When you are pregnant you need to be even more careful about what you plate. After all, a healthy pregnancy is a healthy baby in the making, and there is no way that you can take chances with that at all.
What the mother eats, influences not just the general health but also the neurological and physiological development of the foetus, and only a well-nourished woman can optimally nourish the baby growing inside her. Besides, a healthy diet is imperative to gain enough energy and stamina during pregnancy. That is why pregnant women must learn how to max both, their happiness as well as their health quotient.
First, the basics
Calorie requirements vary from women to women but most women need approximately 300 extra calories per day to meet the increased metabolic needs of pregnancy. That said, don’t eat in excess to avoid gaining too much weight (it’ll be a task shaking it off after delivery!). Get enough fibre through fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals. Avoid processed or refined foods and eat un-polished legumes. Eat variety of foods to score a wide range of essential nutrients. Stay hydrated; drink about eight to ten glasses of fluid (2 to 2.5 litres) daily during pregnancy.
Take protein seriously
Average daily requirement of protein is 0.8 - 1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means an average woman weighing 60 kg will need about 48 - 60 gm of protein per day. The need for protein though goes up substantially during pregnancy as it is needed to form new cells and build the body of the foetus. According to Nutrition Foundation of India, during pregnancy, this requirement goes up by 23 grams per day and a deficiency can have a drastic negative effect on the health of both the mother and the foetus / baby.
Focus on both right quantity (required number of grams) as well as high quality protein to meet the needs. Get it from animal products like meats, milk and eggs or vegetarian sources like nuts and seeds, milk and other dairy products, pulses and soya products. Vegetarian women must get all the essential amino acids by eating a wide variety and making smart pairs by combining vegetables with grains and legumes or seeds.
Don’t fight the fat
Fat provides compounds that are essential for cells to form. They also deliver vitamin E that protects growing cells. So, stick to good fat sources. Focus on omega 3 (fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts) and good fats like nuts and seeds and avoid trans fats (fried and processed foods) completely.
The necessary nutrients
Iron needs greatly increase during pregnancy to support the increase in maternal blood volume, formation of haemoglobin, normal development of the foetal circulatory system, and foetal iron that the baby will continue to use after birth. Get it from: Dark green leafy vegetables (cauliflower greens, mustard greens, chulai or amaranth, parsley, mint) Dried beans (especially soya, cowpea, kidney, bengal gram roasted) Dried fruits like raisins, dried apricots and dates. Fruits like prunes, water melon Eggs (especially egg yolks) Liver, red meat Sea food Whole grains (bajra, buckwheat), iron-fortified cereals Iron from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements is harder for the body to absorb. If you mix some lean meat, fish, or poultry (haem iron) with beans or dark leafy greens at a meal, you can improve absorption of vegetable sources of iron up to three times. Also, foods rich in Vitamin C like citrus fruits, amla, guava, capsicum and other fresh fruits help increase iron absorption.
Adequate zinc levels in pregnancy help prevent infectious diseases, avoid abnormally long labour, and support foetal growth. Zinc and iron are found in many of the same foods (meats, and dried beans).
Calcium is an important mineral that a mother-to-be needs. An increase in dairy products like skim milk, cheese, yoghurt, puddings etc., is an easy way to consume lots of calcium. Good non- dairy sources of calcium include salmon, broccoli, beans, sesame seeds, figs, beans, and almonds.
Folic acid, a B vitamin that is needed to prevent anaemia in the mother and neural tube defects in the baby. The body also needs folate to produce and maintain new blood cells. Include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, unpolished rice, whole cereals, dried legumes, nuts, fresh oranges in daily diet.
Finally, a word of caution - Don't take supplements without consulting your doctor. Too much vitamin A, B6, C, D, E, or K, or too much zinc, iron, or selenium, can be harmful during pregnancy. Striking a balance through your diet is the key.
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