Developing a healthy relationship with food is very important to derive maximum benefit; at the same time, it is important that you enjoy what you eat.
Women are recognised as the creators of new life. Reason enough why they need special status and attention in society. Being pregnant is a very special and exciting time for women.
Food is one of the greatest pleasures of life and what we eat is what we become. Hence, healthy nutrition should start right from the time a life is conceived – i.e., during pregnancy.
The choices made during pregnancy not only affect the mother’s health and wellbeing, but also the growth and development of the baby.
Good maternal health and diet have been found to decrease the risk of miscarriage and premature labour Healthy mothers produce healthy babies. The growth and wellbeing of the foetus is, therefore, dependent upon the health and nutrition of the mother [not the father!] because she is both the seed as well as the soil where the baby is nurtured for nine months…
Moreover, healthy mothers are in a better position to look after the healthy needs of their children.
Pregnancy can be a very special time for women, but many mothers-to-be express some concern about weight gain and body changes. Pregnancy is certainly not the time for weight loss, with an expected gain of 25-35 lb. However this may be, women can take comfort in knowing how weight is distributed:
Pregnancy is the perfect time not only to pamper but also to nurture oneself and the baby. During pregnancy, you have to increase the consumption of essential nutrients not only for yourself but for the baby too. If multiple pregnancies are expected, the nutritional needs further increase. It is important to eat healthy foods during this time. A basic knowledge about diet and nutrition during pregnancy would be definitely helpful.
Generally speaking, nutrient needs during pregnancy are not all that different than before pregnancy. Even though a pregnant woman is eating for two, she really does not need too many extra calories – all that is needed is an additional 250-300 calories a day during the last two trimesters of pregnancy. This amounts to an extra glass of milk, one to two ounces of lean meat, or a few extra servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Overall, maintaining a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthful fats can help to accomplish a healthful weight gain during pregnancy.
One can enjoy a wide variety of foods during pregnancy; however, some nutrients are especially important and essential.
Calcium. Adequate calcium stores are important in order to meet your baby’s needs, as well as your own future needs. Calcium is needed for strong bones of both the mother and baby. It is important to get 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Sources of calcium are milk, yogurt, and cheese. An additional calcium supplement may be necessary if the diet is inadequate in calcium.
Folate. This nutrient helps prevent defects and possibly facial abnormalities in infants. 400 mg of folate is required before and during pregnancy. A doctor may prescribe folate supplementation. Food sources of folate include asparagus, broccoli, spinach, oranges, peas, legumes, whole grains, fortified breads and cereals.
Iron. Iron helps make red blood cells, which carry vital oxygen. The baby needs red blood cells for its new blood. At the same time, a pregnant woman needs more red blood cells too, since the body makes as much as 50 per cent more blood during pregnancy. Without adequate iron, the chances of the mother becoming anaemic increases.
This also leads to low energy and poor concentration. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, salmon, fortified cereals, beans, whole grains, eggs, and dark leafy green vegetables.
During pregnancy, one requires 30 mg of iron a day, instead of the usual 15 mg of iron. It is sometimes difficult to get enough iron from food, so your physician is likely to recommend a low-dose iron supplement during the last six months of pregnancy.
Fibre. Eating plenty of fibre will help ease problems like constipation. Whole grain bread and cereals, legumes such as dried beans and lentils, and fruits and vegetables are great sources of fibre.
Fluids. Although not exactly a nutrient, be sure to drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy. Consuming at least 8-10 cups of liquids every day will relieve constipation. Water, milk, juice, broth or soups, can all provide the fluids needed. Go easy on soft drinks and other drinks that contain a lot of sugar and calories, as they provide very little by way of nutrition. Diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners; they are not recommended during pregnancy.
Vegetarians who do not eat dairy or meat products may need calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor if you follow any dietary restrictions during pregnancy. Ask your physician or a dietitian to help plan a vegetarian diet that will provide all of the nutrients you need during pregnancy.
Nutritional concerns during pregnancy
Not all foods are safe for pregnant women.
Pregnant women should avoid the following:
- Fish such as sword fish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish should be avoided as they can contain potentially high levels of mercury. Mercury can be transferred to the growing foetus and cause serious health problems. However, it is safe to eat two average meals a week, consisting a variety of fish and shell fish that are low in mercury. Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish
- Raw fish, especially shell fish [oysters, clams]
- Avoid consumption of uncooked or undercooked meat items.Cook all meat, poultry and seafood thoroughly to kill bacteria which can cause food poisoning; pregnant women would do well avoiding them or reheating them before eating
- Avoid the consumption of unpasterurised milk and foods and unpasteurised juices
- Raw sprouts should also be avoided
- Alcohol is not recommended
- Foods that contain any caffeine and artificial sweeteners should be limited, and those with saccharin avoided
- Smoking both active and passive should be avoided by pregnant women.
Other dietary concerns
Nausea and vomiting can range from mild to extreme – this is called hyperemesis. To alleviate mild nausea, arise slowly and eat dry toast and crackers. Also, eat small, frequent meals and avoid foods with offensive odours.
Heartburn is another common complaint that can be minimised by eating several small meals daily, avoiding spicy or greasy foods, eating while sitting up, and waiting at least 1-2 hours after eating before lying down, or exercising.
The old saying, “eating for two” is apt. Because, proper and optimal nutrition during pregnancy is crucial not just for the wellbeing of the unborn child, but also for the mother.
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Diet in Pregnancy
For a balanced diet, you’d do well to eat a wide variety of foods from all food groups:
- Milk, yogurt and cheese. 3-4 servings. Count as 1 serving: 1 cup milk; 1 cup yogurt; 1 1/2 cup cottage cheese; 2, 1-inch cube cheese.
- Meat, beans and nuts. 3 servings. Count as 1 serving: 3 ounce meat, fish or poultry; 2 eggs; 4 tbsp peanut butter; 1 cup legume.
- Vegetables. 4 servings. Count as 1 serving:
- 1/2 cup cooked vegetables; 1 cup raw leafy vegetables;
- 3/4 cup juice.
- Fruits. 3 servings. Count as 1 serving: 3/4 cup juice;
- 1 medium banana, apple or orange; 1 cup sliced fruit.
- Bread and cereals. 6-9 servings. Count as 1 serving:1 slice bread; 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal;
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked cereal or pasta.
- Fats, oils and sweets group. Use sparingly [Include everyday: 1 rich vitamin C source such as citrus fruit/juice and 1 dark green leafy vegetable].
Note: Eliminate alcohol from diet during pregnancy.