Nutrition during Pregnancy

What to Eat During Pregnancy?

Nutrition is important at every stage of our lives, more so during pregnancy. It is indeed a time to think about diet and nutrition without making too many dramatic changes from what one is used to normally. It is important for all pregnant women to make a good choice of their meals and consume nutrient rich food, irrespective of whether it is vegetarian or non-vegetarian. It is good to refrain from foods high in fat, sugar or loaded with calories.

Why is nutrition so important during pregnancy?

The nutritional status of the pregnant woman influences pregnancy in a big way. When mothers-to-be consume nutrition deficient food, babies are born with a low birth weight. Low birth weight can lead to further complications and can cause infant deaths and developmental disabilities.

There are many changes that take place in the body of a woman during pregnancy. These changes include preparation for the growth of the fetus and to equip the mother for labor, delivery and lactation places a demand on the increased nutritional needs of the mother.

Contrary to abounding myths about the inadequacy of a vegetarian diet during pregnancy, experts have reiterated that a vegetarian diet that comprises nutritious whole foods is indeed a very healthy option for pregnant women.

During pregnancy, only a modest increase in calorie is needed. In fact, during the first trimester, there is no need for additional calories. In the second trimester, an additional 340 calories is required per day and during the third trimester, an additional 450 calories is needed. 

Trimester-Wise Nutrition for Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is a journey of 9 months. In these 9 months journey, your womb generates a life. For your neonate all the initial developments like brain or bones happens in-side the womb. During your pregnancy, intake of proper vitamins & quality diets help in the better development of your hidden treasure. To explain better, we divided these 9 months into 3 Trimesters. First Trimester is considered from 1st month to 3rd month, 3rd to 6th month is called second Trimester and whereas, Third Trimester is 7th month to the date of delivery.

In the Early Trimester of pregnancy after egg fertilization placenta takes place. With the completion of first month your baby is like a grain of rice. Second month is the time to grow in size grows big. The face, base of ears, hands & legs, root of fingers & toes developed during second & third month of pregnancy. With the end of third month, your baby is 7 to 10 centimeter long with 25 to 30 gram weight.

During Trimester 2, in the 4th, 5th & 6th months along with the growth of ears, nose, hands, legs, toes & fingers additionally brain, nerves & genitalia system also develops. Finally in the stage of third trimester, bones & the physical growth happens in the baby.

Depending upon the trimester & the area of developments, you have to plan your diet. To guide you better here, let us share month by month nutrition requirements for a healthy baby. 

Trimester I (1st month to 3rd month): 

You are in your first trimester and are physically and mentally adjusting to the idea of a new life growing inside you. Many women suffer from morning sickness and are unable to eat what they normally do in the pre- pregnancy time. Fortunately, during the first trimester, no extra calories are needed.

But, the first few weeks of gestation are very crucial as the baby’s brain, skull and spine are developing at this stage. During this time, there is a requirement for adequate amount of folic acid or folate, which helps in the normal development of the baby’s skull, brain and spinal cord. Folate helps in protecting the growing baby from neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Only regular diets are not sufficient for a pregnant lady. In the early stage of your pregnancy, give priority to eat calorie- rich foods. Intake of 300 gram calories per day generates healthy sign, in a pregnant woman. To guide you few calories rich foods are: salmon, tuna, milk, dairy products, eggs, whole wheat pasta, pomegranate juice, pineapple juice, nuts, meat & dried fruits. With calories, take 70 gram protein every day. Top protein rich foods are: hemp seeds, yogurt, cottage cheese, quinoa & shrimp. During Trimester 1, eat more green vegetables, drink sufficient water in the day & while going to bed at night drink a glass of milk.

Folic acid is available in abundance in dark green leafy vegetables, which includes okra, spring greens, kale, cabbage and spinach etc. Pulses like beans, chick peas, and lentils also have folic acid. Other options for folic acid include legumes, nuts, baked potatoes, corn, oranges, asparagus and fresh peas. Experts also advise pregnant women to consume foods fortified with folic acid like whole grain breads, breakfast cereals and bran flakes. Brown rice also contains folic acid. In addition,

pregnant women must consume 600 μg of Folic acid per day. Folic acid through diet and supplements is required to protect against infections, anemia and help the brain development of the growing fetus.

Expectant mothers in the first trimester must have adequate amounts of calcium which is required for baby’s bones and teeth. Good food sources of calcium are low fat cheeses, yogurt, skimmed milk, bread, oranges, dried fruits, almonds, green leafy vegetables, breakfast cereals and apricots.

It is also good to get some sun, especially during the early morning for the skin and natural vitamin D which is formed after exposure to the sun. Asparagus and fortified margarine are also good to have as they contain Vitamin D which aids the absorption of calcium.

Some Pointers:

In the first trimester, many women complain of nausea. It is good to keep away from strong odors which may trigger the uncomfortable feeling. It is advisable to consume small meals and at more frequently. Avoid drinking fluid along with meals; you can do so in-between meals.

Trimester II (3rd month to 6th month): Second trimester, is the time for bones & brain development of the baby. In 3rd, 4th & 5th months with your regular diets give priority to consume more calcium & iron rich foods. Pregnant women also need to increase their calorie intake by an additional 340 calories per day. 

Few of the calcium rich foods are: green vegetables, orange juice, spinach, mushroom, milk, soybeans, yogurt & cheese. For iron rich foods, you can eat: bananas, beans, tofu, spinach and cereals. 

During this period skin development happens of the baby. To develop more whiten skin for your baby; consume saffron regularly from 3rd month to 9th month. Every day twice with little warm milk mix saffron & drink.

In addition to the supplements and diet of the first trimester, it is important to have a diet rich in Vitamin C. During this period Vitamin C is required to form collagen, which is an important component of tendons, bones, skin and cartilage. It is good to consume fruits and vegetables, which are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in abundance in citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges and in other fruits such as grapes, berries, kiwi, pineapple and guavas. Vegetables such as bell peppers, spinach, and broccoli are also rich in Vitamin C. Fruit juices made from oranges, grapes and guavas also provide Vitamin C. Prenatal vitamin supplements containing Vitamin C may also be good to consume in addition to dietary sources of the nutrient.

Omega-3 (DHA) is also needed for the development of the nervous system and the brain. It also contributes to the development of the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids is also found in legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and also abundantly found in some vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower and sesame. 

Mothers-to-be also need to consume foods rich in magnesium in the second trimester. This is because magnesium works to strengthen the bones and also alleviate cramps in the expectant mother. Vegetarian sources of magnesium include oatmeal, bran flakes, wheat bran, beans, legumes, cashews, nuts, soybeans, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Fruits such as raisins, avocado and banana are also rich in magnesium.

Some Pointers:

  • During the second trimester, you must consume 5 portions of vegetables and fruits daily
  • Drink more water
  • Stay active by walking for at least 30 minutes, 4-5 days a week
  • Include more whole grain products in your diet 

Trimester III (6th month to the date of delivery) – This is the last phase of your pregnancy. It is an exciting time as mothers to be are now closer to the day when they would be holding their bundle of joy. Just as the nutrition is important in the first and second trimester, in the third trimester too women need to follow the nutrition plan similar to the previous two trimesters. The only change is to consume an additional 450 calories a day to meet the needs of the baby. During Trimester 3

eat whole grains, beans, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits & berries and weekly once eat meat & fish while calcium & iron intake would remain the same.

Suggestions for the additional calories:

  • Have a cup of low fat milk or soy milk with fruits – fruit smoothie
  • Two jacket potatoes with 25grams of low fat cheese.
  • Have a fresh fruit
  • A teaspoon or two of low fat cheese spread on 3 slices of whole meal toast
  • 1 whole wheat muffin with 1tsp of low fat cheese.
  • A bowl of raw vegetables
  • Increase the amount of fluids and dietary fiber in the diet to prevent constipation.
  • Vegan diets are loaded with nutrition and are adequate to meet the growing needs of the mother and fetus during pregnancy. One doesn’t need to change to a non-vegetarian diet just because of pregnancy. Plant based diets do work their magic to meet both the mother’s and baby’s requirements. With a structured diet plan, it is possible to achieve all the nutritional needs of pregnancy.

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