A good diet is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle at any time, but it’s much more crucial if you’re expecting or planning a pregnancy. Healthy pregnancy eating habits will support the growth and development of your unborn child.
While you don’t need to follow a specific diet, it’s still vital to eat a wide range of foods daily to ensure that you and your baby are getting the proper nutrition. You need to have protein, essential vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, along with enough fibre.
Fluid intake is also essential because it helps with digestion, nutrient absorption and circulation, waste removal, and in the formation of the amniotic fluid around the foetus. It also helps reduce chances of urinary tract infections. Water should be your first choice, but you can have decaffeinated teas, herbal teas, coconut water, juices, and yoghurt-based drinks.
The best way to ensure that you get all the vitamins and minerals you need is to consume whole meals, but when you’re pregnant, you must also take a folic acid supplement.
You’ll undoubtedly feel more hungry than normal, but you don’t have to “eat for two.” Every morning, try to eat a healthy breakfast as this will prevent you from nibbling on unhealthy foods that are heavy in fat and sugar.
To maintain a diversified pregnancy diet which is also healthy, it’s necessary to alter the portions of various items rather than eliminate them.
Foods to eat during pregnancy
- Dairy: Besides cow milk or buffalo milk, the Indian diet gives you so many options to complete your diary quota like curd, buttermilk (savoury or sweetened), and cottage cheese (paneer). Dairy contains calcium along with whey and casein, which are both essential proteins. Dairy products can be counted as indispensable foods for pregnant women. If you are lactose intolerant, there are fortified plant-based products that are just as good. Tofu, tempeh, and soy milk are also tasty and nutritional replacements. Broccoli and kale are vegetable sources of dairy.
- Legumes: Lentils, beans (like cow peas, rajma, chickpeas), soybeans, and peanuts have fibre, protein, iron, folate, and calcium. Folate, a B vitamin, guards against significant issues with the foetus’s brain and spinal cord developing in the womb. You need to take somewhere between 400 mg to 600 mg in a day. Folic acid is a synthetic version of folate that is present in vitamins and foods that have been fortified and can be taken in supplement form. Your doctor will guide you on the amount that is suitable for you. Legumes also contain other vital nutrients like fibre, potassium, iron, and magnesium.
- Vitamin D-rich items: About 490 million Indians have been found to be Vitamin D deficient. If you are deficient, then taking supplements is helpful. Besides that, you can include this vitamin in your pregnancy diet in the form of fatty oily fish like salmon, fortified juices and milk, egg yolks, red meat, and fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin D helps build your foetus’s bones and teeth and will also help maintain the levels of phosphates.
- Eggs: Eggs can be cooked in just about any form, and have proteins, fats, and nutrients like choline that are important for your baby’s brain development. Choline also helps avert the chances of any prenatal abnormalities.
- Leafy greens: Winter is the season for many leafy greens like spinach, fenugreek leaves, and mustard seeds. There are regional leafy greens that you can consume depending on where you live. Not only will you get a good amount of fibre in your system that can help you avoid chances of pregnancy constipation, but you will also get the benefits of eating vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate, and potassium.
- Lean meat: If you eat meat on a regular basis, then switching out red meat for lighter, white cuts is a better idea. An occasional indulgence on red meat is fine, but lean meat brings with it so many benefits that will wow you. Iron, choline, and other B vitamins are found in meat. Iron is especially important because many pregnant individuals are at risk of anaemia, which raises the chances of low birth weight and other complications. If you are vegan or vegetarian, then you can have supplements as well as plant-based sources of iron like lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, quinoa, and whole grains.
- Berries and fruits: If you are looking for tasty and juicy fruits to eat during pregnancy, then look no further. Berries should be your first choice. You can enjoy strawberries, mulberries, blueberries, raspberries, and goji berries. Besides berries, you can have oranges, apples, mangoes, lemons, bananas, guavas, pears, apricots, pomegranates, grapes, and dried fruits (figs, prunes, raisins). Fruits contain folate, fibre, different vitamins including vitamin A, C, K, and are rich in antioxidants. There are no such fruits that you cannot eat during pregnancy. However, you must consider the portion size of each fruit because some of them have a high sugar content.
- Whole grains: Fibre and essential vitamins are abundant in whole grains. In place of pasta, white bread, and white rice, one can have whole wheat, oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, ragi, barley, and millet. Quinoa and oats are the examples of grains with a good quantity of protein. Moreover, they also contain B vitamins, fibre, and magnesium that most pregnant women are deficient in.
Pregnancy food to avoid
There is a wide range of food items that you can eat when you are pregnant. However, there is a list of foods that you should avoid because they can upset your stomach and your immune system may not be strong enough to battle certain types of bacteria. Here is a list of pregnancy food to avoid:
- Alcohol can lead to long-term harm like foetal alcohol syndrome
- Unpasteurised milk and milk products because they may contain the listeria bacteria
- Raw and undercooked meat (like sushi), cured meats (unless fully cooked) because they may have toxins or parasites
- Raw eggs or undercooked eggs can cause salmonella
- Certain fish that contain high levels of mercury like shellfish (crabs, lobster, shrimp, and prawn), tuna, shark, swordfish
- Organ meat because it contains high levels of vitamin A
- Lots of caffeine, which has been found to restrict foetal growth leading to low birth weight
- Raw sprouts are hard to digest and may also cause salmonella.
- Processed junk food, restaurant take out should be kept minimum if possible because it is low in nutrients but high in trans fats, sodium, and sugar.
Coping with pregnancy cravings
We have enough pop culture knowledge about how pregnancy can trigger overwhelming cravings. Cravings, food aversions, or newfound likings are all a part of this journey and depend on individual to individual. Ice cream, chocolate, other sweet meals, seafood, dairy items, and fruit are typical food cravings. You might even want to have a bizarre combination of a sour pickle with a cooling milkshake.
You can indulge in gastronomic desires while still giving your baby the nutrition they require to develop. Giving in to your cravings too frequently, though, may result in excessive weight gain. Abnormal blood pressure and gestational diabetes are made more likely by excessive weight gain.
Some tips to cope with pregnancy cravings are given here:
- Eat nutritious meals regularly to help minimise unexpected hunger pangs.
- Keep wholesome, healthy, and low-calorie snacks in your pantry. Word of caution: low calorie does not always translate to nutritious. So, be sure to read the label before you purchase them.
- Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.
- Opt for low glycaemic index foods like oatmeal, whole grains, beans because they will keep your tummy full for longer.
- Eat meals at regular intervals so your blood sugar level is not too high or too low.
- Include regular physical activity like yoga, walking, stretching.
- Drink enough water or fluids.
Some pregnancy can be harmful and a requirement for medical attention. You might develop pica, a potentially dangerous condition, if you have a strong desire to consume dirt, soap, and some different non-food when pregnant. Although just a small number of women crave drugs or alcohol in their pregnancy, the risk to the unborn child is too significant to give in to the desire. Reach out to your doctor to know more about how to manage these cravings.