Motherhood is a phase of life, every woman cherishes as it is an essential part of her life cycle. Studies have shown that well-nourished healthy young women give birth to healthy normal weight babies without any complications.
Pregnancy is a highly demanding period both physiologically and nutritionally as extra food is required to meet the extra nutritional demands of a growing Faetus.
Nutrients that require special attention
The daily diet of a pregnant woman should contain an additional 350kcal of energy, 0.5g of protein during the 1st
trimester, 6g of protein during the 2nd
trimester and 22.7g of protein during the 3rd
trimester of pregnancy. Some micronutrients are also specially required in extra amounts. These include:
- Folic acid: folic acid tablets should be taken throughout pregnancy to reduce the risk of congenital malformations and increase the birth weight of the baby.
- Iron: the mother and the growing Faetus require iron to meet the high demand of erythropoiesis (RBC formation).
- Calcium: it is essential during pregnancy and lactation for proper formation of bones and teeth of the baby, for secretion of breast milk rich in calcium and to prevent osteoporosis in the mother.
- Iodine: iodine intake through iodized salt ensures proper mental health of the growing Faetus.
The pregnant/ lactating woman should eat a wide variety of foods to make sure that her own nutritional needs as well as those of her growing Faetus are met.
Ideally, 60% of her energy requirement should be met eating whole grains and cereals like whole wheat, brown/red rice, parboiled rice and millets which meets her complex carbohydrate requirement.
Good quality protein is derived from milk, fish, poultry and eggs. However, a proper combination of cereals, pulses and nuts also provides adequate proteins from vegetarian sources.
Bioavailability of iron can be improved by using fermented and sprouted gram and foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits when eaten/ drunk along with iron rich foods increases the absorption of iron by the body. Milk and yogurt/curd is the best source of biologically available calcium.
As a routine, daily supplementation of iron. Folic acid. Vitamin B12 and calcium are prescribed by the gynecologist.
A pregnant woman should also drink 2.5-3L
of safe potable water and should avoid alcohol and quit smoking/chewing tobacco. Cooking salt should be less than 5g/ day
or 1 tsp/day
Avoid superstitions and food taboos.
Beverages like tea bind dietary iron and make it unavailable, hence they should be avoided before, during or soon after a meal.
- Eat at least 6-7 small and frequent meals.
- Drink plenty of fluids (water, buttermilk, tender coconut water). Avoid fruit juices but take whole fruits.
- Eat lots of vegetables and greens (at least 5-7 servings per day)
- Eat fruits (at least 2 servings per day)
- Choose low fat dairy products.
- Use fats and sweets sparingly.
- Minimize consumption of ready to eat foods, bakery items and processed foods.
- Eat foods rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA) such as legumes, green leafy vegetables, fenugreek and mustard seeds.
- Take regular walks, do deep breathing exercises and sleep adequately (8 hours at night).