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Six Elements of a Healthy Diet

Pregnant women have different nutritional needs, which is why things like which foods to start eating and avoiding will come to the forefront of the list of things you need to pay attention to. But following a healthy diet doesn't necessarily have to involve the adoption of a strict regimen, it simply means that you should pay more attention to your food choices. The following six guidelines adapted from The Whole Pregnancy Handbook by Joel M. Evans and Robin Aronson (Gotham Books, 2005), will help you detoxify your diet and develop healthy eating habits.

1. Replace white rice with brown rice, whole-grain pastas and breads
Not only is processed whole grain stripped of fiber and precious immunity-boosting phytochemicals, it also contains "bad" carbohydrates that don’t offer any nutritional value. Whole grains on the other hand contain both good carbs and the fiber that your body needs to sustain its energy and help prevent constipation, which is a common pregnancy problem.

2. Go for a variety of organic fruits and vegetables
Even though it tends to be a bit more expensive than regular produce, organic fruits and vegetables help lower pesticide levels in your blood. Fetal exposure to harmful chemicals such as those present in pesticides can stint fetal development and threaten its wellbeing. You should also try to add fruits and vegetables of every color to your diet, as different colors contain valuable nutrients that have protective properties important for fetal development.

3. Limit your salt intake
Consuming too much salt leads to water retention in pregnant women in particular, and high sodium levels can lead to pregnancy complications. High-salt foods are usually processed foods that include canned soups and frozen dinners.

4. Avoid foods containing chemical additives
Most artificial colors and flavors are generally considered as safe for consumption, but foods made with chemicals usually have negative side effects and are not nutritionally wholesome. Such additives can also cause stomach problems, insomnia and migraines in regular adults, which is all the more reason to avoid them.

5. Get enough protein
Protein is an important key ingredient in any diet and can be gained from several sources such as meat, poultry, beans, grains, nuts, soy products and legumes. If you don't eat red meat then try to add iron-rich foods such as dried apricots and figs to your diet to make up for it.

6. Choose the right type of fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development and maintenance of a healthy heart and immune system, and can be gained from fish. But while most fish is good for you, those that contain mercury should be avoided as much as possible. You should also watch out for fish that has been contaminated with toxic industrial compounds and pesticides, which cause a range of problems such as brain damage and cancer. Opt for farmed fish instead if possible, or get your omega-3 from alternative sources such as walnuts and ground flaxseed.