A healthy pregnancy leads to a healthy baby. This guide to pregnancy nutrition can help you maintain a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats for a healthy pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time when women feel a sea of changes taking place in their bodies. On the cusp of motherhood, they experience the excitement and bliss of creating and carrying another precious life within themselves with occasional anxiety and mood changes due to hormonal fluctuations. However, it is important to note that a healthy pregnancy diet is the key to a happy pregnancy and works marvels in coping with several pregnancy-related problems that expecting mothers might face.
One must also remember that a healthy diet during pregnancy means a balanced and nutritious diet and that under no circumstance implies gorging on large amounts of food thinking one is eating for two at a time. This has been reported as one of the most common blunders women make during their pregnancy. During this phase, since the baby’s nutrition depends upon the mother’s diet it becomes essential for the expectant mother to consume the right amount of nutrients to avoid birth defects as well as to keep unpleasant pregnancy symptoms at bay.
Quick Guide To Pregnancy Nutrition
In order to give the baby the right kind of nourishment the mother-to-be is expected to consume a wholesome and balanced diet that consists mainly of- carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins such as folic acid and minerals, chiefly- calcium and iron. The mother also has to ensure that she is taking moderate amounts of healthy fats namely the monounsaturated fatty acids and the polyunsaturated fatty acids like the omega 3’s. Intake of food rich in these compounds, helps in boosting the baby’s immunity and ensures adequate nourishment for the mother as well as the baby.
During pregnancy as the mother and the developing baby try to meet their own nutritional needs in their own respective ways, the right amount of carbohydrate intake helps in fuelling the baby’s growth. They also provide energy to the body including the brain to be able to work efficiently. The good carbs help to keep the blood glucose levels under check which is essential during pregnancy.
Carbohydrates are found in a wide assortment of foods, such as- milk and yoghurt, beans, legumes, starchy vegetables, various fruits, whole grains and products like whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, etc. which are also rich in other nutrients like fibre, and folate. These high-quality carbs help in adapting to the metabolic changes that occur in pregnancy and also enable effective functioning of the body. Since, excessively high amounts of blood glucose levels can lead to complications during delivery as well as have a negative impact on the foetus, it has been recommended that carbs should constitute just over a third of the food a pregnant woman eats.
Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician and spokeswoman on prenatal nutrition for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in St. Petersburg, Florida has highlighted the importance of consuming protein-rich foods during pregnancy. According to Kriegar, protein is a ‘builder-nutrient’ since it is chiefly involved in the development of organs such as the brain and the heart.
Moreover, since proteins are a constituent found in every cell of the body and are vital in the making of muscles, hair, nails, skin, etc. they also contribute in the growth and repair of tissues, regulation of normal muscle function, producing enzymes and hormones, transportation of oxygen through blood as well as building antibodies and bettering the immune system of the baby. Some of the commonly available food items rich in protein include- fish, meat and poultry, eggs, nuts, tofu, beans, lentils, and milk, cheese and other dairy products.
Vitamins such as folic acid which plays a major role in preventing birth defects in the newborn’s brain and spine, is contained in leafy greens like spinach, fenugreek leaves, kale, cabbage, broccoli, beans, legumes, oranges, whole grains like wheat, rice, whole grain pasta, etc, nuts, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals. It is a B Vitamin and is crucial in the body to make new cells and produce DNA. It is generally advisable for pregnant women to take at least 600 micrograms of folic acid a day under the supervision of her obstetrician.
Essential minerals such as Calcium, is considered vital in building up the baby’s teeth and bones while inadequacy of the same can culminate in deficiency especially in the mother as the baby will draw the calcium from the mothers teeth and bones to fulfil it’s needs. The best sources of calcium are- dairy products including milk, paneer, cheese, yoghurt, etc. and green vegetables such as- spinach, broccoli, etc. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women aged 19 and above need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
Another vital mineral which should be a mandatory addition to the diet of a pregnant woman is Iron. It is advisable that pregnant women must take 27 milligrams of iron a day which helps in moving oxygen from the mother’s lungs to the rest of her body and to the baby’s body as well. Moreover, iron is also essential in making additional supply of blood in the mother and baby thus, reducing the risk of iron deficiency anemia which can make the mother feel tired and also result in small babies at term or pre term babies. Expecting women, especially vegetarian moms can consume iron-rich foods with a good source of vitamin C at the same meal to increase the absorption of iron from food. ACOG recommends a glass of orange juice at breakfast with an iron-fortified cereal as an example.
Expectant mothers should consume mainly unsaturated or healthy fats like monounstaurated fats (avocados, olive oil, groundnut oil, nuts, etc) and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 fats like safflower oil, sunflower oil, flax seeds, walnuts, etc) during pregnancy and stay away from saturated and trans fats.
In addition, there are certain limits and restrictions which pregnant women must adhere to. For instance, caffeine intake should be controlled as well as fish containing high levels of mercury should be avoided. Besides this, alcohol, raw meat, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk and unwashed fruits and vegetables must be completely avoided to prevent food borne illnesses by the expectant mother.