A healthy lifestyle and a good diet are extremely vital during pregnancy. Along with all the important check-ups and scans, you need to take extra care with your nutritional needs as well. There are some foods that are a big no and there are some that will set you on a healthy route.
According to a recent study, women with poor diets before pregnancy are more likely to give birth prematurely than women who have healthy diets. So it is really essential to include a variety of options from different food groups every day to attain the correct balance of nutrients to keep you and your baby well-nourished.
Best Foods for Pregnancy
Here is a list of healthy foods for both mother and baby during pregnancy;
Milk and Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products cover your body’s needs for vitamin B-12, calcium, phosphorous, and protein. These nutrients are essential for developing your baby’s teeth, bones, muscles, heart, and blood clotting.
Calcium is vital for the foundation of your baby’s developing bones and therefore becomes even more important during the last few weeks of pregnancy. The recommended daily intake of calcium during pregnancy is 1 gram – 1.3 grams per day.
Foods such as semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat hard cheese provide good amounts of such nutrients. 1 cup of 2% milk contains approximately 293 mg of calcium, while 1 cup of low-fat yogurt contains approximately 415 mg of calcium. The active culture in yogurt prevents yeast infections as well as indigestion.
You should aim to take two to three servings of milk and dairy products each day that should meet the daily requirement.
Pregnant women should avoid consuming unpasteurized milk products, soft blue cheese and other cheese like brie and camembert as they may contain high levels of listeria.
Listeria can cause certain illnesses for the newborn baby, which can be fatal. You can choose from cottage cheese (paneer) or other hard cheese like cheddar and parmesan.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, improve digestion and help prevent constipation. The major nutrients present in this food group are folic acid, potassium, beta carotene, and vitamin C.
You should target eating at least five portions of different fruits and vegetables. Ensure that they have been washed thoroughly and that the vegetables are not overcooked in order to gain maximum nutritional value from them.
- Avocados – During pregnancy, the baby’s nervous system and brain development need a good amount of folic acid. Mothers who are folic acid-deficient before conception or during early pregnancy are at a greater risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Avocados are rich in folic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Vitamin B6-rich foods aid in morning sickness. However, avocados do have a high-fat content, so if you are overweight, keep a watch on its intake.
- Carrots and Broccoli – Carrots and broccoli are a good source of fiber, vitamin A, carotenoids, and vitamin C. Carrots are rich in alkaline elements, which rejuvenate the blood and balance the acid-alkalinity in the body. These nutrients are also important for the development of baby bones, eyes, and tooth buds that are developing under the gums. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are good detoxifiers and protect the baby against diseases during infancy and later as well.
- Spinach and Green Leafy Vegetables – Kale, spinach and other green leafy vegetables have vitamins such as A, C, K, and that very essential folic acid. They are also a good source of iron, which is required to carry oxygen around the body and to the baby.
- Amla or Indian Gooseberry – One serving of amla has 20 times more vitamin C than oranges, making it a very good antioxidant. Some of the health benefits of amla can be attributed to the presence of iron, carotene, phosphorus, and calcium contained in it. In Ayurveda, amla has been used to treat hemorrhoids, inflammation, anemia, and night-sightedness. Amla slices can be added to salads or can be enjoyed with a dash of honey as a dessert.
- Figs – Figs, either fresh or dried, contain immense amounts of fiber, as compared to any other tropical fruit or vegetable, that helps to alleviate constipation. A serving of three figs contains five grams of fiber. They also have a good amount of calcium, zinc, potassium, and iron and are therefore a very good option to be included in a pregnancy diet. The potassium content in figs is more than in bananas, which are so commonly praised for that mineral attribute. Potassium controls the blood pressure and prevents pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Dried figs contain a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids (“good cholesterol”) and are also a good source of vitamin B6 and contain a proteolytic enzyme that aids in digestion.
Poultry, Fish and Lean Meats
Pregnant women require more iron than those women that are not pregnant. The recommended daily intake of iron is 27 mg per day during pregnancy. Lamb, poultry, fish, eggs are some of the best sources of iron. To absorb enough iron from the source, the body needs foods rich in vitamin C to be consumed along with iron. You would also need to keep an eye on the caffeine intake, as it reduces iron absorption in the body.
- Eggs – Eggs are a good source of protein with a low amount of calories. The amino acids present in protein help in the development of the baby’s body. Eggs are an excellent source of omega-3 and choline, which are good for the healthy development of the baby’s retina, brain, and memory functions. While the cholesterol value is high in eggs, they have a relatively low level of saturated fat, with approximately 1.5 grams per egg. You should make sure to cook the egg all the way through. Raw or half cooked versions of eggs can cause salmonellosis which can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
- Fish – Salmon is an excellent source of high-quality proteins, minerals, and essential omega-3 fatty acids. It also has very low amounts of methyl mercury, which can be harmful to the baby’s nervous system, unlike swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, which are not recommended during pregnancy. Expectant mothers should not consume more than 12 ounces per week of salmon to avoid an excessive intake of mercury. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, are good sources of vitamin D as well. The recommended dose of vitamin D during pregnancy is 600 IU per day and three ounces of cooked sockeye salmon provides 447 IU according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23.
- Poultry and Lean Meat – Lean meat and poultry are rich in proteins. Remove the visible fat in the lean meats before cooking, since chemicals that livestock ingests tend to be concentrated in the fat of the animal. Free range chickens are not only less likely to be contaminated; they are also less likely to carry infections like salmonella.
Expectant mothers can benefit a lot from nuts. They supply a wide variety of nutrients, including vitamin E and important minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium, selenium, zinc, potassium, and calcium.
Walnuts provide brain-boosting DHA (Docosahexenoic acid) for the baby. If you are a vegetarian and would not opt for fatty fish, walnuts can provide you with your share of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They can be added to salad, porridge, or other varieties of baked food.
Beans and Lentils
Along with this, they also provide the required amounts of protein and fiber. As the movement in the gastrointestinal tract slows down during pregnancy, the fiber will help prevent constipation.
Whole grains play an extremely essential role in a pregnancy diet if you want it to be balanced. They have a high fiber content and other vital nutrients like vitamin E, B (B1, B2, folic acid, and niacin), selenium, and phytonutrients (a plant compound that protects body cells). Vitamin B helps the body release energy from the protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Foods like whole grain bread, whole-wheat, cornmeal, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa are very nutritious. Whole grains are an important source of carbohydrates, which provide energy in the form of glucose to the red blood cells. This then reaches the placenta and the fetus during pregnancy.
- Vote for Oat – Oats are rich in vitamins B, iron, and other minerals. They are also full of fiber and will keep you satisfied for a long time. They can be taken as a part of a healthy breakfast with or without milk. Oats can also be added to pies and other baked stuff to boost the nutritional power of these foods.
Bottoms Up With Water
Water always acts as the base for a healthy toxin-free body. Drinking adequate amounts of water ensure digestion, blood circulation and facilitate the absorption of required nutrients.
It also helps to transport vitamins, minerals, and essential hormones to the blood cells, which later reach the baby through the placenta. You should aim to drink 7-8 glasses of water every day. This also helps to prevent constipation and hemorrhoids.
Drinking enough water also prevents urinary tract infections, which can be caused if the urine stays in the bladder for an extended period of time. The color of your urine normally indicates whether your body is sufficiently hydrated or not. If the color of the urine is light to clear yellow, that indicates your body is well hydrated.
Your body also needs more fluids in case you are suffering from morning sickness and nausea, because the body loses its hydration during that time.
Apart from water, you can also choose from low-fat milk, diluted fruit juice, buttermilk, and clear soups. These options provide better nutrition than other soft drinks or caffeinated drinks, which are high in sugar and can be harmful if taken in large quantities.
Ample healthy fluids keep the body cool and moisturized, especially when the inner furnace is pumping up and makes you feel less exhausted. Water also keeps a check on water retention problems during pregnancy.
- Coconut Water – The electrolytic balance of coconut is the same as that of our blood. It is available naturally in its purest form and is free of cholesterol and fats. It encourages the level of good cholesterol, which is HDL and is rich in chlorides, potassium, and magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure and heart functions. The body’s salt loss during vomiting and dehydration can be refilled through the intake of coconut water. Due to the presence of high levels of lauric acid, which is used by the human body to make monolaurin (an infection-fighting derivative), coconut water has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Coconut water acts as a natural diuretic and increases the flow and frequency of urine, which prevents urinary tract infections. All these wonderful benefits come with the bonus of low calories. A cup of coconut water contains just 46 calories and is more than 90% normal water.
For staying healthy, a pregnant woman should choose from diverse food groups every day to make it a delicious, nutritious, and sumptuous diet. Eating everything in moderation will help maintain your body’s balance, while still supplying all the essential nutrients and compounds that your baby needs.
As every pregnancy is different, some women may find consuming one food more difficult or unpleasant, while it’s normal for others. In case you feel some food is drawing you towards nausea or upsetting your bowel movements, then it is advised to take a break from it for a while, consult your doctor, and try looking for some other healthy alternatives to fill up that share of nutrition.
Have a happy, healthy pregnancy!