FOODS TO EAT
1. A well balanced diet, which consists of all the basic food groups
The basic food groups consist of carbohydrate, fruits and vegetables, protein, dairy and fats. Fats and carbohydrates are important to provide the energy necessary to get through each day. In addition, protein is vital in ensuring the proper growth of fetal tissue including the brain. It also helps with breast and uterine tissue growth during pregnancy. Many specialists in obstetrics and gynecology recommend a 55-35-10 split for a healthy diet for pregnant women. They recommend that 55% of calories per day should be obtained from the carbohydrate group (bread, pastas, rice, corn, potatoes) while 35% of calories per day should come from fat (butter, oils, dairy products). The remainder 10% of calories per day should come from protein (meat, eggs, beans, dairy products).
As long as you are able to consume a fairly good amount of good calories, it is not a must to stuff yourself. Nausea/vomiting during pregnancy might prevent you from eating right, remember, try your best, it is good for you and your baby!
2. Taking vitamins and supplements
Consultation with your regular doctor is important to decide which vitamins and supplements to take. Taking more than the recommended dosage might be harmful. The consumption of vitamins and supplements along with a healthy diet will give the extra boost that a woman’s body will need to add to the baby’s development.
A. Folic acid (folate)
Recommended dose: 0.6 -0.8 mg daily
Benefits: Important in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Sources of folic acid: Many food such as beans, peanuts, orange juice and cereals provide folic acid. However, it is difficult to obtain the adequate amount of folic acid through food. Thus, it is suggested for pregnant women to take prenatal vitamins containing folic acid.
Recommended dose: 27mg daily (during pregnancy)
Benefits: Iron is needed to make extra blood (haemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron helps transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and to your baby. Getting enough iron can prevent iron deficiency anemia. It is a condition in which the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Anemia often make you feel tired or can cause your baby to be born prematurely.
Sources of iron: Foods that are rich in iron are meat, poultry and plant based foods as well as supplements. There are two types of iron, heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron are easily absorbed by the body and are found in most meats. For example, chicken, pork, beef and turkey. Non-heme iron, on the other hand is found in beans, spinach and tofu. Obtaining enough iron from your food might be difficult especially if you are a vegetarian. Therefore, do consult your regular doctor so that he or she can watch your iron or haemoglobin levels more carefully.
Recommended dose: 1 200mg daily
Benefits: Calcium aids bone development and helps lower the mother’s blood pressure. A study published in the "Journal of Epidemiology" determined that pregnant women who suffered from low calcium levels are more at risk of lead poisoning.
Sources of calcium: Milk and dairy products are a main source of calcium. Eating canned fish and calcium-fortified cereals are also great ways of obtaining calcium. You should aim to consume 3 cups of dairy products or other calcium-rich foods a day.
D. Vitamin D
Recommended dose: 4 000 IU daily
Benefits: Vitamin D has the greatest benefit to prevent preterm labour/birth and infections. Vitamin D has now an extensive research supporting its role in immune function, healthy cell division and bone health. It is important for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. Vitamin D also promotes the health bone development of your baby.
Sources of Vitamin D: There is a short list of foods that contain vitamin D. These foods include egg yolk, salmon and cod liver oil. However, you can consume vitamin D through fortified foods like milk. In addition, vitamin D can be obtained through the exposure of sunlight. However, many factors influence the body’s ability to make and absorb vitamin D. This includes the region where you live the season, how much time is spent outdoors without sunscreen, and skin pigmentation. These factors come in to play because vitamin D is a hormone, which needs sunlight in order for the body to manufacture it properly.
FOODS TO AVOID
1. Avoid any calcium supplements that include bone meal or dolomite
These supplements might contain harmful amounts of mercury and other toxic substances.
2. Avoid alcohol
Drinking during pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby. The more you drink the greater the risk. Your baby cannot process alcohol as well as you and too much exposure is detrimental to their development. Alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. Asides from that, heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause your baby to suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS have poor growth, facial abnormalities and learning and behavioural problems.
3. Avoid smoking
Smoking during pregnancy results you to be more at risk of suffering from a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. The smoke inhaled can affect the growth of your unborn baby resulting him/her to have a low birth weight.
4. Avoid eating raw or under-cooked food
Under-cooked seafood or meat should be avoided because of the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis and salmonella.
5. Avoid caffeine
Most studies have shown that moderate caffeine intake is permissible. However, there are others that show that caffeine intake might lead to miscarriages. Hence, it is best to avoid caffeine during the first trimester to reduce the likelihood of a miscarriage. As a general rule, caffeine should be limited to fewer than 200 mg per day during pregnancy.
So, did you find these tips helpful? Do you think there is something else that is essential as well? Do let us know!
1. Diet for Pregnant Women
2. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
4. American Pregnancy Association
5. Baby Centre
by Shu Ying Chee
I live by this quote, “Prevention is better than cure”. This is why I am a strong believer in practicing a healthy lifestyle… and so should you! View all articles by Shu Ying Chee.