A healthy pregnancy diet should be a sensible and well balanced, containing nutritious foods and adequate amount of calories that can provide the vitamins and minerals needed for the growth and development of the baby as well as mother’s health. The diet should consist of a variety of foods chosen from different food groups like whole grains, vegetables and fruits, dairy products and lean protein. Eating a well-rounded healthy diet helps to reduce the risk of birth defects and helps the expectant mother to build a strong immune system.
A pregnant woman needs more vitamins and minerals, particularly iron and folic acid and more calories as well. Your own appetite gives indication of the amount of food you need to eat. Your appetite often fluctuates during the course of pregnancy; like during first few weeks, most pregnant women suffer from morning sickness and do not feel like eating. In this case, eat frequent but small meals throughout the day. Gradually your appetite comes back and towards the end of pregnancy, you may feel hungrier. But to avoid heartburn, full feeling and acidity, continue eating small and frequent meals. You need to eat around 200 to 300 extra nutrient-rich calories during pregnancy.
What to Eat?
For a healthy diet, a pregnant woman should eat a variety of foods from various food groups every day.
Milk and Dairy Products
Eat several servings of skimmed milk, butter milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. These foods can fulfill your requirement of calcium, protein and vitamin B-12. If you have lactose intolerance, ask your doctor about what to eat to replace these highly beneficial foods.
A pregnant woman should eat six to nine servings of grains every day to get fiber, energy, B vitamins, iron and proteins. Cereals, pulses and nuts should also be included as they are also good sources of protein.
If you are vegetarian, then you need to eat at least 2/3 cups of legumes and 45 grams of nuts each day to fulfill your protein requirement. Similarly 14 grams of nuts, 1 egg or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to 30 grams of fish, poultry or meat.
Vegetables and Fruits
Eat minimum five servings of fruits and vegetables which will provide you vitamins, minerals and also fiber. Fiber helps to avoid constipation. Instead of fruit juice, eat whole fruits to get good amount of fiber.
Eat five servings of vegetables especially leafy green vegetables and different fruits each day. Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that provide all the important nutrients like Vitamin A and C, iron, calcium, folate, potassium etc.
Water and Fluids
Though water cannot technically be called a nutrient, it plays a significant role in body’s functioning and is required to carry nutrients throughout your body. Drinking adequate, clean and filtered water will help to avoid constipation in the later part of pregnancy and also keep your body from swelling too much.
Drink at least 10 glass of water each day to stay hydrated. Also drink fresh fruit juices. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for brain development and can be obtained from fish, soy, and walnut and canola oil.
What to Avoid?
Protein is important for a healthy pregnancy diet, but it should not come from wrong sources. Avoid eating fresh water fish, particularly swordfish and tuna as they may contain too much mercury.
Avoid eating liver also which could contain vitamin A in higher quantity and can harm the baby. Also avoid overly fatty, sugary and salty foods.