By Suzannah Weiss. Photos: Getty Images.
You already know what you eat while expecting is closely tied to the development of your baby—a big reason why we cut things out of our diet—but, according to a new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it turns out most pregnant women aren't actually consuming foods they need for their own health and the health of their newborn.
Researchers analyzed surveys from 7,511 newly pregnant women and evaluated their pre-conception diets based on the Healthy Eating Index-2010, which measures adherence to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations.
Across all socioeconomic and racial groups, most women weren't meeting the national recommendations—a fact that's distressing enough on its own—but this was especially true for black and Hispanic women, as well as those who had received less education. The biggest nutritional problems the researchers identified were a high proportion of empty calories and not enough whole grains or fatty acids.
This isn't a moment for mom-shaming—women may not need to be told to be more responsible about their health during pregnancy. Research shows they're already quite thoughtful about it. A recent study in Obstetrics and Gynecology, for example, found that the majority of women stopped drinking once they either decided to get pregnant or learned they were pregnant. So rather than reprimanding women for not eating right, the focus should be on making sure we have the resources, information, and food options necessary to do so.
The Trump administration isn't making much progress on that front: One of the president's proposed budget cuts would take millions of dollars away from programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) that provide food and nutrition education to low-income moms and kids. Struggling families were able to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with the vouchers the WIC gave out, which contributed to a lower childhood obesity rate. Losing this funding could mean even bigger problems for mom and soon-to-be moms trying to keep themselves and their families healthy.
The study's lead author Lisa Bodnar explained in a press release that we can't put it all on individual women to solve this problem. "While attention should be given to improving nutritional counseling at doctor appointments, overarching societal and policy changes that help women to make healthy dietary choices may be more effective and efficient," she said. "The diet quality gap among non-pregnant people is thought to be a consequence of many factors, including access to and price of healthy foods, knowledge of a healthy diet, and pressing needs that may take priority over a healthy diet."
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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