I am sure, by now you must have gathered bits and pieces of information from friends, family, and through the internet on what-to-eat and foods to avoid during pregnancy. To add to your confusion some of this information may even be conflicting. We invited our in-house nutritionist to help you with a well-curated daily pregnancy diet plan.
To begin with, you must remember that what you eat is the only source of nourishment for your baby and hence pregnancy nutrition is not only for you but it has significant and lasting effects on the health of your child.
Read on for pregnancy diet week by week
You may have already figured out that even if you were eating well before, you need to fine-tune your eating habits to get more proteins and calories. You will also need additional amounts of certain vitamins and minerals such as calcium, folic acid, and iron. Let us understand why these nutrients are of particular importance.
Ultimate pregnancy diet and ideal meal plan must-haves:
No growth is possible without proteins as these are the building blocks of the body. Extra protein is required for the development of cells, tissues, and organs of the fetus as well as to support the increase in blood volume and other developmental changes in your body. The requirement for protein in pregnancy is 78 gms/day. Protein-rich foods include dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc), chicken, fish, meat and eggs, pulses and legumes (especially soy) and nuts like peanuts, pistachios, and almond. An extra effort should be made to include at least one of them during each meal and also as a snack in between to fulfill the requirement.
Increased intake is important for three main reasons:
(i) To support the rapid growth and development of the fetus.
(ii) Required for laying down fat reserves that are built up in the mother’s body, to tide over any periods of low intake and also as a preparation later for lactation.
(iii) Increase in Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
An additional 350 Kcals is required starting the second trimester of pregnancy. Cereals like wheat, rice, sooji, bajra, millets, roots and tubers (potato and colocasia root), nuts and seeds, fats, and oils all help provide calories. It’s advisable to consume multi-grain flour, whole breakfast cereals, brown rice, multigrain/brown bread as they provide more nutrients and fiber than their refined counterparts.
Pregnancy diet chart
It’s required for the development of bones and teeth of the fetus. If the mother’s diet lacks calcium, then the calcium from her own bones leaches out to support the mineralization in the fetus. This leads to the weakening of the mother’s bones and can lead to complications later in life. Calcium-rich sources include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and oilseeds especially gingelly (til) Requirement increases from 400 mg/ day to more than double 1200 mg/day.
4. Folic acid
It prevents neural tube defects, serious abnormalities of the brain, and spinal cord. One of the best things you can do to have a healthy baby is to ensure that you enter pregnancy with adequate stores of folic acid. Folate is also extremely important during the course of pregnancy. The requirement of folate is 500 mcg/day during pregnancy. Rich sources of folate include vegetables especially dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, peas and legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Iron is essential for making hemoglobin, a molecule present in the blood for carrying oxygen from the lungs to other tissues in the body. During pregnancy, the blood volume increases by almost 50%, hence the requirement for iron also goes up. Iron is also required for the growing baby and placenta. The requirement of iron is 35 mg/day during pregnancy.
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Rich sources of iron include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, other vegetables like beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato and broccoli, nuts and seeds; and legumes and pulses. Iron from non–vegetarian sources (Haem iron) is better absorbed in the body as compared to the vegetarian sources (Non-haem iron). However combining Vitamin C rich foods like lemon, orange juice, sprouted beans can help increase the iron absorption. Also, avoid taking tea right after meals as this hampers iron absorption.
The increased requirements for iron and folic acid can’t be completely met by food hence gynecologists routinely recommend a supplement for the same. You may also be advised other mineral and vitamin supplements depending on your medical condition, restrictions on food due to religious beliefs, or if you are too nauseated during the first trimester and are not able to eat well.
It’s also important to remember that no one food group can provide your unborn baby and you with the nutrition that you need during these crucial months. Hence you should include a variety of foods from different groups, have small healthy snacks between your meals, and drink plenty of water.
It is also advisable to be cautious and avoid eating raw and undercooked foods. This includes: eggs, undercooked and cured cold meats, unpasteurized milk and yogurt, raw sprouts, raw fruits, and vegetables. Especially applicable when you are not sure how well those foods have been washed or used in the preparation. Best to avoid any kind of foodborne illness at this point. You should focus on fresh, homemade food and go slow on the heavily processed packaged foods for a healthy pregnancy.
About Spriha: Dr. Spriha Rao Mittal is a Ph.D. in Nutrition with over 9 years of experience. She has worked as a scientist with ICMR, a premier biomedical research organization where she was involved in research focusing on public health nutrition, clinical dietetics, and applied nutrition science and using these to help improve human health and wellbeing, especially in vulnerable people.
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