Healthy Living Tips

Healthy Living Tips (especially important during pre-conception care)

Change your drinking habits

Claudette Wadsworth discusses the question “Is caffeine effecting how you perform at work?”[1]  She lists many negative effects of drinking coffee or caffeine-rich products such as black tea, soft drinks or dark chocolate. Caffeine decreases nutrient absorption, particularly iron by 39%; it produces anxiety, nervousness, irritability and sleeplessness; increases cholesterol levels, blood pressure and homocysteine levels; increases the incidences of headaches and migraines; increases chemical sensitivity and allergy responses; and causes increased gastric acid secretion and digestive muscle contraction.

If drinking a little tea and coffee, organic Fair Trade products are the way to go. Rooibus is a great caffeine free tea. Instant coffee is one of the most highly sprayed crops in the world, and contains the toxic chemical cavestol. Decaffeinated coffee is also not advised. Petroleum based chemicals (like those used in dry cleaning and paint strippers) are used as solvents to decaffeinate the substance and more water is required to remove the caffeine content.

It is great to break the caffeine habit but be aware that you may experience some side effects when giving up coffee or standard tea. Headaches, constipation, and drowsiness are the body’s withdrawal symptoms, and should pass in a week or so.

 The wonderful world of water

The body needs water, at least two litres a day.  Tiredness and headaches can be directly related to water consumption. Water has a pH value of seven, which is completely neutral – not alkaline nor acidic in nature. You can see why your body loves it, so get a good water filter system and water bottle and quench your thirst.

Hot water and lemon is a natural liver cleanser; include half a squeezed lemon and hot water in your diet each day – preferably first thing in the morning to get your digestive system going.

All the nasties!

Alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks (including the chemically laden sugar-substitute varieties) are so prevalent in our culture. However it is not difficult to guess that these need to be avoided when preparing your body for a baby and for general good health.  A school science experiment conducted by a friend’s son looked at alternative uses for cola-flavoured soft drink: the list included cleaning a very dirty and stained toilet due to the high citric acid content. He applied cola to the very brown stained outside shed toilet, waited an hour and flushed. Yes, it came up sparkly white again – and I have the photos to prove it.  It can also remove stains from crockery and clothes. It is so acidic and we drink this!

 On her website www.changinghabits.com.au Cyndi O’Meara states:

A study of 3000 men and women over three years revealed that a single soft drink a day increases the chances of heart attack; these people are 60% more likely to develop obesity and high blood pressure.[3]

She continues “The diet version of soft drinks are just as bad for you as the sugary alternative, but I’d like to add I think they are far worse”. O’Meara urges people to become powerful consumers by supporting only companies that produce healthy foods.

The sugar substitutes in soda drink and many other products are highly controversial for your health, and are best avoided.

As for alcohol, cutting right back or preferably, eliminating alcohol altogether during your pre-conception care, is the best advice. This will help with the detoxing process and also reestablish a healthy habit for when you do conceive. Pediatrician Elizabeth Elliot claims:

Alcohol consumption early in pregnancy puts the unborn child at risk of birth defects, while consumption later on can impact on the developing brain…. The message, really, for women should be that no safe level has been established.[4]

No colours, flavours or additives please

Avoid additives: preservatives, flavours, flavour enhancers, and colours.  The world is waking up to how unnatural these non-foods are and the adverse side effects they can have, particularly in children. Go to www.fedup.com.au

 Processed and refined foods are best avoided. Check all food labels carefully. Processing, nearly always, involves added chemical additives, preservatives and colouring. These foods are often frozen and heavily packaged. All of which means less life force and nutrients for your body, and more packaging for the earth to deal with. Fresh is definitely best, so find a good cookbook for easy nutritious meals.  

Five a day keeps the doctor away!

Eat simply with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit each day. The experts say at least three to five veggies and two fruits a day. In summer include salads and fruit salads and in winter soups and stewed fruit in your daily menu. It is great to start the day with fruit salad topped with yogurt and seeds or nuts, or include two pieces of fruit for morning tea. For lunch enjoy a dark green salad topped with vegetables, eggs, hommus – anything healthy your heart desires. Include a salad plate, or fresh, roasted or steamed vegetables with every tea as a healthy routine. Eating every four hours is great for your metabolism and you can feel good about snacking on fresh fruit and vegetables in between meals if you get hungry.

One of the parents in my playgroup told me about Dr Oz on the US television show Oprah. Apparently he is working to raise American awareness of food and nutrition. He took a group of people with high blood pressure and cholesterol, and told them to eat two trays of raw fresh fruit, vegetables (raw broccoli, carrots and many others) and nuts each day. That was all, nothing else. Within ten days he tested them all again. Their blood pressure and cholesterol levels were significantly reduced. To this he said (in effect): “You come to me asking for pills, pills, pills, and what I am telling you is to eat real food, food, food!” The point is that real, fresh, raw foods can be a powerful, natural healer.

 Whole grains and perfect proteins

For cleansing the bowel each day, whole grains are best in breads, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, a variety of cereals and grains. Think about good quality healthy proteins with every meal. Eat nuts and seeds, avocadoes, non endangered/ mercury free fish sources or free range organic chicken (if non vegetarian), pulses, cheese/yoghurt, tofu or tempeh and eggs. For vegetarians, particularly if vegan, it is essential to think about protein sources in every single meal. Combine your proteins to make sure that you receive the full amino acid chain. For example wholegrain noodles and tofu, lentil burger on brown bread, seeds and nuts sprinkled on tofu salad, walnuts in porridge. I have been a vegetarian for twenty years. At each meal, I think “Where are my good sources of protein?” Proteins are the building blocks for life.

 Eating fruits separately from meal times

The practice of food combining advises not to mix fruits with other foods as their process of digestion is very quick. Eating them together can cause a slower, unhealthy digestion process in the body. The golden rules are to eat fruit: by itself, at least twenty minutes before a meal, one hour after a meal or on an empty stomach. Fruit is good for snack times, later in the evening, and breakfast time. It can be combined with yogurt and seeds and nuts.

Healthy oils and fats

We do need fat in our diet – healthy fats. Healthy oils to use in cooking include: sunflower, grapeseed or coconut oil/butter as these are fine at high temperatures. For salad dressing or on warm vegetables, sprinkle organic cold pressed olive, flaxseed, sunflower or sesame seed oil adding lemon, pepper, garlic and herbs. My son loves sesame seed oil on his broccoli! Try to increase healthy seeds in your diet: pumpkin (pepitas), sesame, flaxseed and sunflower seeds are great.  Nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds are also tasty and healthy. Avocadoes contain healthy fats and are rich in nutrients. Butter is better than any processed margarine or low fat spread. If you are looking for a butter alternative, try avocado, hommus or tahini. These fats do not make you fat, they make you healthy!

 Go, go, go organic!

 A recent $12 million study based in the UK, funded by the European Union[6] found that organic foods are healthier than ordinary produce because they contain more anti-oxidants. The study revealed that milk from organic herds had ninety percent higher levels of anti-oxidants than milk from non-organic cattle, and that organic food contained more beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc. Now that is some difference for your health, not to mention your taste buds! If buying conventional produce, peel and scrun to eliminate the residue pesticides.

It is not only food that is affected by the use of pesticides and herbicides in non-organic food production, but so is the earth itself. Imagine the toxic effect on our planet of these chemicals – including their manufacturing processes, use and disposal – being poured into the soil, water systems and air year after year. To buy organic foods at lower prices find your nearest farmers’ market, join a co-op or try growing your own in your garden. Planting fruit trees is a great investment for your health!

 Intolerable intolerances!

Many people are wheat and/or dairy intolerant and do not realize it – they may feel bloated, tired and sluggish from the foods they eat. Western society generally favours wheat – with cereal or toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and maybe pasta for tea. Many homes have three wheat-based meals in a day. 

Even if you are not intolerant, try to be more adventurous with your eating habits. Offer your breakfast tastebuds spelt flour pancakes, fruit with yogurt and nuts, porridge with tahini and honey, eggs with spinach and tomatoes, smoothies, juices – you name it – just not wheat cereal or toast. There are so many exciting and adventurous lunches to try: soups and salads; wraps; nori rolls; yesterday’s dinner – a world away from dry old sandwiches! Rather than using wheat based products try alternatives such as rice, buckwheat, corn or spelt in flour, pasta, breads and other foods.

Free range meat and eggs

Meat, some people seem to need it and others do not. The book Eat Right 4 Your Type[7] is very interesting; it suggests the foods your body requires depends on your blood group. Being an A Positive blood type (like myself and my husband) is suited to vegetarianism.  I have had friends in the past who try but feel tired and not so well on a vegetarian diet; it would be interesting to look at which blood group they belong to.

If you do eat meat, be conscious about it. When buying organic you are buying meat or eggs where the animal or bird has access to good pastures, good housing, high quality natural organic feed and where no growth promoting antibiotics and synthetics are allowed. There is an increasing awareness in the media of the shocking treatment of animals and chickens in battery farmed methods. In his book How Good are You?[8] Julian Lee argues that Old MacDonald would not recognize what we call farming today; it is so far removed from the nice picture of a pig in a field. He states that the animal rights’ organization “Voiceless calls the lack of disclosure about farming methods of the estimated 540 million animals that end up on our plates each year ‘a veil of secrecy’”[9]

 If you are feeling brave and you have a desire to understand and be conscious of the meat market today, watch Earthlings[11]. This film highlights the hidden origins of our nicely packaged meats.

Support farmers who are treating chickens as they were born to live; not in metal cages – with their beaks trimmed and no room to perch or stretch – just for your breakfast! Buy organic and free range eggs if you can, or keep your own chickens at home.

Junk food, literally speaking

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Supersize Me[12] left no doubt on the effects of certain fast foods. The producer of the movie ate nothing but McDonald menu items for a month to observe the effects on his health and wellbeing. While the weight gain was anticipated, results from clinical blood tests shocked the doctors so much that they urged him to give it up before the month was over to avoid long-term damage to his body. Mental and emotional effects of this diet included cravings, headaches, depression and lack of sex drive (not recommended before trying to conceive!)

It is good to consider not only what your food tastes like, but also what your food is giving you. Is it alive, fresh, and full of nutrients? Once you switch to healthy eating, your body will start craving more nutritious food. Your skin will look great; you may lose weight without really trying and feel full of energy. This is what is needed to live life to the full and enjoy being a parent. As the saying goes – make every mouthful count. 

Treat time: yum!

The occasional little indulgence is fine, and it is good to listen to your body. Once you are clean and detoxed, you can hear the signals clearly. Observe how foods affect your emotions as well as your body, such as with the highs and lows of sugar consumption. Some foods fulfill your desire and taste buds, but be conscious of how your body feels half an hour after eating them, this may be quite a different story.

If you are a chocoholic, go for good quality chocolate. It’s better for you – and even better if it has a organic or Fair Trade ethos.

Naturopaths can help

Visiting a naturopath can definitely help you to detox more fully and gain the correct balance of supplements for your body. A naturopath uses different methods to test your personal vitamin and mineral levels and overall health. Naturopaths will then suggest tonics and supplements to achieve optimum health for conception and a healthy baby. It is also a good idea to go to the doctor for a full blood test to check iron, Vitamin B12 and mineral levels, especially if you are vegetarian (vegan in particular).  Vitamin B12 can only be found in eggs and meat products.

It is extremely useful for both parents to detox and have a blood test and zinc tally test (you can buy zinc tally tests from chemists and health food shops) before conception, not just the mother. Iron levels may also need to be checked throughout the pregnancy, and iron and vitamin B12 supplements can be used. For pre-conception care, it is recommended to take a good quality adult vitamin tablet and good quality fish oil capsules – steer clear of cheap fish oils – as directed.

Better Babies

For couples planning a baby and for those who have had difficulty conceiving, the book The Natural Way to Better Babies[13] has an extensive detox and vitamin supplementation plan. They report a very high success rate of conception for couples, even those who have had difficulty previously. There are specialist fertility naturopaths who follow this and other programs for couples planning to conceive.

Excellent exercise!

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with good nutrition. Good physical health is not only good for the mothers-to-be, but also for their developing babies, according to a new study by researchers from Kansas City University[14]. The study showed that exercise during pregnancy can benefit a mother’s own heart and her developing baby’s heart.

Gone are the days (for most) when we walked each day to and from school, market or workplace. Everyone has their favourite way to exercise, but walking for forty five minutes, four to five times a week or even daily is a fantastic goal. It is enriching to walk in nature, to still the mind and appreciate all there is to see and hear. Walking is a very health-enhancing and emotionally balancing experience; walking in natural beauty clears and balances your aura. It is simple and free.

Electrodes: What’s interfering with your energy field?

The body field can be affected by electrical interference given off by mobile phones, computers, electric appliances, overhead pylons and relay towers. I recently read an article linking reduction in men’s sperm count directly to the amount of time they spent on their mobile phone. Worrying, isn’t it!   

In his article “The Tao of Detox” Daniel Read reinforces this point:

We also have to now face another major threatening factor: electro-magnetic fields. These artificial fields, and even worse the microwave thing, cell phones themselves, the relay towers that are everywhere. All these are far more serious and significant than one actually imagines.”[16] 

There are devices to help to counteract the harmful rays from mobile phones, computers and so on, especially if these are an inevitable part of your work. If you use the computer, you can also make a pillow full of Epson salts to place in your lap while working and invest in a lovely salt lamp to have on next to the computer. The Bush Flower Essence Electro Essence can be used for mobile phone and computer use; keep an unopened bottle next to your phone in your bag, or in front of your computer (lasts six months). Another good tip is to make sure you have plants in your home. These strategies will all help with deflecting the effects of electromagnetic fields. 

Plastics, the debate

There are plenty of articles in the media concerning plastic containers and the toxins they leach into their food and beverage contents and from them into our bodies.  Buy a good non-plastic drink bottle for your water each day. Avoid microwave reheating of food or drinks in plastic; glass is better. Wherever possible, reheat in a steamer or saucepan on the cooktop, or in the oven. For storage, choose glass containers – recycled jars are great – or put ceramic bowls in the fridge with a plate over them. If you are buying cooking equipment, choose a stainless steel colander over the plastic one, for example.

Baby toys that are made from plastics have been highlighted in two reports recently.  “Trouble in Toyland”[17] and Greenpeace’s “Play Safe”[18] campaigns highlight the dangers of PVC in toys and plastic teething rings among other concerns. These toys also end up in landfill, as most PVC is unable to be recycled.

Elizabeth Grossman[19] states that the plastics to totally avoid are; 3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), 6   Polystyrene (PS) and 7 including polycarbonate. Plastic code 7 is used in baby bottles, sipper cups and reusable drinking bottles. It contains Bishenol A (BPA).

Each plastic item we buy has a number in what looks like a recycle triangle on the bottom. So start checking and avoid 3, 6 and 7 where possible. Avoid PVC and BPA (Bishenoil A). Elizabeth explains that both these compounds that come from plastics are now being found in the urine samples of the majority of Americans tested because of the build up of the effect of these plastics in their daily intake. Plastic food and drink container buyers beware!

The adverse effects are not yet fully known. None of the scientists in this field give the plastics the ‘all clear’, states Elizabeth Grossmann. One scientist, Foster, states:

I don’t want to induce panic, but I think we should be addressing women of childbearing age, because phyhalates and bisphenol A seem to have the greatest impact in the womb … [women] who are pregnant or are planning to conceive [should] take the most precautions.[20] 

Cyndi O’Meara, author of Changing Habits Changing Lives reinforces all the worrying dangers of our use of plastic in today’s society. She has a ten-point plan to reduce plastic use in homes and concludes by asking the question “Can one person make a difference? Yes and collectively we can make a huge difference”. [21] 

Sleep, glorious sleep

If you are overtired, take a good look at your rhythm each day. Are you working too hard? Not getting enough sleep? Not drinking enough water? Watching late night, stimulating TV or having an over-emotional time? Make sure there is enough time for rest and relaxation in your life. Power naps are fantastic – even a short nap can make a difference. Check that you have the balance right and observe the eight hour rule: eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of home/leisure (work even less if you can!)

The sound of silence

Silence is a wonderful sound for the mind and feelings once you have detoxed from the continual habit of background radio, music and TV. It is so calming, and allows the mind and emotions to be free of repetitive thoughts, songs and subtle emotional waves. Also work on balancing your emotions, a happy mother is a gift to a child. Think about what creates ‘peace’ for you and build up moments in your life.

Detoxing your home

Cleaning products

Many of the items we use for cleaning our homes and ourselves are a minefield of chemicals that are absorbed not only into our own bodies but also into our water supply and earth. There is now a growing industry of chemical-free cleaning products. Have a look in your health food shop for products that are gentle on your health, environment and water system. Aim for no more toxins. There are details in the resource section of my website to get you started.

In his book How Good are You? Clean Living in a Dirty World[23], Julian Lee has words of encouragement for changing our cleaning habits. He writes:

Along with what we do with our waste, eliminating the toxic products upon which we rely daily is perhaps one of the easiest routes to a more ethical lifestyle.

He encourages his readers with this serious joke! “Exit Mould, Jif and Pine O Clean: what a cocktail that would be, kills all known germs (and perhaps households) dead”[24].

Personal care

Hair, skin care and make up are also now a growing market for toxic-free products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics states:

Women who wear mainstream cosmetic products unknowingly applying as many as 175 different chemicals to their body’s everyday. Most popular beauty products contain a vast cocktail of chemicals, many of which have been linked to health problems.[25] 

At present they are drawing attention to the lead levels in lipsticks! Skin is permeable. It is your largest single organ and releases toxins via sweat but also absorbs them. Any chemicals you apply to your body, even unknowingly in deodorants, make-up or personal care will go through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Purchasing natural homemade soap from a local market or healthfood store is ideal. Look for aluminium-free, natural options for deodorants. Instead of perfumes, dab essential lavender oil on your wrists and neck, you will not only smell good, but will feel fantastic too! There is a growing market for toxin-free make-up, nail polish, deodorant, haircare and toothpaste. Buy shampoos without Sodium Laurel Sulphate and make sure this harmful chemical is not in any of your other foaming products. The Weleda company does wonderful baby products, soaps and great children’s and adult’s toothpastes.

As a consumer you do have the power to create change in the world by what you buy and support. Remember that the following ideas are a healthy way of life for the future, not just in pre-conception care; they will help you to be healthy parents, to have healthy children, a healthy home and planet.


[1] Wadsworth, Claudette, “Is Caffeine Effecting How you Perform at Work?” Living Now, Published by Living Now-Wellbeing, September 2007. www.livingnow.com.au

[3] www.changinghabits.com.au, go to Newsletters and follow the link to Artificial sweeteners, June 2008.

[4] One in three pregnant women drink: study, news.ninemsn.com.au, 13/05/2008.

[6] Study title “Official; Organic Food Really is Better” found on www.bfa.com.au Biological Farmers of Australia Press Release, 29th October 2007.

[7] D’Ádamo, Peter; Eat Right 4 Your Type. Viking Publishers, Melbourne, 2002.

[8] Lee, Julian; How Good are You? Clean Living in a Dirty World. Random House, Sydney, 2008.

[9]Lee, Julian; How Good are You? Clean Living in a Dirty World. Random House, Sydney, 2008, p. 81.

[10]Lee, Julian; How Good are You? Clean Living in a Dirty World. Random House, Sydney, 2008, p. 100.

[11]Earthlings DVD, by Shaun Monsoon, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. Burbank, CA, 2006.  www.isawearthlings.com

[12] Supersize Me DVD, produced by Morgan Spurlock, Ronis Films, USA, 2004.

[13]  Naish Francesca & Roberts, Janette; The Natural Way to Better Babies, Random House, Sydney, 1996.

[14] “Exercise During Pregnancy Means a Healthier Heart for Both Mom and Baby” Science Daily April 10, 2008, reported on www.articles.mercola.com 20.04.2008.

[16] Read, Daniel, “The Tao of Detox”, New Dawn, No. 102, May/ June 2007, p. 40.

[17] “Trouble in Toyland” Report  can be found at www.toysafety.net/2001/pdfs/reporttext.pdf

[18] ” The “Play Safe” campaign was launched in 1997. The report can be found at www.greenpeace.org under Reports.

[19] Grossman, Elizabeth, “Practical Values Hard to Break:  As the Scary Studies About Plastic’s Health Effects Pile up, Should we Kick the Habit?” Kindred Magazine, Dec 2007 – Febraury 2008. Byron Publications Pty Ltd, Mullumbimby, NSW. 2007

[20]Grossman, Elizabeth, “Practical Values Hard to Break:  As the Scary Studies About Plastic’s Health Effects Pile up, Should we Kick the Habit?” Kindred Magazine, Dec 2007 – February 2008. Byron Publications Pty Ltd, Mullumbimby, NSW. p. 27.

[21] See her internet article “Plastic, the Not so Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.  www.changinghabits.com.au, link to Newsletter and then Plastic – The Not so Good.

[23] Lee, Julian; How Good are You? Clean Living in a Dirty World. Random House, Sydney, 2008, p.2.

[24] Lee, Julian; How Good are You? Clean Living in a Dirty World. Random House, Sydney, 2008, p.6.

[25] The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, www.SafeCosmetics.org