Pregnancy and Nutrition
A healthy balanced diet is essential for women of childbearing age as proper nutrition prepares the woman’s body for the demands of pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman’s energy needs increase by at least 15 percent as her body’s nutrient requirement increases. Therefore, it’s necessary that she eats food which will give her the specific nutrients essential for her and her growing baby’s health. Although nutritional supplements can provide large amounts of specific nutrients, a healthy balanced diet should be the source of a woman’s nutritional intake. Proper nutrition is vital before conception as well as during the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy. According to American Dietetic Association, pregnant women require about 2500 to 2700 calories everyday during pregnancy for proper fetal growth. And to form fetal and extra maternal blood, 30 mg of iron is necessary every day.
During pregnancy, the mother’s nutrition will also have an influence on the fetus’s nutritional habits, which will affect it for the rest of its life. The nerves which control the fetus’s appetite are programmed while it is developing in the womb and this also affects its appetite regulation later in life. A fetus also adapts its metabolism and other body systems to deal with several states of nutrition. For instance, a malnourished fetus, which does not get adequate nutrients, either responds by reducing the insulin and glucose production, which eventually slows down the rate of fetal growth thereby increasing the risk of low birth weight or it may permanently alter its metabolism leaving the mother predisposed conditions like diabetes. Thus, eating habits of a pregnant woman affects her and her developing baby.
Good nutrition results in enjoyable nine months, leading to fewer discomforts like constipation, heartburn, fatigue and other pregnancy related complications. Another important benefit of consuming nutritious food during pregnancy is a quicker recovery after delivery. This is because of your body being healthy finds it easier to heal and recover from childbirth. On the other hand poor maternal nutrition leads to poor fetal development thereby increasing the risk of the baby being born weak or more prone to death.
Pregnancy is an important period in a woman’s life. Maternal nutrition is very essential during this period as the developing fetus gets its nutrition from the mother’s body. What a mother consumes is what the baby gets. So during pregnancy, it is important to eat the right nutrients in right amounts. While the mother’s nutritional requirements and tolerance for eating will change during pregnancy, there are some specific guidelines that will be essential to follow during these nine months.
Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
Eating nutritious food, even before getting pregnant, is important for your health but once you become pregnant it is even more important to eat in a healthy manner. Some of the foods that you should eat during pregnancy are:
- Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, swiss chard and collard greens, are a great source of iron, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, K. Leafy green veggies are also high in vitamin B12 magnesium.
- Sweet Potatoes: These are healthier than white potatoes as they are loaded with vitamin A and C. Sweet potatoes also contain large amounts of dietary fiber.
- Apples: Apple contains fiber and vitamin C. Eating an apple daily can reduce the risk of asthma in children.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are full of antioxidants, manganese and vitamin C and can be easily added to ice-cream, yogurt and cereals for snacking.
- Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein. Choose cashews for their magnesium and almonds for manganese and vitamin E.
- Cereals: Consuming at least 5gms of low fat cereals that are high in folate, fiber and protein will provide the pregnant woman with enough nutrients for preventing neural tube defects.
- Whole Grains: Whole grain enriched breads and products like pasta, rice, breakfast cereals contain B vitamins, minerals, iron and fiber that are good for pregnant women.
- Legumes and Beans: Lentils, pinto, black and red beans are packed with protein, folate, fiber and tryptophoan that are vital for pregnant women.
- Lean Chicken Breast: From one cup of cooked organic chicken breast, you can easily get loads of protein, niacin, selenium, and vitamin B6 along with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Dairy Products: Pregnant women require approximately 1000mg of calcium per day and low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese and other dairy products are great sources of calcium. Dairy products are also great sources of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D and proteins.
- Water: Water plays an important role in pregnancy. It transports essential nutrients from the food you eat to your baby. Moreover drinking loads of water prevents excess swelling, constipation, UTI and hemorrhoids. Juice is also another source of water but it has calories. Therefore, there is no substitute for plain water.
Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
Certain foods like Camembert, Brie and blue-veined cheeses; sushi, swordfish, shark, marlin, and king mackerel; unpasteurized milk; raw or undercooked foods may not be safe for you to eat during pregnancy as they main contain high levels of chemicals and harmful bacteria like salmonella, listeria, E. Coli and mercury, which may be harmful for your unborn baby. Also, reducing the intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages like, tea, coffee, and soda is recommended.
Food poisoning must be avoided during pregnancy. It can lead to a premature birth, miscarriage, or severe illnesses to the baby. Food poisoning is caused by the harmful bacteria found in raw foods and drinks. Thus, ensure that the food is cooked thoroughly while eating foods, like meat and eggs.