Eating during Pregnancy
A balanced diet provides all of necessary nutrients in proper proportions for adequate nutrition, function and development of body. In pregnancy, balanced diet is essential for growth of the baby and wellbeing of mother. Without good nutrition mother is more prone to disease, infection and restriction of growth of foetus.
Extra calories / eating for two
During the first three months’ calorie needs of pregnant mothers are basically the same as they were before pregnancy. However, pregnant women should add 200 calories to their usual dietary intake during the second trimester, and 300 calories during their third trimester when the baby is growing quickly.
Brain growth of baby
Baby’s brain starts forming just three weeks after conception and it undergoes rapid changes during pregnancy. Majority of brain growth is completed when the baby is born and later it undergoes few fine changes only. Food containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important in pregnancy for helping the brain and central nervous system mature. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy is the leading cause of preventable mental health.
Foods to avoid
Avoiding certain foods in pregnancy is recommended for maternal and fetal well-being. Pregnancy is a state of lower immunity and pregnant women catch infections easily. Moreover, not all medications can be used to treat diseases in pregnancy. Hence it is safer to avoid certain foods in pregnancy which can give rise to food poisoning or infections. Fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish have high mercury levels and must be avoided. Smaller fish have less mercury content can be chosen instead as their longevity in water is short such as fresh water fish. Similarly, smoked meat or fish should be avoided as they can cause infections. Raw uncooked eggs or poultry, unpasteurised milk and milk products, raw sprouts, unwashed fruits or vegetables are not advisable as well. Pregnant women should carefully avoid excess caffeine, alcohol or tobacco as these could harm the baby. Artificial sweetners, sugar rich foods, canned foods and foods containing nitrates as in frozen meat are better avoided in pregnancy.
Vegetarian diet in pregnancy
Vegetarians can meet their protein needs by eating select milk and egg foods, protein-rich vegan foods like nuts, hummus, and beans, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and tofu. Pregnant women require an additional 45 grams of carbohydrates per day which can be obtained from fruits, vegetables, grains, and several dairy products. Nuts and vegetable oils can provide the dietary fat requirement for pregnant women. Carbohydrates enriched with folic acid reduce the rate of birth defects. Milk, yogurt, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried beans and peas and cheese are good sources of calcium.
Role of dietary fibres in pregnancy
Dietary fibre is a nutrient that cannot get digested by human gastrointestinal tract. It absorbs water and helps bowel movements. Insoluble fibre like vegetables (especially dark green leafy ones), root vegetable skins, fruit skins, whole wheat products are essential during pregnancy to prevent constipation. Soluble fibres absorb water, bind to fatty acids and slow down sugar absorption. Some types of soluble fibres are: kidney beans, sprouts, broccoli, spinach, apple, orange, grapefruit, grapes, prunes, grains, oatmeal etc.
Choosing fruits and vegetables
Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily, which is contained in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and honeydew, and vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, and sprouts. At least 2-4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of vegetables daily is recommended during pregnancy. Fresh fruit contains lots of essential vitamins and nutrients and eating plenty of fresh fruit during pregnancy can help wellbeing of mother and baby. Broccoli and dark, green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, contain vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium which are essential in pregnancy.
Planning meals in pregnancy
Pregnant women should plan for small frequent meals. Lighter meals help prevent gastrointestinal upsets like abdominal distension and vomiting. Fatty foods like fried, baked snacks can be replaced by servings of fruits and nuts. Drinking 3-4 litres of water daily is essential during pregnancy.
Foods to avoid vomiting of pregnancy
Foods with high content of sugar, fat or salt lead to vomiting in pregnancy. A large evening meal can give rise to morning sickness. Having small and frequent meals and drinking a lot of cold water suppresses vomiting sickness of pregnancy. At times, fast foods and street foods can cause food poisoning and better be avoided in pregnancy.
Vitamins and minerals in pregnancy
The lack of calcium, iron, iodine and other vitamins lead to baby’s learning disabilities, delay in language development, behavioural problems, delayed motor skill development, and a lower I.Q. Deficiency of Folic acid in pregnancy leads to severe malformations of the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beans, citrus fruits and liver.
Eating well during pregnancy is essential and the guidelines for eating well for a healthy pregnancy are simple and easy to follow. Healthy eating keeps the mother safe throughout pregnancy and provides baby the essential nutrients they need inside the uterus.