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Pregnancy Diet: Understanding Its Basics

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A healthy diet and a nutritious meal are vital for both mommy and baby. Eating a well-balanced diet with high-quality foods containing all the micro and macro nutrients is critical. Moreover, it’s crucial during this phase because your food is the chief source of nutrition for the developing foetus. Furthermore, mommies must have a healthy, stress-free, happy pregnancy for the well-being of the little one. 

The impact on your hunger levels during pregnancy is common. However, it sometimes leads to unhealthy eating, resulting in weight gain. 

Below are some superfoods, nutrients, and ingredients to keep up with your cravings while maintaining your health.

Essential Nutrients

Consuming essential nutrients during your pregnancy is vital for the baby’s health. 

Folic Acid

Folic acid, often referred to as vitamin B9, is essential for preventing neural tube disorders, which are birth disorders that affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord. According to research, pregnant women must get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, the quantity commonly present in prenatal vitamins. You may get them from the foods that you consume.

Leafy green vegetables, enriched or fortified cereals, bread, pasta, beans, and citrus fruits are all good folic acid sources.

Calcium

The importance of calcium for human health (especially bone and teeth development) is no secret. Similarly, for babies to develop their teeth, they need vital vitamins. The calcium from the mother’s deposits in her bones goes to the baby to fulfil the additional requirements. Besides calcium, vitamin D is another essential vitamin as it interacts with calcium to grow a baby’s bones and teeth.

Vitamin D

Besides interacting with calcium to fulfil a baby’s requirement for teeth development, vitamin D is essential in bone development.

A full-term baby’s skeleton contains roughly one ounce (30 grams) of calcium, most of which builds during the third trimester of pregnancy. Hence, the mother must consume enough vitamin D during her pregnancy. Several experts believe pregnant women need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. 

You can get adequate vitamin D from dairy foods. Foods that contain a reasonable amount of vitamin D are milk, yoghurt, cheese, calcium-fortified beverages and meals. In addition, you can also get vitamin D from fish (sardines or salmon with bones), eggs, and some leafy greens like spinach, beans etc. 

Iron

According to research, iron deficiency is a prevalent issue among pregnant women. Recent studies also show that the dietary reference intake of iron for pregnant women has increased from 18-23 mg/day during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters to 27 mg/day throughout the pregnancy. It is approximately double the requirement for non-pregnant women. 

The significance of iron is to produce more blood and deliver oxygen to the baby. Insufficient iron intake during pregnancy puts pregnant women at risk of developing anaemia, which causes exhaustion and an elevated risk of infections. Therefore, a healthy pregnancy diet must include adequate vitamin C (which helps absorb iron) and iron-rich foods. 

Lean meat, chicken, fish, dried beans and peas, and iron-fortified cereal are all suitable sources of iron.

Protein

Although protein is essential for every individual, pregnant women require more protein in their meals. Since it aids in developing vital organs like the baby’s heart and brain, protein is known as a “builder nutrient.” Several experts believe pregnant women should consume at least 60 grams of protein daily. 

Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, almonds, and tofu are all excellent protein sources.

Food List

Here are a few healthy foods to eat during pregnancy to ensure you fulfil your nutrition goals.

Dairy Products

You must consume foods like yoghurt, cheese, milk etc. However, if you do not want to consume them raw, you can use them in various recipes to make them delicious and healthy.

Legumes

Plant-based protein sources are necessary during pregnancy. So, you must consume chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, etc.

Sweet Potatoes

Delicious sweet potatoes are not only helpful in curbing your hunger but also provide the appropriate nutrients to your body.

Eggs

Eggs are the ultimate health food as they are a complete protein. So make sure to eat at least one egg per day.

Berries

It is no secret that berries are excellent for your health. So it would help if you consumed them during pregnancy—examples: strawberries, blueberries, acai berries, raspberries, and goji berries. 

Fish

Fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna are beneficial during pregnancy. They provide the essential micro and macro nutrients needed to maintain the health of the mother and child. However, you must limit their consumption to 1-2 days per week to avoid the hazards of mercury poisoning. 

Chicken

Chicken has plenty of benefits. It is a protein-rich food that offers various essential nutrients. Moreover, using chicken in your meals is easy as you can prepare multiple dishes using chicken. 

Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are nutrient-dense. So, they are an excellent snack to consume during your pregnancy.

Avocadoes

The tasty buttery fruit is full of nutritional goodness. It is rich in nutrients and boosts health. It is a great choice to include in your pregnancy meal plan.

Creating a Pregnancy Meal Plan? Follow These Tips

A pregnant woman must incorporate the following into her daily diet:

  • A total of 3-4 servings of fresh fruits and veggies (including a minimum of one serving of a dark orange vegetable, 2-3 servings of dark green leafy vegetables, and one serving of citrus fruit)
  • Fortified whole grains and 2-3 servings of multi-grain bread, chapati or rice
  • 2-3 servings of low or no-fat milk or milk products 
  • 2-3 portions of extra-lean meat/fish/roasted dried beans and peas, or chicken with the skin removed
  • 6-8 glasses of water

Some interesting recipes are ratatouille with eggs, kale salad, creamy salmon, grilled chicken with quinoa salad, shrimp pulao, chicken soup with farro, beans with spaghetti, and avocado salad. 

The HealthifyMe Note

It is vital to note that the requirements for every individual differ depending on their health condition and body’s requirements. For example, in the first trimester, a pregnant woman who experiences morning sickness may opt for a light breakfast and a heavy dinner. In contrast, during the last trimester, where heartburn is more of an issue, she might opt for a heavy breakfast and light dinner. 

Precaution

Experts generally suggest moderate consumption of certain food items. However, for certain other food products, they warn pregnant women to cease their consumption altogether. 

Alcohol

When pregnant, women need to stay away from alcohol. Through the umbilical cord, the alcohol present in the mother’s blood can immediately reach the unborn child. Excessive alcohol intake during pregnancy can result in foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Additionally, alcohol consumption during pregnancy elevates the risk of miscarriage, early birth, and low birth weight.

Fish with High Mercury Levels

Certain varieties of tuna, tilefish, orange roughy, king mackerel, marlin, and swordfish have increased methylmercury levels, and you must avoid them during pregnancy. Repeated consumption of high-mercury seafood can cause mercury to build up in the bloodstream, harming an unborn child’s growing brain and neurological system. 

Unpasteurised Foods and Raw Meat

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning: listeriosis, which is brought on by the Listeria bacterium, and toxoplasmosis, by the Toxoplasma Gondii parasite. Pregnant women experience listeriosis roughly 20 times more frequently than the general population. Miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labour, and infant illness or death are all potential outcomes of listeria infection.

As per studies, these are the following foods that you must avoid during pregnancy to prevent listeriosis:

  • You must avoid foods prepared from unpasteurised (raw) milk, like feta, Brie, and Camembert. A product must get pasteurised by being heated to a high temperature to destroy hazardous bacteria.
  • Cold cuts, hot dogs, and luncheon meats should all be cooked to a steaming temperature before consumption to destroy bacteria.
  • Avoid Deli salads from the grocery store, especially ones that contain meats such as ham, chicken, tuna, and seafood.
  • Avoid unpasteurised beef or spreads as people usually keep them in the refrigerator.

The HealthifyMe Note

Pregnant women must avoid or restrict caffeine-containing beverages, including coffee, tea, sodas, alcohol, and cigarettes. Regarding alcohol consumption, abstinence is vital for women because there is no defined safe limit for alcohol use. You must also avoid products made from unpasteurised milk and raw meat. 

Summary

During pregnancy, your body undergoes various changes. Therefore, a nutritious, balanced diet is critical during this phase. In addition, limiting yourself to a particular diet or fad diet is not advised. Instead, you should adopt a balanced diet with required adjustments based on an individual’s demands for the baby and your own health. 

The body undergoes several physiological and hormonal changes throughout pregnancy. Hence, you must choose healthy foods from various sources to maintain your and your developing baby’s health. A nutritious, balanced diet can make you feel better and give your little one healthy nourishment.

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