A Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, everything that goes into your mouth gets shared with your growing baby. Even though some types of foods and even some types of food poisoning may not hurt you, they may harm your little one.
During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of your growing little one. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt should be a priority on your diet chart. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium. Yogurt contains more calcium than most other dairy products and is especially beneficial. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health.
Eating right is very important during pregnancy. It is also critical to avoid foods and beverages that might adversely impact your unborn child. Needless to say when you are pregnant, everything that goes into your mouth gets shared with your growing baby. Even though some types of foods and even some types of food poisoning may not hurt you, they may harm your little one.
"To avoid food poisoning, be careful not to eat any food left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (or more than one hour in hot weather)," says Dr Namita Borbora, a Guwahati based gynaecologist and adds, "Be sure to limit caffeine intake to 200 mg a day (one 12-ounce cup of coffee). And, as you probably know, forget alcohol while your baby is growing inside you."
When asked about specific foods that are to be avoided during pregnancy, Dr Borbora stated, "Well individual cases may be different so it is advisable to consult one's gynaecologist. However the thumb rule is to avoid foods with preservatives and artificial colorings. Stale food, unwashed fruits and vegetables and even unripe papaya are red flags," she adds.
Borbora reiterates the importance of eating nutritious foods during pregnancy. "During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of your growing little one. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt should be a priority on your diet chart. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium. Yogurt contains more calcium than most other dairy products and is especially beneficial. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health," she elaborates.
Legumes, which are essentially a group of foods that include lentils, peas, beans, soybeans and peanuts, are recommended for pregnant women according to Seema Gaur, a nutritionist and dietician who practices in Delhi. "Legumes are great plant-based sources of protein, iron, folate and calcium -all of these are required more during pregnancy. Legumes are generally very high in fiber too. Some varieties are also high in iron, magnesium and potassium," she explains.
Eggs are a must during pregnancy. "Eggs are actually the ultimate health food, as they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. A large egg contains about 80 calories, high-quality protein, fat and many vitamins and minerals. Moreover eggs are a great source of choline, a vital nutrient during pregnancy. It is important for the baby's brain development and helps prevent developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine," reveals Gaur.
Broccoli and dark, leafy greens are highly recommended too. "Leafy vegetables are fortified with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. They are a bonanza of green goodness," Gaur emphasizes. "Owing to their fiber content, green vegetables also help in fending off constipation. Vegetables have also been linked to a reduced risk of low birth weight," shares Dr Borbora.
Both Dr Borbora and Gaur also reiterate the importance of eating lean meat, proteins and whole grains during pregnancy.
Unlike their refined counterparts, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and plant compounds. Pregnant women should eat oats, brown rice and barley instead of white bread, pasta and white rice.
"Some whole grains, contain a fair amount of protein, B vitamins, fiber and magnesium that are often lacking in pregnant people," says Gaur.
Dried fruit is another food item that pregnant women should not overlook. "One piece of dried fruit contains the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit. It is just that dried fruits do not contain water and come in a much smaller form. One serving of dried fruit can provide a large percentage of the recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron and potassium. For instance, dates are high in fiber, potassium, iron and plant compounds. However, dried fruit also contains high amounts of natural sugar. Make sure to avoid the candied varieties, which contain even more sugar. Although dried fruit may help increase calorie and nutrient intake, it is generally not recommended to consume more than one serving at a time," elaborates Gaur.
Extending the discussion, Dr Borbora stresses on the importance of fish liver oil. "It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for fetal brain and eye development," she reveals.
According to Dr Borbora it is imperative for pregnant women to stay hydrated. "During pregnancy, the blood volume increases significantly. The body of a pregnant woman will automatically channel hydration to the baby. However, if the woman does not consciously watch her water intake, she may become dehydrated in the process. Symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood and reduced memory. Moreover, increasing the water intake may also help relieve constipation and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy," she concludes.