When you are expecting, what you eat and drink will determine growth, development and impact baby’s lifelong health. A well-balanced diet with foods of dairy products, fruit, vegetables, fish, lean meat, eggs, good fats and adequate carbohydrates sustain a healthy pregnancy. There are also some indispensable nutrients that bolster and help the mother and child bloom.
Calorie confusion of pregnancy:
Umpteen times you have heard pregnancy licences you to “eat for two” ! However you ought to eat a balanced meal just like any healthy individual. An expecting mother requires just an average of 350 Kcals in addition to 1900 kcals essential to a normal lady.
Good quality proteins provide all the amino acids absolute to felicitate the demands of the expanding blood volume, new tissue synthesis, building muscles, bones and foetal growth.
Source: Fatty fish, dressed chicken, lean meat, eggs, low fat milk, slim curd, cheese, nuts and beans.
Dosage: 82 g / day
Folate is a B- vitamin required for cell division, synthesis of amino acids and nucleic acids - DNA. It is known to prevent neural tube defects – imperative for baby’s brain and nervous system. It is recommended to commence the intake of folic acid two months prior to conception and continue three months into pregnancy.
Source: Green leafy vegetables, eggs, organ meats, beans or legumes (lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas) are excellent sources of folate.
Dosage: 600 µg (micrograms) / day.
Calcium is compulsory to boost bone health. It is also absolute for nervous, circulatory and muscular functions. Eating atleast 3 servings of dairy helps boost calcium as lactose ( milk sugar ) enhances its absorption. Curd helps harvest the benefits of good bacteria that aid digestion and keep infections at bay.
Sources: Dairy, fish with bones – sardines, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables – turnip greens, kale, bok choy, collard.
Dosage: 1200 mg ( milligram) per day
During pregnancy, there is an increased demand for iron to compensate for the expanding blood volume and haemoglobin. Adequate iron prevents anemia, premature delivery and low birth weight. Iron from vegetarian food is absorbed better with addition of vitamin C. Caffeine and tannins from coffee, tea will inhibit the absorption of iron and therefore must be spaced 1 – 3 hours from food and supplements.
Sources: Organ meats, red meat, lean beef, egg yolk, green vegetables, dry beans, dry fruits.
Dosage: 35 mg / day
The thyroid uses iodine to form thyroid hormones that ensure normal development of brain and nervous system before birth and governs overall growth and development. Inadequate iodine in pregnancy can lead to mental retardation of the new born.
Source: Seafood, seaweed, eggs, dairy products, iodized salt.
Dosage: 150 µg / day
Zinc is a trace mineral that is decisive in reproduction, growth, wound healing and to strengthen immunity. It is obligatory in the production of insulin that will help combat insulin insensitivity induced by pregnancy hormones, which may pave the way for gestational diabetes.
Source: Oysters, shell fish, meat, fish, shrimps / prawns, chicken, eggs, dairy foods, grains, beans
Dosage: 12 mg / day
The active form of Vitamin D - 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol is essential to promote absorption of calcium from the gut and enables normal bone mineralization and growth, strengthening baby’s bones and teeth. Deficiency of vitamin D in pregnancy causes distorted skeletal homeostasis and congenital rickets.
Sources: Sunlight, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, fish liver oil, egg yolk, asparagus, mushrooms.
Dosage: 600 IU per day
Vitamins - ACE
Choose at least 1 serving each of the powerful antioxidant superstars - vitamin A, C and E.
Sources: All yellow, orange colored fruits, vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, milk, fish and eggs.
Dosage: 800 µg / day
Sources: Amla, guava, papaya, mango, pineapple, berries, muskmelon, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, green leafy vegetables, tomato.
Dosage: 70 mg / day
Sources: Wheat germ, sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts
Dosage : 15 mg / day
DHA ( omega 3) is primordial for the development of the foetal eyes and brain. Choose fresh water fatty fish like salmon known for its relatively low content of mercury. ( Avoid sword fish, king mackerel, shark and tile fish ). Choose 2 average meals of fish per week with not more than a total of 350g of fish.
Source: Fatty fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, flax seeds, avocado, dark green leafy vegetables.
Dosage: 650 mg of which 300 mg DHA / day
Fiber and water:
These nutrients may not provide any energy, but without them healthy living is inevitable. These are especially crucial in pregnancy to curtail constipation exaggerated by iron supplements.
Lastly consume only fresh food handled correctly with special emphasis on food safety. Avoid pre – prepared, cold or raw meat preparations, which may harbour harmful bacteria. Avoid the intake of undercooked non vegetarian food – oysters, sushi, eggs, luncheon meats, raw sprouts which may carry several harmful microbes, large fish like swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel with high mercury content, alcohol and caffeine that will harm the baby. It is recommended to be cautious about the intake of artificial sweeteners in pregnancy.
Supplements cannot replace a healthy diet. Focus on small frequent meals and eating sensible nutrient dense snacks in between, avoiding empty calories from soft drinks, sweets and desserts.
Perinatal nutrition is simply the variety of foods from all food groups. Adequate fruits, vegetables, whole grains and good quality protein that will nourish the foetus, mother and also augment lactation.
Geetha Ghaliyavar is a registered dietician, certified diabetes educator, exercise & sports nutritionist, lecturer, nutrition trainer, and speaker for corporate wellness. Her diverse work experience over a decade encompasses lectureship, research, therapeutic nutrition, food safety, corporate nutrition and seminars. She is a regular nutrition columnist for print and electronic media. She is also a university first rank holder and has several gold medals to her credit at both under-graduate and post-graduate levels. She is passionate about nutrition, writing and research.