Women go through a great deal of hormonal, physiological, and physical changes during pregnancy. Pregnant women need about 300 extra calories per day. The way the mother nourishes her body during pregnancy will affect her own health as well as the baby’s.
By following some fairly easy nutrition guidelines, a mother can have a healthy pregnancy. In general, a mother can meet these increased nutritional needs by choosing a diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods, including fluids and water and by taking prenatal vitamins prescribed by the doctor. Eating a variety of foods from each food group every day will ensure that the mother is getting all the nutrients.
Each food group has something to offer the body. Grains like cereal and pasta are good sources of energy. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, antioxidants and fibre. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans offers protein, vitamins, folate and iron. Dairy products provide calcium and vitamins.
The daily requirement for various nutrients by a pregnant woman is as follows:
Protein – 75 mg, sources are lean meats, poultry, beans, milk, and cottage cheese. Protein is crucial for the baby’s growth.
Calcium – 1000mg, sources are fish, nuts, eggs, peanut butter, yogurt, cheese. Calcium is required for strong bones and teeth. It also helps circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run smoothly.
Folates (folic acid) – 600 mg, sources are liver, nuts, lentils, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables etc. Folate is a vitamin B that helps birth defects, like serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. The synthetic form of folate found in supplements and fortified foods is known as folic acid. Folic acid supplementation also decreases the risk of preterm delivery.
Iron – 27 mg, sources are dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, lean red meat, and poultry, eggs, dried fruits etc. Iron prevents anaemia. During pregnancy, the blood volume expands to accommodate changes in the mother’s body and helps make the baby’s entire blood supply.
If the mother does not get enough iron, she can become fatigued and more susceptible to infections. Preterm delivery and low birth weight might be higher.
There is no magic formula for a healthy pregnancy diet. In fact, during pregnancy the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same. The mother should get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.