It is rightly said, “You are what you eat.” Once you are pregnant, your baby is also what you eat. However, being pregnant does not mean eating for two. A pregnant woman only needs about 300 extra calories and those requirements should be fulfilled by opting for wholesome and nutrition dense foods. There is no doubt in the fact that diet and nutrition can do wonders to your health and well-being. Many disease conditions are now being treated and managed with correction of diet alone. This is the reason why dietary lifestyle is an important determinant of the health of pregnant women.
Studies have shown that taking a balanced diet during pregnancy not only helps in growing a healthy baby but also leaves a long lasting impact on the health of the mother even years after birth. Nevertheless, nearly all pregnant women still need to be supplemented with prenatal vitamins and minerals in order to cater the additional nutritional need of themselves and their growing babies.
Diet during each trimester varies slightly, depending upon the growing needs of the fetus. The problem arises when pregnancy symptoms make ‘eating’ a challenge for some women. With the nausea and vomiting arising during early pregnancy, the majority of women find it difficult to eat well and develop specific food aversions. The key is to never eat forcefully but rather splitting the meals into smaller and nutrient rich food portions.
Intake of foods rich in folic acid along with folic acid supplementation becomes most important during early pregnancy as fetal brain and spinal cord undergoes development at this time and a diet rich in essential nutrients and folic acid decreases the risk of development of spina bifida in the baby. Therefore, adequate portions of green leafy vegetables, protein and complex carbs must be included in the diet of pregnant women. In the absence of gestational diabetes, fruits should also be added in dietary regimen. All calcium rich meals become crucial in the last trimester as bone maturation occurs during the later stage of pregnancy.
A quick, generic guide to healthy meal ideas that can be followed in pregnancy is summed up below:
Fruits & Vegetables – Being a rich source of vitamins and fiber, several daily servings of fruits and vegetables must be added in diet. They not only provide ready sources of vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed within no time, but also help in keeping constipation at bay owing to their high fiber content.
Protein – Lean meats, lentils, beans and egg whites are some of the food portions that are abundant in protein and must definitely be in daily diet of every pregnant woman. Fish, being very high in protein, can be taken twice a week.
Complex Carbohydrates – These include whole wheat bread, rice, cereals, pasta, oats, barley and millets. Complex starchy foods provide energy consistently for several hours whilst keeping you full for longer time so that you do not end up munching on junk. Additionally, the whole grains present in these carbs prevent constipation.
Dairy Foods – Calcium and Vitamin D requirement becomes significantly raised during pregnancy. Therefore, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs should be also be added in daily diet.