The importance of a pregnancy diet
A pregnancy diet is a diet that is designed for an expectant mother. Luckily, being pregnant doesn’t mean a big change in lifestyle. Many people have exaggerated claims about what is needed for the best nutrition for mother and child. Though pregnancy requires doctor’s visits and much preparation, when it comes to diet you will only need to do a few adjustments.
One unusual behavior of pregnant women is the craving for unusual foods. About half of all women report craving at least one food during pregnancy. While some say that these are related to nutritional deficiencies, a number of studies have found that there isn’t a link between the craving and nutritional demands. That doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely – the key is moderation – if you are craving a Cheez Whiz sandwich, go ahead and indulge, but if you feel like eating nothing but the gooey yellow spread, then best if you bring some basic precepts of nutrition back into your diet.
If you are without sufficient nutrients, your body will prioritize the health of the child and your own needs may go unmet. You may notice feeling tired or lacking energy. How insufficient nutrients affects your health and that of the child will depend on which nutrients you are lacking. Before you get to this point, it’s a good idea to find out what you are missing and rectify it. Unhealthy diets, e.g. those high in saturated fats or processed foods can also affect the health of the child, and can be a trigger for diseases such as diabetes, childhood obesity, and others.
You will, however, need plenty of protein while pregnant to promote your baby’s growth and to help develop a healthy brain, and uterine tissue. It is recommended that high proteins foods be taken for lunch they can be processed more efficiently than at night. 75 to 100 grams of protein per day is the usual recommendation for a healthy pregnancy diet.
In the last months, calcium is released from the maternal bones to provide for the baby, so increased dairy, soy, greens and seaweed are useful. Experts recommend approximately 1000 milligrams Calcium per day to help make baby’s teeth and bones strong.
A well-balanced pregnancy diet will also include a combination of iron along with sodium and potassium to prevent the mother from becoming anemic and to regulate blood volumes. 27 milligrams of iron per day is the ideal intake while pregnant.
Also, folic acid is an essential part of pregnancy nutrition as it plays a major role in reducing risks of birth defects including spina bifida.
Guide to a pregnancy diet
When you are pregnant you need to eat about an average of 300 extra calories daily for a baby during the first trimester, or about 600 calories for twins. 300 extra calories is equivalent to about two glasses of skim milk and a bowl of oatmeal – maybe not the chocolate Sunday you were hoping for. That increases to 350 calories during the second trimester, and about 500 calories daily right at the end of the pregnancy. Here’s what you need.
- Extra protein: Lean meat, poultry, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy.
- Extra vitamin B1: Peanuts, whole grains, yeast extract, sunflower seeds.
- Extra vitamin B2: Yeast extract, some dairy.
- Extra folic acid (or folate): Sweet corn, broccoli, asparagus, yeast extract, legumes .
- Extra vitamin C: Fresh fruit – particularly citrus, kiwi, berries, capsicums.
- Extra calcium: Dairy, fish, leafy greens, soy products.
- Extra iron (during last 6 months of pregnancy): Dark-green leafy vegetables, red and other meats, legumes, whole grains.
Foods to avoid
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs: Avoid these as they may contain Salmonella
- Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, blue-vein cheeses: May also contain Listeria
- Coffee: Do not take more than 300mg per day (e.g. 4 cups of instant coffee).
- Liver (and liver paté): It contains a type of Vitamin A called retinol, that can be toxic in high amounts.
- Alcohol: Avoid alcohol completely.
- Cigarettes: Avoid cigarettes and coming into contact with passive smoke.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting everything you need is to follow the Choose MyPlate pregnancy diet guide provided by the US government and add a pre-natal vitamin daily. A good pregnancy diet follows the basic principals of nutrition and adds a few extra calories. If you are having pregnancy cravings, feel free to indulge, but do it in moderation. If you are in good shape and healthy, you won’t only feel great, you’ll give an excellent gift to your unborn baby.
For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more about Pregnancy & Babycare here.
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