A balanced and nutrition rich diet is extremely important during pregnancy as it has a direct impact not only on mother but on the growth and development of the baby as well. The impact of this is not only seen on the pregnancy but also on adult life, this is the basis of onset of fetal origin of adult diseases. There is no magic formula or superfoods that you need to consume as soon as you receive the good news. It is all about fine-tuning your diet and making correct food choices to include the right components that will fulfill the nutrient requirements in the body. The mantra should be, do not eat more but eat smart.
Also read: Nutritious Diet: 5 Key Points To Remember To Keep Up A Well-Balanced Diet
5 Essential Diet Components To Ensure Proper Nutrition During Pregnancy:
Proteins are known as the building blocks of the body, hence prove to be extremely crucial for the baby's growth and development throughout pregnancy. It also helps in development of the baby's skin, hair, fingernails and muscles. There are a variety of food options to be consumed in a non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian diet:
Foods to be considered: Fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, pulses, lentils, soybeans, legumes, dairy products like yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, milk, beans, nuts etc.
Calcium strengthens your baby's bones and teeth and also reduces the risk of developing hypertensive disorders in expectant mothers. The daily requirement of around 1000 - 1200 mg can be met by consumption of the following foods:
Foods to be considered: Calcium is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cereals like nachni or ragi, dry fruits and seeds like almonds, figs, sesame seeds respectively. Milk and milk products like yogurt, buttermilk, cottage cheese as well as calcium-fortified beverages such as almond and soy milk. Sea foods such as sardines, salmon, shrimps are high in calcium. Eggs are also a good source of calcium.
3. Folates or Folic Acid
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a water-soluble vitamin that supports healthy cell division and promotes proper fetal growth. It is highly recommended as it is known to reduce the risk of birth defects and congenital abnormalities. Folates are best started pre-conception, even before planning pregnancy.
Foods to be considered: Legumes, lentils, vegetables like asparagus, beetroots, brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, papaya (to be consumed in later part of pregnancy in limited proportion), bananas, mangoes, avocado, nuts and seeds such as peanuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds.
During pregnancy, your body requires appropriate amounts of iron to make more haemoglobin in blood, to supply oxygen to your baby. If you don't have enough iron stores during pregnancy, it could lead to low birth weight or premature delivery. It can also cause tiredness, exhaustion and may result in post-natal depression. Iron deficiency or anaemia is one of the most common risk factors leading to dangerous complications like postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) or postpartum bleeding.
Foods to be considered: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, fruits including bananas, strawberries, kiwis, apples, pomegranates. Non-vegetarians can have red meat such as beef, pork, and chicken liver.
5. Fibres and Carbohydrates
The intake of fiber rich foods during pregnancy helps in promoting heart health, decreasing diabetes risk, preventing constipation, as well as reducing risks of pre-eclampsia.
Fibre-rich foods to be considered: Fruits such as bananas, apples, pears, vegetables and green leafy vegetables, dry fruits and seeds like chia seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachios, cereals such as rolled oats, quinoa, high fibre legumes like beans and fresh coconut.
Carbohydrates can be found in cereals, whole grains like wheat, rice, starchy foods such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, few beans and legumes.
Other essential vitamins and minerals include Vitamin C, Vitamin D, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids that form an integral part of the food cycle. While supplements are recommended during pregnancy, most of the essential nutrients can be derived from natural sources of foods.
Pregnancy can bring with it nausea, vomiting and appetite issues while can also lead to strong cravings for unhealthy foods. The key is to balance healthy foods with indulgences in a planned manner. The importance of nutrition from food cannot be replaced, neglected or avoided. Every mother is entitled to nourishment and must focus on a good nutritious and balanced diet as we all know that a 'healthy mother means a healthy baby'.
About Author: Dr. Mukesh Gupta is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, Le Nest Hospital, Malad, Mumbai.
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