For a healthy pregnancy, a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for mother. This includes the correct balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and having a wide variety of plants like vegetables, and fruits.
Facts of Diet During Pregnancy
- During pregnancy calorie intake increases. A pregnant woman’s calorie intake usually goes up to a few hundred calories a day.
- Weight gain of a pregnant woman varies on the base of pre-pregnancy weight and other factors. An underweight pregnant woman is suggested to gain most whereas the overweight woman is suggested to gain least.
- During pregnancy, a woman’s body absorbs iron more efficiently and blood volume increases. So she needs to consume more iron to make sure that both she and her baby have an adequate oxygen supply.
What to Eat During Pregnancy
The pregnant mother must follow a varied, balanced, and nutritious diet, and it should include:
Fruits and Vegetables
A pregnant woman should target for five portions of fruit and vegetables per day which may be in the form of juice, dried, canned, frozen, or fresh. Usually fresh and frozen (if frozen soon after picking) produce have higher levels of vitamins and other nutrients.
Pregnant women need to take extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing fetus. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium and also provides high amounts of phosphorus, different B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc.
Consumption of probiotic supplements like yogurt, tempeh during pregnancy may reduce your risk of complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections, and allergies.
Starchy carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread are high in energy. Therefore carbohydrate-rich foods are an important component of a good pregnancy diet.
Legumes such as lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts are the best plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium. They all are those of which your body needs more of during pregnancy.
salmon is rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acid which is crucial during pregnancy. Omega-3 fatty acid helps to build the brain and eyes of your fetus.
Furthermore, salmon is one of the natural sources of vitamin D which is essential for various body processes including bone health and immune system.
Eggs are also called the ultimate health food as they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. Eggs are a good source of choline which helps in different body functions including brain development and health.
Zinc is a micronutrient which is very essential for normal growth and development, cellular integrity, and various biological functions including nucleic acid metabolism and protein synthesis. Therefore Zinc is crucial for the holistic development of the fetus.
The best sources of zinc are chicken, bran, wheat germ, rice, pasta, cereals, eggs, and tofu.
The amount of blood in the mother’s body increases by almost 50 percent during pregnancy. That’s why she needs more iron to make more hemoglobin for all that extra blood.
The best sources of iron are dried bean, egg yolk, organ meat, brown rice, millet, tuna fish.
During pregnancy, there is a high need for calories. So eating whole grains may help pregnant women to meet up the requirement of calories.
Regardless of refined grains, whole grain is packed with fiber, plant compounds, and vitamins.
Generally, dry fruits are high in calories, fiber, and different vitamins and minerals. One piece of dry fruit provides the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, just without all the water and in a much smaller form.
Hence, consuming dried fruit during pregnancy can provide a large percentage of the recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, and potassium.
What To Avoid
Uncooked seafood and raw or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided due to the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.
Fish with Mercury
During pregnancy, fish containing high levels of mercury should be avoided as this has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage.
Some examples of these types of fish include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Generally, canned, chunk light tuna has a lesser amount of mercury than other tuna, but still should only be eaten in restriction.
Certain types of fish used in sushi should also be avoided due to high levels of mercury.
Caffeine is the most often used psychoactive substance in the world and mainly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and cocoa.
Pregnant women are usually suggested to limit their caffeine intake to about 2–3 cups of coffee as caffeine is absorbed very quickly and passes easily into the placenta and fetus.
It has been shown that high caffeine intake during pregnancy restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of low birth weight at delivery.
Raw eggs or any foods containing raw eggs should be avoided during pregnancy due to the possible exposure to salmonella.
Some homemade food items like Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauces may be made with raw eggs. If the recipe is cooked at some point, this will minimize the exposure to salmonella.
Ice cream, dressings, and eggnog that are manufactured commercially is made with pasteurized eggs and do not increase the risk of salmonella.
There is NO amount of alcohol that is noted to be safe during pregnancy. That’s why alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Exposure to alcohol during prenatal period can impede with the healthy development of the baby.
Depending on the amount, timing, and pattern of use, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders.
The surface of unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables may be polluted with several bacteria and parasites. These parasites and bacteria include Toxoplasma, E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, which can be transmitted from the soil or through handling.
Contamination can happen at any time during production, harvest, processing, storage, transportation or retail.
Bacteria can impair both the mother and her unborn baby. Therefore, during pregnancy, thoroughly rinsing, peeling or cooking fruits and vegetables is crucial to minimize the risk of infection.
Unpasteurized Milk Cheese and Fruit Juice
Raw milk and unpasteurized cheese can contain a lot of harmful bacteria, including Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter. And the same goes for unpasteurized juice, which is also prone to bacterial contamination.
These infections can all have life-threatening results for an unborn baby. Pregnant women are suggested to consume only pasteurized milk, cheese, and fruit juice to minimize the risk of infections.
Processed Junk Foods
Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth. Therefore, the need of pregnant women increases the amounts of many essential nutrients, including protein, folate and iron.
An optimal pregnancy diet should mainly embody whole foods, with plenty of nutrients to fulfill the needs of the mother and growing child.
Processed junk food is generally low in nutrients and contains high calories, sugar, and added fats. It has been linked to a dramatically increased risk of developing several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Refrigerated pate or meat spreads may contain the bacteria called “listeria”, so during pregnancy, they should be avoided. Whereas, canned pate or shelf-safe meat spreads can be eaten.
The cause of the majority of seafood-borne illness is undercooked shellfish, such as oysters, clams, and mussels.
Cooking helps prevent some types of infection, but it does not protect from the algae-related infections that are associated with red tides.
Raw shellfish pose a concern for everybody. So while you are pregnant they should be avoided altogether.