The items mentioned below should be consumed right from the onset of pregnancy.
- Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts: These foods provide protein, iron and zinc. During pregnancy, especially the second half of pregnancy, there is an increased demand for protein. This is essential to meet the growing tissue demands of the baby.
- Milk, yogurt and cheese: This group is a major source of protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins. The mother’s body needs a lot of calcium and dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium.
- Fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, melons, berries are the best sources of Vitamin C and A, potassium and fibre. It is easy to eat three or more servings of fruit a day. For example, juice or fresh fruit for breakfast, fresh or dried fruit for a snack, a fruit salad with lunch and a cooked fruit dessert with dinner.
- Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables like spinach, other vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, green peas and potatoes contain vitamin A and C, folate and minerals such as iron and magnesium. Being low in fat and containing fibre helps to alleviate constipation during pregnancy.
- Bread, cereals and rice: This group of foods provides complex carbohydrates, an important source of energy, in addition to vitamins, minerals and fibre. These products are also a good source of protein, which is the building material of body tissue for the mother and her baby.
- Fats, oils and sweets: Should be used sparingly, as these products contain calories, but few vitamins or minerals. Low-fat food is ideal for pregnant women.
- Iron- rich foods: Many women are anaemic from monthly blood loss, improper diet or previous pregnancies. Foods such as meat, raisins, beans and spinach contain high iron level. The body is able to absorb iron when consumed with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, potatoes and broccoli.
- Folic Acid: Foods rich in folic acid include liver, deep green leafy vegetables. Pregnancy doubles a woman’s need for folic acid.
- Water: All body systems need water. Especially when one is pregnant, the body needs even more water to stay hydrated and support the life inside the mother’s womb. Water also helps prevent constipation, haemorrhoids, excessive swelling and urinary tract infections. Not getting enough water can lead to premature or early labor.
Most foods are safe for pregnant women and their babies. But mothers need to use caution or avoid eating certain foods. Given below are some guidelines:
- Clean, handle, cook and chill food properly to prevent food borne diseases.
- Wash hands with soap after touching soil or raw meat.
- Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood from touching other foods or surfaces.
- Wash and cook meat properly.
- Wash cooking utensils with hot soapy water.
- Avoid eating refrigerated and smoked seafood like salmon and mackerel.
- Avoid unpasteurized milk or juices.
- Avoid herbs and plants like juices of raw bitter gourd and unripe papaya.
- Avoid eating raw sprouts like moong sprouts, clover, radish etc.