Essential Pregnancy Diet Tips: What to Eat and What to Avoid When You're Pregnant?
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Diet & Nutrition

Essential Pregnancy Diet Tips: What to Eat and What to Avoid When You're Pregnant?

Congratulations to all the to be moms! Pregnancy is one of the most special phases of a woman’s life and so are the needs during pregnancy. Though it is well known that no separate diet is required during pregnancy, it is important for you to take care of what you are eating, in how much quantity and when. You must make conscious efforts to ensure that you are taking a balanced diet throughout pregnancy based on the increased needs of the body at each stage. One very important point to remember is that people might ask you to start eating more than what you normally eat since now you are two lives in one body. Beware of such suggestions! Initially, during the first three months of pregnancy, you just need a high-quality diet with all food groups included. At this stage, you need not focus on increasing the quantity at all. It is only later when the baby starts growing during the second and third trimester that your focus needs to shift to quantity as well.

Watch this video: Top 30 Foods to have during Pregnancy

Eating well throughout Pregnancy

You will be able to better understand how to eat well during pregnancy, once you are aware of its stages and how a baby develops at each stage. Gestation is divided into 3 trimesters, i.e. first, second and third and each trimester is three months period. The first trimester is the most crucial for the development of the organs of the baby and so it is essential that during this trimester mother has a good nutritional status which means enough folic acid that helps in organ development. At this stage, folic acid deficiency may lead to brain or spinal cord defects which cannot be altered at a later stage and are called congenital disorders. So, it is crucial for every mother to start taking 400 mcg of folic acid per day while planning to conceive or as advised by the doctor. Folic acid supplementation continues throughout pregnancy. As the mother reaches second trimester which is the best period of pregnancy since this is the time when nausea and tiredness usually ends, the tiny being developing in the mother’s uterus starts growing and so nutritional requirements increase at this stage. The mother needs iron, calcium and vitamin D too along with folic acid as a supplement which the doctor does advise. From this trimester till the end of pregnancy, the mother needs to increase the quantity to food along with quality to take the extra 300 calories that are the general requirement. In general, from the second trimester there is approximately ½ kg weight gain per week for the rest of the pregnancy which needs to be monitored closely other than blood pressure and blood sugar levels. If the weight starts declining, contact your doctor immediately. To make sure you and your baby are healthy throughout, let us now talk about what to eat and what to avoid during your gestational period.

What to eat?

Folic acid: Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients that your doctor will supplement your diet with as soon as you get to know you are pregnant or even planning to conceive. But along with the tablets, you should also indulge in folic acid-rich foods for optimum folic acid levels for baby’s growth and nourishment. Folic acid is easily made available to the body through daily intake of green leafy vegetables like spinach, citrus fruits like orange, beans, cereals like pasta, bread, wheat roti, eggs, etc.

Foods to help sooth morning-sickness/vomiting: Pregnancy leads to the production of pregnancy hormone which floods the body during the first trimester and morning sickness is the body’s reaction to this hormone. Nine out of ten women face this problem during pregnancy. To sort this out, you can have nuts, cracker biscuits or other light biscuits, toasted bread slice without butter, roasted murmura-chana, etc early in the morning.

Iron: One of the vital nutrients, increased amounts of iron is essential to compensate for the increase in the volume of the mother’s blood to supply all the vital nutrients and oxygen to the baby. A doctor normally prescribes iron only after the first trimester since iron supplements initially may worsen morning sickness but it is important for you to include iron in your diet from the day you get to know you are pregnant. This way not only will you be able to maintain a good iron reserve in your body, but you will be prepared for the increased requirements. Iron-rich foods include ragi flour, oats, dark green leafy vegetables like amaranth leaves, beetroot, kala chana, organ meats, mutton, etc. While consuming vegetarian sources of iron it is important to accompany them vitamin C like lemon juice for better absorption of iron in the body.

Calcium & Vitamin D: Calcium and vitamin D requirement go up during pregnancy since the skeleton of the baby require both these nutrients for development. If the mother does not have enough of these nutrients, the baby will still draw it from the mother’s bones leaving them weak and fragile. So, to stay strong, it is important for you to take enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet other than the supplements your doctor prescribed. Having up to 1 liter of milk or equivalent through milk products fulfills a day’s requirement. Other than milk and milk products, you may also have egg yolk, spinach, bony fish, chicken, mutton, banana to suffice for calcium and vitamin D. Tip: Do not take calcium supplements with iron supplements (tablets) together since they combine with each other inhibiting the body to absorb any of these.

Protein: Protein forms an essential component of the mother’s diet since both the mother and baby require enough protein for wear and tear and growth. Protein comes from milk and milk products, dal, whole pulses like rajma, lobia, kabuli chana, egg, chicken, fish, mutton, etc. Include protein in each main meal and in mid meals also.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy and form a major portion of the diet. That is why it is important to monitor the quality of carbohydrates being taken. Try to have complex carbohydrates (rich in fiber) to ensure satiety, prevent constipation which is common during pregnancy and gain healthy weight. Complex carbohydrates can be availed from bran-rich wheat flour, whole wheat bread, generous 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruits with edible skin (thoroughly washed), whole wheat pasta, dalia, brown rice, etc. Limit intake of sugary carbohydrates and maida since these will only add on to unhealthy weight, empty calories and problems like constipation.

Healthy Fats: It is important to take healthy fats like PUFA and MUFA in the diet since these fats provide essential building blocks for the development of the baby’s cell membrane, brain, eyes, skin, etc. These even help in developing a baby’s immunity. But that does not mean that these fats can be taken as much as you like. There is a limitation to their intake. Not more than 25% of the day’s calories should come from these. Approximately 14 grams of fat a day. Sources include olive oil, canola oil, mustard oil, salmon, trout, soya bean oil, almonds, walnuts, avocado etc. Limit intake of saturated fats and trans fats to less than 6% of total calories a day. These come majorly from butter, ghee, margarine, processed foods, bakery items etc.

What not to eat?

Remember whatever you eat or drink, reaches your baby too. So, do mindful eating.

Alcohol and Tobacco: Completely avoid alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy since these have harmful effects on you and your baby. These can lead to complications like mental and cardiac growth retardation, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, early labor and many more to count. Remember, you have a life in you and you are responsible to bring it out into this world and let it live a healthy life. In case you are addicted to alcohol and tobacco, seek professional help to get rid of these.

Caffeine: Some studies report, heavy consumption of caffeine can lead to miscarriage. So, limit the consumption of caffeine to no more than 300 milligrams per day (one to two cups of coffee).

Methyl Mercury: This compound leads to mental retardation in babies. Mostly present in seafood which should be clearly avoided during pregnancy. Try freshwater fish instead.

Unpasteurized milk cheese and undercooked meat and eggs: Check labels of cheese to see if these are made from unpasteurized milk. If yes, avoid these as they may lead to stillbirth, early labor or miscarriage. Undercooked meat and eggs are clearly linked with infections from E.Coli, salmonella, and listeria. Try cooking non-vegetarian food at home and if you are eating it from outside, make sure it is piping hot when served.

Processed food: Processed food contains preservatives, unhealthy fat, high amounts of salt and sugar and other harmful chemicals that may affect your baby’s growth in the womb. Best is to avoid these.

Saccharin: Saccharin, one of the artificial sweeteners, is not deemed safe during pregnancy since it crosses the placenta and may stay in fetal tissue. Better is to avoid it. In the case of gestational diabetes, stevia can be used for adding sweetness to foods as it is considered safe for pregnancy by the FDA.

Unripe or Semi-ripe papaya: Eating ripened papaya does not cause any danger during pregnancy but unripe or semi-ripe papaya may induce contractions of the uterus leading to early labor due to the presence of latex. So best is to avoid semi or unripe papaya during pregnancy.


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