Pregnancy Nutrition 101: What to Eat for a Healthy Pregnancy Journey

"One of the most beautiful phases of many women's lives is their pregnancy! The joy of bringing a new life into the world, the happiness of strengthening the family bonds and getting even closer to your life partner by starting a whole new chapter of your life is as scary as it is exciting. For every small or big decision, you make in this phase of your life, you will think 10 times about the impact and effect on your baby and your pregnancy. This holds especially true when it comes to your food habits.  In modern times, lifestyle and food habits have become so convenience-based that many have forgotten the art of mindful and healthy eating. When you are expecting a baby, everything you eat affects you and your baby. Thus, although this should be a lifelong habit, eating healthy is extremely important, at least during pregnancy.  In this article by Care for Child, we will discuss the importance of eating healthy and nutrition during pregnancy, things that should be added to your daily diet, things that should be avoided and talk about some common pregnancy-related health concerns and how a good meal plan and proper nutrition can help you overcome those. Happy Reading!

How Much Should You Eat During Pregnancy

The famous saying is, ""Eat for two while pregnant."" But, doing that can harm you and your baby. Eating twice, as usual, can substantially increase your weight and affect your blood sugar and other vitals that should be maintained well during the pregnancy. If you are pregnant with a singleton baby, all you need is 340 – 350 extra calories, while if you are carrying twins, you will not need more than 600 extra calories a day for good health. Your nutritional requirements during pregnancy are more healthy vitamins, nutrients, and minerals than calories and carbohydrates. Preparing a pregnancy nutrition chart with the help of an expert and following the same diligently will help you keep your health on track. 

What Are the Essential Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy 

 In this section, we will talk about all the essential nutrients you need to consume during your pregnancy, how those will help you and your baby, and the most common Indian food sources for those nutrients. 
  • Folic Acid
Vitamin B9, Folate and Folic Acid forms are essential for a pregnant woman. If you have been planning your pregnancy, the chances are that your gynaecologist would have already started you on Folic acid supplements. In case of unplanned pregnancy, along with other supplements, Folic acid is the first supplement your doctor will start the day your pregnancy test returns positive.  
  1. Importance in baby's growth & development – During the early phases of your pregnancy, when your baby is developing, folic acid plays a vital role in forming the neural tubes. It also helps prevent significant congenital disabilities in your baby's brain and spine, such as Anencephaly and Spina Bifida.  
  2. Sources – Some known and commonly available sources of folic acid in Indian diets are legumes such as beans, peas and lentils, Asparagus, Eggs, Leafy green vegetables, and beets. 
  • Iron
Iron is one of the most common minerals that our human body needs. Many people are found deficient in iron, and their haemoglobin levels go low due to this deficiency. During pregnancy, you must maintain a healthy level of iron and haemoglobin in your body. 
  1. Importance in baby's growth & development – Iron is essential for your baby's brain development in the initial two trimesters of your pregnancy. In the last trimester, your baby's body will store this iron, which will be used to maintain a healthy iron level until your baby does not start eating solid foods after six months. 
  2. Sources – Some of the most common sources of Iron in Indian foods are Spinach, Tomatoes, Green Peas, Broccoli, Sweet Potato, Green Beans, Strawberries, Watermelon & all green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, etc. 
  • Calcium
    1. Importance in baby's growth & development – Apart from the importance of Calcium for you as a mother who needs strong bones & muscles to have a healthy childbirth, Calcium is equally crucial for your baby's developing teeth and bones. Calcium also boosts your baby's rapidly developing muscles, heart, and nerves. 
    2. Sources -The most common sources of Calcium for Indian meals are Calcium-fortified cereal, oranges, milk, cheese, yoghurt/curd, salmon & spinach. 
  • Vitamin D
    1. Importance in baby's growth & development – Vitamin D is essential for overall foetal development. However, it is more critical for foetal skeletal development and tooth enamel formation.   
    2. Sources – The most common sources of Vitamin D for Indian meals are Fish, Milk, Fruit Juices and Eggs. 
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
    1. Importance in baby's growth & development – Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for your developing baby's brain, eyes, and nervous system development. It also helps reduce your baby's risk of preterm labour and low birth weight. 
    2. Sources – The most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids for Indian meals are eggs, salmon fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. 
  • Vitamin C
    1. Importance in baby's growth & development – Vitamin C adds to your and your baby's immunity. Your baby is born with a better ability to repair tissues and heal wounds if they have enough store of Vitamin C in their body. Vitamin C also helps in the overall development of bones, teeth, brain, and nervous system.  
    2. Sources - The most common sources of Vitamin C for Indian meals are all citrus fruits such as oranges, sweet lime, kiwi, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, red, green & yellow pepper, sweet potatoes & kale. 

What To NOT Eat/Drink During Pregnancy 

While most daily food items are safe during pregnancy, there are certain things an expecting mother should stay away from. The following can cause harm to you and your baby during your pregnancy and thus must be avoided: 
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Unpasteurised milk
  • Soft cheeses 
  • Undercooked eggs and meats 
  • Unwashed fruits & vegetables
  • Pre-prepared food
  • Excessive caffeine in tea and coffee 

Some Common Pregnancy-Related Health Issues That Can Be Tackled with Nutrition

  • Morning Sickness – Research shows that ginger can be very effective in tackling morning sickness. Having ginger green tea, adding a few drops of ginger juice in water, and consuming it, or just keeping a small piece of ginger below your tongue and sucking it can help combat morning sickness. 
  • Constipation – The iron supplement and added iron in your diet can lead to constipation during pregnancy. Drinking more water and eating fibre-rich food such as wheat bran, vegetables & whole grains can help relieve constipation. 
  • Gestational Diabetes – Overall, eating a balanced diet and avoiding any fatty and fried foods during pregnancy can help you avoid getting gestational diabetes. Moreover, you can add more protein and vegetables to your diet to prevent gestational diabetes. 
In conclusion, eating a healthy and nutritious diet is crucial during pregnancy as it affects both the mother and the baby's health. It is important to consume the right amount of essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin C. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid certain foods and drinks that can cause harm to themselves and their baby. By following a healthy meal plan and incorporating the right foods, common pregnancy-related health issues such as morning sickness, constipation, and gestational diabetes can be tackled effectively. "
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