If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know what it’s like to get conflicting advice from well-meaning friends and family about what you should and shouldn’t eat to safeguard your growing baby. It can be tough to differentiate fiction from fact, but the bottom line is simple: eat normally with a few minor, but significant, exceptions.
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- A well-balanced diet during pregnancy will include more vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. As a general guideline, aim for the following each day:
- 4 to 6 servings of bread/cereals, rice, noodles, and pasta (one serving equals two pieces of bread, one cup cooked rice/pasta/noodles, and half a cup muesli)
- 5 to 6 servings of vegetables and legumes (one serving equals one cup of salad, half a cup of vegetables/cooked beans/lentils); 4 servings of fruit (one serving equals one medium-sized piece of fruit, one cup of canned fruit, four dried apricots); 112 servings of protein (cooked meat, eggs, and nuts are the best sources for pregnant women);
- calcium servings (250ml milk, 2 slices of cheese or 200g yoghurt).
Most women do not need to increase their protein, carbohydrate, or fat intake. With the exception of folate, a B-group vitamin, most women will obtain all of the additional vitamins, nutrients, and minerals required for pregnancy through their food (also known as folic acid). Although folic acid is found in some bread, breakfast cereals, and fruit juices offered in Australia, most women do not get enough. There is good evidence that taking folate supplements before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy can help avoid nervous system disorders in the baby. One month before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a daily dose of 500 micrograms of folate is advised. Getting adequate omega 3 is also vital for a baby’s nervous system’s development and growth. Omega-3 rich foods include salmon, trout, herring, anchovies, sardines, and canned tuna. Calcium is needed by a developing baby for bone formation and strengthening. Calcium from foods such as hard cheese, milk, and yoghurt should be sufficient to cover the needs of both the mother and her baby. Finally, most women will see a natural reduction in iron storage later in the second trimester, which may be detected with a blood test. This iron deficiency can cause lethargy, dizziness, and, in extreme cases, tiredness or fainting. To mitigate the effects, eat cooked lean red meat (the best source of iron), green leafy vegetables, or cooked legumes like chickpeas. Remember that ingesting vitamin C through natural sources like fresh orange juice promotes iron absorption, whereas caffeine and dairy products might inhibit absorption. If you are unable to ingest the required amounts of essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, you may consider taking a supplement. However, you must do it in consultation with your healthcare provider.
Heartburn is frequent throughout pregnancy, especially in the later months when the baby’s weight presses on the stomach. Antacids can occasionally relieve heartburn, but they should be used with caution because they can aggravate reflux and produce further heartburn. Dairy products work as natural antacids, reducing heartburn.
Nausea or vomiting can impair your appetite in early pregnancy (and for some, all the way through). It normally subsides around the twelfth week, but in the meanwhile, ginger items and little bland snacks like crackers may help. Dehydration leads to nausea and vomiting, so drink to quench your thirst.
Foods to Avoid While Pregnant
Avoid eating processed or raw meat and fish. Bacteria can grow in ham, salami, sushi, pate, soft cheeses (such as camembert and brie), cold takeaway barbeque chicken, and ready-to-eat chilled peeled prawns. Listeria is a bacteria-caused infection that can cause miscarriage, preterm birth, and stillbirth in pregnant women. Pre-packaged salads, fruit salad, and sprouts may also be contaminated with pathogens like listeria and should be avoided. It is safe to make your own sushi (with cooked fish) or consume freshly cooked barbequed chicken while it is still hot.
Weight Increase that is Healthy
Pregnant women should eat according to their hunger and enjoy a range of freshly washed, cooked, and prepared foods. There’s no need to “eat for two” or consume whole milk. If you get hungry, some more fruits and vegetables and nutritious snacks should suffice. The recommended pregnancy weight gain for a woman is determined by her pre-pregnancy weight, with overweight and obese women requiring only a minor weight gain. During pregnancy, most women with a normal BMI should gain 12 to 18 kg. Extra protein, carbs, fat, or vitamin and mineral supplementation (except folate) are not necessary for this type of healthy weight gain.