The food you consume during pregnancy helps to provide sufficient nutrients for yourself as well as your growing baby. A well-balanced nutritious diet during pregnancy keeps you and your baby healthy and is required for your baby’s overall growth and development.
A diet consisting of the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and water constitutes a healthy diet. Some important nutrients to be included into your diet are:
Folic acid: Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the early stages of a developing foetus. Getting the recommended amount of folic acid alone from food may be difficult; hence, it is necessary to include folic acid supplements before and during your pregnancy. It is recommended that in the month prior to conception and first 3 months of pregnancy folic acid supplements of 500 mcg per day is taken.
Calcium and Vitamin D: A growing baby has high demands for calcium and vitamin D as bones and teeth develop. You can take in calcium through food or as supplements during pregnancy. Foods with high sources of calcium, such as milk, milk productsand broccoli, should be included in your regular diet. Vitamin D can be obtained from milk fortified with vitamin D and from exposure to sunlight.
Iron: During pregnancy,your body produces more blood to carry oxygen to the growing foetus; hence, the quantity of iron required for this transfer of oxygen, needs to beincreased. You should include iron-rich food such as fish, poultry, lean red meat, prunes and dried beans into your diet. Including vitamin C rich foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits, helps in faster absorption of iron in the body.
Fish: Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and an important nutrient for the development of your baby’s brain, before and after birth. Fatty fish like salmon is a good source of Vitamin D and sardines are rich in calcium. However, fish with high concentrations of mercury, such as shark and swordfish, should be limited or avoided during pregnancy as mercury is responsible for causing birth defects and damaging the baby’s nervous system.
Consumption of alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy. Caffeine intake should be minimized:
Doctors generally do not suggest a vegetarian diet while pregnant, but if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can continue with the same foods. Your doctor may suggest protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplements if you do not consume meat, eggs, milk products and seafood.
Foods to avoid in pregnancy:
Note: All salad, vegetables and fruit should be washed thoroughly before consuming