Eating well for baby and you
When pregnant, one of the most important factors that ensure healthy growth of baby is the nutrition s/he receives from mother in the womb. Studies show that a pregnant woman requires an extra 300 calories every day in the second and third trimesters. However, simply increasing quantity of food is not enough – care must be taken to include healthy food items that can provide the nutrients needed by the baby.
Aiming for a well-balanced diet during pregnancy
A pregnant woman must take care to include foods that provide all nutrients to the growing baby. By knowing the nutrients and the foods that provide those, it is possible to create well-balanced meals for self and the baby.
Diet during pregnancy must include sufficient amounts of the following:
Fruits and vegetables – A woman must include five portions of fruits and vegetables daily to receive adequate fibre for aiding digestion and preventing constipation (a common issue during pregnancy, as pregnancy hormones slow down digestion), and receiving necessary minerals and vitamins. Washing fruits and vegetables well before consumption is equally important, along with cooking them only enough to retain their nutrients.
Carbohydrates and starchy foods – Breads, breakfast cereals, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc. are excellent sources of carbohydrates and starch. Pregnancy can leave a woman feeling tired more often; starchy foods like these are broken down into glucose easily, providing the body with energy boosts when needed and maintaining steady levels of blood sugar. Including carbohydrates in the diet also provides vitamins and fibre.
Protein – Good sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, fish, poultry, pulses, beans and nuts. Proteins are most needed in the second and third trimesters when the baby’s growth rate is at its peak. This ensures getting a good supply of amino acids (building blocks of cells), which join to form all forms of proteins. Signs of lack of protein are muscle fatigue, weight loss, fluid retention and infections.
Dairy – Milk, yoghurt and cheese can provide nutrients and calcium that are much needed for the growing baby. However, care must be taken to avoid soft cheeses that pose a risk of infection in pregnant mother and baby.
Folic acid – Folic acid belongs to vitamin-B group (vitamin B9). Sufficient amount of folic acid in mother’s body is important in the initial stages of pregnancy (and even before conception) to ensure proper development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Good sources of folic acid include green vegetables like spinach, cereals and whole grain bread. Doctors also prescribe folic acid supplements to women for the first three months of pregnancy.
Iron – More iron is required during pregnancy to produce extra blood necessary for supplying nutrition through the placenta. Foods rich in iron include wholegrain bread, strawberries and green vegetables like spinach.
Vitamin D – Fatty fish, orange juice and milk are good sources of vitamin D, crucial for building strong bones and teeth in the baby.
Fluids – Along with healthy foods, a pregnant woman must drink around two litres of fluid every day. The requirement can be met through water, fruit or vegetable juices and other drinks.
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