Pregnancy is the most nutritionally demanding period of a woman’s life. A whole lot of physical changes at the time of pregnancy demands for good nutrition in order to give birth to a healthy baby. Women must not compromise with their dietary regime and should have a healthy diet pattern as proper and optimal nutrition is important to support the following:
- Growth of Placenta
- Blood volume
- Cardiac output
- Hormonal Changes
Diet plays an important role in the whole pregnancy which comprises of three trimesters. In every trimester there is variability in the nutritional needs of women.
So, let us know few dietary guidelines for every trimester in order to meet the increasing needs of both the pregnant woman as well as the growing fetus.
In this trimester (the first three months), a qualitative increase is what is required rather than a quantitative increase in the diet as there is no increase in the size of the fetus during this time. So, energy requirements remain the same with the increase in the need for other vitamins and minerals like the ones mentioned below
- Folic Acid- Folic Acid is important for the normal development of the brain, skull and spinal cord of the baby as they start forming within the few weeks of pregnancy.
Get your dose of folic acid from: Dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spring greens, kale, okra), pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils), corn, baked potatoes, asparagus, fresh peas, oranges, eggs, and foods fortified with folic acid (breakfast cereals, bran flakes, wholegrain breads.
Tip: Folic acid is heat sensitive and its effectiveness is lost during cooking. So, it should be consumed in either raw form or steamed form.
- Iron- The need for Iron increases at this time due to an increase in blood supply, to prevent anemia, infections, to support baby’s growth and to allow baby to build sufficient stores of iron for later use.
Get your Dose of Iron from: Most bioavailable or easily digestible form of iron is found in non-vegetarian sources like meat such as liver, fish seafood. Apart from this, it is found in eggs (especially the yolk). Other high nutrient density sources include Peas, legumes, green leafy vegetables, whole grains such as ragi, bajra, nuts, and oilseeds such as flax seeds, groundnuts, almonds, and walnuts.
Tip: For better iron absorption, include more of citrus fruits like orange, sweet lemon, berries, amla, and green leafy vegetables.
- Calcium- Calcium is important for the development of baby’s bones and later for the production of breast milk.
Get your Dose of Calcium from: Dairy products like milk, curd, cheese (low fat). It can also be obtained from cereals like ragi which is one of the richest sources. Pulses like soybean contain a good amount of calcium. Nuts like sesame seeds, almonds, green leafy vegetables, seafood like fish are good sources of calcium.
- Vitamin D is required by the body to utilize the calcium consumed from the diet. Only a few foods contain Vitamin D like fish liver oils, liver, egg yolk and other fortified foods like milk, cereals etc. Most of our Vitamin D requirement is met through 5-10 minutes of exposure to sunlight.
Coping with nausea in the first trimester
More than 50% of women face the issue of morning sickness at the beginning of pregnancy. To relieve the symptoms:
- Small frequent meals are better than the larger ones. Don’t keep your stomach empty for a longer time.
- Have high carbohydrate foods such as wheat biscuits, a toast or a fruit as soon as you wake up.
- Avoid pungent foods of a strong odor that makes can mark the sickness worse.
- Sip dry ginger or lemon water slowly to settle down nausea.
Second and Third Trimester:
There is an increased energy and nutrient requirement mainly in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
- Energy- The requirements for energy increases due to an increase in fetal growth, placental growth and an increase in material organs and body size. There is an increase in energy needs by 350 Kcal/day.
- Protein- There is an additional protein requirement in pregnancy to form an amniotic fluid, and to support the synthesis of maternal and fetal tissues. A good amount of protein is required to fulfill the daily requirements. Rich sources of protein include milk, meat, fish, poultry, soybean, and pulses.
- Vitamin C- Vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis and development of blood vessels.
Get your Dose of Vitamin C from: citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons), fruits and vegetables with a deep color (kiwi, berries, guavas) and dark green vegetables (spinach, Brussels’ sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli).
- DHA i.e Docosahexaenoic acid plays an important role in vision as well as in cognitive function.
Get your Dose of DHA (Omega-3) from : Fish, seafood, whole cereals, nuts and oilseeds like flax seeds.
- Magnesium is required for healthy growth of the uterus.
Get your dose of Magnesium from: Dark green vegetables, Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, whole cereals like oats, whole wheat, milk and milk products
- Vitamin B12- This is needed for all the important enzymatic reactions and biochemical processes in the body.
Get your Dose of Vitamin B12 from: Animal sources such as all meats, milk and milk products.
Coping with Constipation
Constipation is common during the latter half of pregnancy. To avoid or alleviate the symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids such as plain water, lemon water, buttermilk, soups etc.
- Increase the fiber intake and inculcate foods such as wholegrain cereals, porridge, fruits and vegetables, and prunes.
- Make sure you’re eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Limit the intake of refined cereals such as Maida, pasta, fried food etc.
- Regular exercise, walk, and yoga also help in reducing constipation
Coping with Heartburn
Heartburn may occur during any time in pregnancy. To relieve the symptoms:
- Avoid chocolates, fatty foods, alcohol especially before bedtime.
- Avoid acidic and spicy foods.
- Consume cold milk and dairy products.
- Eat slowly, drink fluids but not with meals.
- Eat small and frequent meals.
Over to You:
Pregnancy is the phase that requires utmost and intensive care during the period of nine months. Proper care regarding the diet and meal pattern plays a crucial role in the development of a healthy baby by a healthy mother.