Healthy Nutrition During Pregnancy
It is often said that your diet is your bank account and good food choices are good investments and it cannot be any more true when it comes to maintaining a diet of healthy nutrition during pregnancy as it will be an investment that you will make in your baby’s healthy future.
A healthy maternal diet is not only important for your offspring but also for you in order to make your mind and body ready to cope with the changes that will come throughout this rollercoaster ride of 9 months.
But with the overload of information in today’s era of the internet, it can be a bit confusing.
And, between so many questions popping in your head like what to eat, what not to eat, eat for two, etcetera, etcetera; you can get lost. But worry not, we are here to help you and support you all throughout your pregnancy journey.
First and foremost, eating healthy is a lifestyle and if you are going in for a planned pregnancy then it is definitely recommended that you adopt this lifestyle and start eating healthy right from the get-go or from the time of your ovulation itself.
Another thing that you need to understand is that you need to eat “quality” and “quantity” food.
You might have heard of our elders, especially mothers and grandmothers constantly lagging behind and advising on to eat more because now you got to eat for two!
But you have to remember that you need to take a balanced diet with superfoods and should avoid piling that extra body weight in excess because all of us know that excess of anything is bad.
Moving ahead, we will be discussing some of the intake of the important nutrients and their food sources. This will help you in maintaining healthy nutrition during pregnancy.
Your diet should be nutrient dense which is full of vitamins, and minerals, and should include food from all five food groups of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein packs (meat, eggs, and beans).
Proteins are the building blocks of life. It helps in repairing cells and making new ones. It is also a key element in the growth of your baby, especially during the second and third trimesters.
Moreover, protein also plays a vital role in boosting the immune system of both the mother and fetus and in times like these where the threat of covid-19 infection has not fully been wiped out it is important that you take extra care of yourself and your baby.
It is advised that a pregnant woman should consume almost 50 percent additional protein to support fetal growth and expansion of maternal tissues.
According to the latest reports of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), the protein intake for adult sedentary women should be 55 grams a day whereas for pregnant women this number goes up to 82 grams per day and 79 grams per day for lactating mothers.
Vegetarian sources of protein- whole pulses like masoor dal (red lentils), moong dal (green gram), Toor dal (pigeon peas), chickpeas, ragi, beans (like soybean, black bean, lobhia or black-eyed peas, etc).
Greek yogurt is also a very rich source of protein and has higher protein content in comparison to normal curd. Pregnant vegans can also fulfill their protein needs from soy such as soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and tofu.
These foods also provide iron, B vitamins, and other important nutrients.
For my non-vegetarian friends out there the options for including protein-rich items in your pregnancy diet are plenty.
You can supplement the vegetarian sources of protein with lean meat with relatively low-fat content, eggs, fish, and poultry chicken etcetera.
Carbohydrates or carbs are very important during pregnancy as it is a good source of energy that is required for maternal and fetal brain function. They are also a good source of fiber that helps in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
A lack in the number of carbohydrates than the required levels would signal the body to use protein and fats to derive the required amount of energy for the normal functioning of the brain and body and we don’t want that because that would lead to division in the protein amount present in the body which might hamper the essential process that is carried out in fetus and maternal body such as the growth and development processes. There are two types of carbohydrates-
Simple carbohydrates are present in foods such as white rice, pasta, white bread, biscuits, chips, cakes, canned juices, carbonated drinks, and in all other sorts of junk items and offer instant energy and calories but are often low on nutritional values.
Hence, you should try and avoid such foods. However, not all simple carbohydrates are harmful but those found in fresh fruits and dairy products make for some great healthy diets during pregnancy.
They have more nutrients and are rich in fiber and digest slowly which keeps you full for a longer duration of time.
Some sources of healthy carbohydrates would be quinoa, buckwheat, oats, bananas, apples, berries, sweet potato, beetroot, brown rice, red rice, chickpeas, millets, and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower etcetera.
Calcium is an important mineral for the growth of strong teeth and bones. Calcium intake is essential for all women especially pregnant women below the age of 25 as bone development is still taking place.
Dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and yogurt are good sources of calcium.
People who are lactose intolerant or vegan can consider consuming chia seeds, soy milk, almonds, dried figs, tofu, white beans, sunflower seeds, ragi, kale, broccoli, and okra.
Additionally, you can also consult your doctor for calcium supplements to help you further increase your calcium intake.
One very important thing to remember is that the absorption of calcium takes place with the help of Vitamin D therefore, it is crucial to have the optimum level of Vitamin D in your body. Sunlight is one source for it that is naturally available.
A brief exposure to sunlight for 5-10 minutes depending on your geographical location and skin pigmentation can supply a day’s worth of Vitamin D.
Additionally, you can also consult your doctor for supplements and include mushrooms, milk, yogurt, etcetera in your diet.
Folic Acid/ Folate/ Vitamin B
Folate is also known as folacin or Vitamin B9 is one of the B vitamins. It is a key element when it comes to planning for healthy nutrition during pregnancy.
It helps lower the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) which relates to the birth defect of the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid in simpler terms is the form used in supplements and enriched in grain products.
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, turnips, asparagus, and brussels sprout, peanuts, beans, citrus fruits, and multivitamins with folic acid are some of the sources for your daily intake of folate.
It is found that recently more and more women are facing the problem of anemia due to the presence of low iron in their bodies.
Iron is a mineral that the body uses to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.
Pregnant women have more blood in their bodies so the intake of iron in pregnant women is more. Iron also aids immunity and brain development.
Iron present in animals such as meat, fish, and poultry is different from that present in plants and is easier to absorb. However, the absorption rate of iron can be increased when consumed with food rich in vitamin C such as orange juice.
You can also consult your dietitian or doctor to put you on iron supplements if your hemoglobin is very low so make sure you get your iron deficiency screening done at regular intervals.
One key advice for all you mothers out there is to avoid taking coffee or tea as it can interfere with iron absorption. Also, do not take iron supplements along with other supplements.
Try taking them in between meals with water or at bedtime to avoid upset stomach or heartburn.
Water, also known as the elixir of life, plays a very vital role in the diet of pregnant women. It helps in the absorption of all nutrients, formation of amniotic fluid and extra blood as well as the excretion of waste from the body.
Your daily average water intake should range from 2.5 to 3 liters of water. Some tips for all the moms and women out there who find it hard to drink plain water is to replace it with other forms of hydrating substances such as coconut water, herbal tea or you can make flavor-infused water at home.
You can do so by adding cucumber, oranges, lemons, mint, ginger, strawberries, chia seeds, basil seeds, etcetera in the water as per your choice and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour for the flavors to get infused and voila-your water is ready for drinking.
- Focus on maintaining a healthy diet during your pregnancy.
- Always prefer “quality” over “quantity”.
- Stay Hydrated.
- Cut down caffeine intake
- Avoid alcohol.
- Include multivitamins in your diet upon consultation with your dietitian and doctor.
- Eat small portions at regular intervals. Do not go hungry for a prolonged period of time.
- Most importantly, stay happy and do not stress yourself out. Keep your mind occupied with things you like doing, be it a hobby or doing exercise or working because a healthy mind leads to a healthy body which leads to a healthy life.
Here is the list of vegetarian superfoods a pregnant woman must have.
Wishing all your mommies a healthy and happy pregnancy!