Diet in pregnancy
The concept that a pregnant woman should ‘eat for two’ is long out-dated. What she needs is a well-balanced diet with a few extra ingredients to meet the unborn baby’s needs.
This means about 300 extra calories per day which translates into 1 extra meal per day.
Remember: Consuming too many calories can make you prone to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure in pregnancy and give you a very large baby too!
Other than added calories, you would also need more proteins, vitamins, calcium, iron and essential fatty acids.
An average Indian diet cannot meet these requirements and hence, you would need to focus on adding the extra proteins, iron and calcium to your existing diet.
Make sure you include plenty of dals, pulses, sprouts, milk and milk products to boost your protein intake. Non-vegetarians can benefit from egg, meats and fish. Animal proteins have a high biological value, meaning they are better absorbed and utilised.
These provide the much needed energy and fiber. Avoid refined sugar and refined flour, as these can cause your sugar levels to fluctuate. Stick to whole wheat (brown bread and flour), whole fruits and add lots of salads and veggies to increase roughage in your diet. That would help you avoid constipation too.
The role of DHA and other essential fatty acids in the development of the fetal brain is now clear. These are essential for ideal development of intelligence, learning and vision. Add flax seeds, walnuts, beans and tofu to your diet. Olive oil and soyabean oil are also good sources of essential fatty acids. Non-vegetarians can benefit from fish intake or cod liver oil capsules.
Saturated fats such as ghee, butter, cheese and hydrogenated fats should be consumed in limited quantities.
Your unborn needs iron for his/her needs and the requirements increase with advancing pregnancy. So do you. To meet your own expanded blood volume and increased oxygen requirements.
Green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses, fruits such as pomegranate, cherries and berries, lychee, pineapple, dry fruits such as raisins, dates and figs and animal foods contain a good amount of iron. Vitamin C is essential for the absorption of iron, hence, squeeze in a lemon into your meal for good measure.
Calcium requirement in pregnancy doubles to help your baby’s developing bones, teeth as well as his/her essential bodily functions. Adequate calcium would also help prevent backaches and prepare you for breastfeeding as well. For calcium, consume milk and milk products in various forms, nuts, seeds, beans, green leafy vegetables and seafood.
Consume relatively small frequent meals to prevent bloating, heartburn and indigestion.
Drink plenty of water to flush the toxins and to avoid constipation.
Avoid excess salt (fast foods and preserved foods), refined sugars and fats.
Drinking soft drinks or caffeinated beverages with your meals is a bad idea as they interfere with absorption of essential nutrients.
Eat wholesome home-made food as far as possible.