to lay the foundation for your child’s health. By making smart decisions now about what you eat, drink, inhale and absorb, you can stack the deck in your baby’s favor. Here are five of the most important (and affordable) steps you can take to ensure his or her well-being.
1. Drink Plenty of Pure Water
Buying water in individual plastic bottles is totally passé. Such water is overpriced, overpackaged and not necessarily cleaner than what comes out of the tap. Instead, get yourself a reusable stainless-steel water bottle and a home water filter. A classic pitcher filter, such as Brita, Culligan or Shaklee, can handle the impurities commonly found in municipal tap water.
2. Eat Wisely for Two
They cost more, but eating organic foods may be your best investment in your child’s health. You can lower your pesticide intake by 90 percent simply by substituting organics for the most frequently contaminated produce: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears and spinach. Opting for low-fat meat and dairy will help you avoid toxins stored in animal fats. You can get necessary fats from plant sources like walnuts, flax seeds and avocados as well as fatty fish such as salmon.
To minimize consumption of additives, preservatives and dyes, eat whole foods when possible. Choose fresh, dried or frozen over canned food; most cans are lined with a product containing BPA, a chemical that can disrupt fetal hormones. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Safe Seafood Selector (oceansalive.org/eat.cfm) and Sustainable Table’s growth hormone-free dairy guide (sustainabletable.org/shop/dairymap/) will point you to safer food choices.
3. Get Gorgeous au Naturel
The average woman is exposed to more than 100 chemicals daily from personal care products. Eliminate as many as you can—especially those with fragrances, which usually contain phthalates, chemicals that can disrupt the fetus’s endocrine system. Use products with the most natural ingredients possible, either by buying organic face- and body-care products or making your own. (Plain olive oil makes a great moisturizer.)
4. Clean Greenly
Toss any cleaning products with labels that say “warning” or “danger.” (To learn how to dispose of them safely, visit earth911.com.) Instead, look for nontoxic or biodegradable cleaners that disclose their ingredients. Or save a few bucks by making your own: baking soda is great for scouring; diluted vinegar cleans windows and countertops and also eliminates bacteria and odors.
5. Breathe Cleaner Air
Indoor air is typically two to five times more polluted than the air outside, so open your windows a few minutes every day. Use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner regularly, and skip the chemical air fresheners.
For green companies and products, chemicals to avoid, ways to detox your diet and more, go to fitpregnancy/goinggreen.