Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Pregnancy is a time in which nutrition is very important for the health of both mother and baby.

Women who are pregnant are encouraged to eat healthy diets with a variety of food groups. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that mothers who ate higher quality diets had fewer babies with spina bifida and cleft lip or palate.

This study shows the importance of eating a varied high quality diet. Pregnancy is also a time in which certain vitamins are particularly important to promote a baby’s growth and development.

A healthy diet
• Fruits and vegetables: Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables helps provide vitamins and minerals to both mother and baby.
• Dairy and calcium-rich foods: Both mother and baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps with circulatory, muscular and nervous systems to run normally. Dairy is the richest source of calcium; many fruit juices and cereals are also fortified with calcium.
• Lean protein: Protein is important for the baby’s growth, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Lean meat, poultry, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. Other options include beans, tofu, dairy products and peanut butter.
• Bread and grains: Mothers should choose grains that are high in fiber and are enriched, such as whole grain breads, cereals, pasta and rice.
• Iron-rich foods: Iron is important for the body to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. During pregnancy, a mother needs more iron to have enough oxygen for herself and her baby. Good iron sources include lean red meat, poultry and fish. Other sources include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, nuts and dried fruits.

Vitamin-rich foods
• Folic acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects (serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord). Many cereals are fortified with folic acid. Other sources include dark-green leafy vegetables and beans.
• Vitamin C: Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, honeydew, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes and mustard greens.
• Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps build a baby’s bones and teeth. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, as well as fortified milk or juice.

Eat healthy to be healthy.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.