Healthy Eating During Pregnancy – What Should Be The Ideal Diet?

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy – What Should Be The Ideal Diet?

There is nothing more important than taking utmost care of the developing baby during pregnancy. Eating a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for your growing child as well as for yourself. When a pregnant woman considers a ‘healthy diet’ it should be a balance diet of both quality and quantity.

Both these factors are extremely important as it not only affects your health but health of your baby too. Good amount of weight gain should be priority of every pregnant woman.

What should be the ideal weight gain during pregnancy?

The exact amount of weight a woman should gain depends on variety of factors and from person to person. But in general, a normal woman should gain 5-11 kgs, an underweight woman should gain 15-20 kgs while an overweight woman should be gaining around 4.5-5 kgs. These are just approximate range, the dietician and gynecologist can better advice you on the topic.

What is balanced eating in pregnancy?

In pregnancy, you are eating for two. But that does not mean you have to consume twice the amount of food. That’s the rule of the thumb. Secondly, a pregnant woman requires around 300 calories a day that should be high in nutrients, but that too depends from where these calories are coming from. If you are consuming junk food or sugary drinks, the calories coming out of these foods does not fulfill the nutritional needs of your baby.

Make sure your meals have good combination of protein, carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables. For knowing the appropriate balance of diet, try to aim for following goals during the course of pregnancy.

1. Targeting Calories

First Trimester - Approx 1,800 calories/day
Second Trimester - Approx 2,200 calories/day
Third Trimester - Approx 2,400 calories/day

Pro tip - Eat eggs, whole grains and dried fruits to meet the increased calorie requirement especially during the second and third trimester.

2. Targeting Protein

Protein is the major source of building blocks of cells. Try to consume 75-100 grams of protein everyday, around 30 grams per meal.

Pro tip – Best source of protein comes from animal that include chicken, fish and eggs that contains omega-3 fatty acids. There are plenty of options for vegetarian too which are rich in protein. These include dairy products, beans, legumes and oats as well.

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Protein Guide – Food Sources And How Much Protein We Need
Protein Guide – Food Sources And How Much Protein We Need

3. Targeting Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates is one of the crucial macronutrients you have to pay utmost attention. Foods containing carbohydrates can affect blood glucose levels. When these foods are consumed, insulin hormone jumps into action and help move glucose from the blood into the cells, increasing blood glucose level.

Any unwanted spike in the blood glucose level can give rise to many complications including gestational diabetes. However, one should not fear the carbohydrates. If you consume nutrient rich carbohydrates, then it is actually good for health. Consume 150-250 grams of carbohydrates per day and less if you are suffering from gestational diabetes.

Pro tip – Aim for 100 percent of whole grains, fresh fruits such as berries and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. You can also include non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrot and cauliflower to meet your daily carbohydrates requirement. 1 cup to 1 and a half cup containing the mixture of these foods is enough to fulfill daily carb requirement.

4. Targeting Fat

Many women tend to skimp on fat even in pregnancy. This should not be the case. Healthy fat are as important as healthy protein and healthy carbohydrates. Fat is especially crucial as it is responsible for the healthy brain and eye development of your baby. Some studies also suggest that fat may help prevent low birth weight.

Pro tip – Butter and ghee contains considerable amount of fat, so you should consume them in small amount only. Go for unsaturated fat found in vegetable and coconut oil. Don’t aim for more than 2 tablespoon per meal.

5. Targeting Calcium

Calcium is the most vital source of bone development of the baby as well as provides strength to bones of the mother. It also helps normal functioning of the nervous, circulatory and muscular systems of the body. A pregnant woman must include at least 1000 mg calcium in her daily diet. Try to aim for at least two glasses of milk each 250ml and 2 cups of yogurt a day.

Pro tip – Dairy products are best sources of calcium, especially yogurt which is a must for pregnant woman. Non-dairy products include fish, almonds, oranges and broccoli. If you are still not getting enough calcium from your diet, then consult your doctor for calcium supplements, available in both chewable and tablet forms. There are mainly two recommended types of calcium supplements; calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Where former requires less effort in absorption, latter can be well absorbed when taken with meals.

6. Targeting Iron

Iron is necessary to produce hemoglobin, a protein in the blood that carries oxygen to important tissues of the body. Pregnant woman need twice the amount of iron to fulfill blood and oxygen requirements of the baby. Not getting enough iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia and you might feel fatigued. Iron deficiency can increase the risk of premature birth or low birth weight of the baby.

Pro tip – Animal meat is the best source of getting iron. These include lean red meat, fish and poultry products. Beans, iron-fortified cereals and dry fruits such as cashew nuts, peanuts and almonds are excellent sources of iron.

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7 Foods to Prevent Iron Deficiency

7. Targeting Folic Acid

Folate is an important B vitamin that can help prevent abnormalities or neural defects in the baby. It also decreases the risk of premature delivery. Folic acid can be found in supplements and fortified foods. Every pregnant woman should start taking 400-800 mg of folic acid right before pregnancy and throughout the course of gestation.

Pro tip – You can pick cereals, legumes, black beans, chickpeas, mushroom, cauliflower and leafy green vegetables. Legumes, black beans, grapefruit and oranges are considered excellent sources of folate.

What should be the diet plan for twin pregnancy?

You must be excited how much you should eat during twin pregnancy. For a typical pregnant woman, minimum 300 calories is a must, but if you are expecting twins, then make sure you are adding extra 150-300 calories to your diet chart. In short, you need to have at least 450-600 calories if you are carrying multiple babies. These extra calories in numbers can be something about 2 cup of skim milk plus a cheese sandwich or 2 bowls of cereal filled with low-fat milk and banana.

For more appropriate and personalized diet plan, consult the gynecologist recommended dietician that will create a good diet chart for you. Remember, what you eat will directly affect your baby. So strive for the best of your child.

Sources

1. Have a healthy diet in pregnancy(2017, January 27). NHS read more
2. Eating During Pregnancy(2017). KidsHealth read more
3. Proper Nutrition during Pregnancy(n.d.). Ministry of Health Israel
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