Eating healthy foods is more important than ever during pregnancy. A well-balanced diet is essential for the expectant mother and baby. More protein, calcium, iron and folic acid are required during pregnancy for a good health of the mother and baby. So experts recommend a variety of healthy foods and drinks to provide essential nutrients that are required for the growth and development of a healthy baby.
Here is why these four nutrients are important during pregnancy
Woman requires healthy diet during pregnancy to meet the requirement of all essential nutrients. These include:
- Folic Acid: It is also known as Folate when found in certain foods. It is part of Vitamin B complex that is crucial to prevent neural tube defects. Green leafy vegetables, breads, pastas and fortified or enriched cereals are good sources of Folic acid. Those women who are trying to conceive should start folic acid supplements for at least one month before conception
- Calcium: It's an essential mineral used to build the bones and teeth of baby. If pregnant woman doesn't consume enough amount of calcium per day, the mineral is drawn from mother's bones to meet the extra demands of calcium intake for baby. Vitamin D is also required with calcium for the development of bones in baby. Add an essential amount of dairy products in your diet. Milk, yogurt, some leafy greens, cheese, salmon with bones and calcium-fortifies foods and juices are essential to meet the demand of healthy diet in pregnancy
- Iron: Pregnant women require 27 mg of iron intake per day which is double the amount needed by ladies who are not expecting. Getting lesser amount of iron may lead to anemia and increased risk of infections. It is required to supply more blood with oxygen to the baby
- Include a good source of Vitamin C with iron-rich foods for better absorption of minerals. Have a glass of orange juice in morning with breakfast with an iron-fortified diet. Meat, dried peas and beans, poultry and iron-fortified cereals are good sources of Iron
- Protein: Protein is essential during pregnancy to build important organs in baby such as heart and brain. Protein is a builder nutrient that is essential to add in the diet during pregnancy. Meat, tofu, nuts, eggs and dried beans are rich sources of protein
- Eating nutritious foods during pregnancy is essential for prenatal care. To maximize prenatal nutrition, plan a balanced and healthy diet while pregnant. Emphasize on following food groups like lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, fruits and dairy products
- Fruits and Vegetables: During second and third trimester, a pregnant lady should focus on fruits and vegetables. Add 4 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet as they are rich in minerals and low in calories
- Lean Protein: Pregnant women should include rich sources of protein in every meal to support the development and growth of baby. Eat Tofu, cheese, beans, milk and nuts to meet the requirements of protein intake
- Whole Grains: These are an important source of energy and a healthy diet for pregnant women. They also provide iron, Vitamin-B and fiber. Half of the carbohydrates intake for pregnant woman should come from whole grains such as whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal and brown rice
- Dairy: 3 to 4 servings of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are essential to include in healthy pregnancy diet. These are also good resources of calcium, Vitamin D and Proteins.
In addition to healthy diet in pregnancy, pregnant women also need prenatal vitamins to obtain essential nutrients which are hard to get directly from foods. Prenatal vitamins should be taken as per the prescription of doctor.
Foods to Avoid/Limit:
- Fish: Fish is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acid which is good for heart. However, they have high content of mercury which is harmful for the development of baby's brain. So it should be avoided during pregnancy. It is safe for pregnant women to eat 12 ounces of cooked fish in a week
- Caffeine: It is considered that 200 mg of caffeine is safe for pregnant women and taking higher amount of caffeine may lead to miscarriage and premature birth
- Alcohol: Alcohol consumption should be completely avoided during pregnancy as it directly passes to the baby through umbilical cord. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is directly linked with physical and mental disorders in baby
- Unpasteurized Food: Pregnant women are at high risk of getting sick from food poisoning. Raw milk and foods should be avoided and they need to be boiled at high temperature to kill bacteria and germs. Unpasteurized refrigerated meat spreads are to be avoided
- Raw Meat: A pregnant mother can pass Toxoplasma infection to the baby during pregnancy that may lead to mental disability and blindness later in life. To avoid such problems certain foods are prohibited like:
1. Uncooked meats and poultry
2. Raw fish
3. Raw and undercooked shellfish
There are certain foods that should be avoided during pregnancy. These foods may cause food poisoning and illness due to bacteria during pregnancy.
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Raw or undercooked sprouts
- Foods containing undercooked eggs
- Unpasteurized beverages like juice or cider
The guidelines for eating well and healthy diet in pregnancy are very simple and easy to follow. When and how much you eat is highly important in pregnancy. What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is the main source of nourishment of baby. So, experts recommend that mother-to-be should choose a variety of healthy foods to provide essential nutrients to the baby for its development and growth.
If she is suffering from morning sickness during her first trimester, the expectant mother must choose a snack for breakfast and a large evening meal. And select a large breakfast and light evening meal during third trimester if she suffers from heartburn issues.
The Post-pregnancy Diet
Whether a woman breast feeds her baby or not, the secret to post-pregnancy diet is to regain the desirable health and maintaining nutrition in diet. Continue eating a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, calcium rich foods, protein-rich meals and non-fat milk products.