- Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy to provide the nutrients that both mom and baby need to be healthy.
- Folate is an important nutrient, especially during pregnancy since it reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of folate.
Before the Beginning
Women considering becoming pregnant should start early to improve their diet and make room for nutrient-rich foods that provide more vitamins and minerals in every bite. Eating foods that contain folate, such as citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables and peanuts can help!
Folate and folic acid (the synthetic form) helps reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. These defects happen when the brain stops growing properly or when the spinal cord is forming, yet fail to properly close (NIH, 2007). The first few weeks of life are when these important developmental events happen, even before many women know they are pregnant, which is why it’s so important for women to begin to improve their diets early.
From Pregnancy to Beyond
It just makes sense that good nutrition starts even before birth. Mom’s diet impacts growth, development, and may impact lifelong health for baby. For this reason, pregnant women are encouraged to eat enough foods that include protein, good fats, and the nutrient folic acid – or folate. As we’ve already discussed, peanuts are a good source of folate and can help women get enough of this important nutrient when included as part of a balanced and nutrient-dense diet.
A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains and nuts can provide superior nutrition for mom from before pregnancy until well after.
If you are concerned about potential allergens during pregnancy and lactation, know that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (Thygarajan and Burks, 2008) guidelines which state that there is insufficient evidence to avoid allergens as a strategy to prevent food allergies.
In infancy, breastfeeding is the best nutrition and should be encouraged for at least the first six months, per the AAP guidelines. The introduction of solid foods should not be delayed beyond 6 months and may be introduced between four and six months. In fact, AAP’s guidelines state:
Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease regardless of whether infants are fed cow milk protein formula or human milk. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein (Thygarajan and Burks, 2008).
Parents concerned about food allergies should be referred to their pediatrician, since research is ongoing and no one knows definitively how best to prevent food allergy. It’s important to remember to educate clients on how to properly introduce foods for safety to avoid choking. Ensuring that foods are cut into appropriate sized pieces and that children are supervised when eating are important considerations.
As children grow, peanuts and peanut butter provide a nutrient-dense and shelf-stable food that can make mealtimes easier. A staple for the diet, it’s estimated that the average child will eat more than 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school!
- National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. National Institutes of Health. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/neural_tube_defects.cfm. Accessed on November 19, 2012.
- Thygarajan and Burks. American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on the effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease. Curr Opin Pediatr. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659557/. Accessed on November 19, 2012.
- Nwaru, B., Age at the introduction of solid foods during the first year and allergic sensitization at 5 years. Pediatrics. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/1/50.full. Accessed on November 19, 2012.