Pregnancy Nutrition is essential for a healthy baby. Without a doubt, a well-balanced eating plan can be one of the best gifts you can give to your developing baby. A healthy wholesome eating plan can not only keep you feeling healthy during pregnancy but also pave the way for an easier labour. It also helps to establish essential building blocks of growth and overall health of your child.
Your body will gain weight during your pregnancy which is proof that your body is nurturing your growing baby. By the time you are ready to deliver the baby, your total blood volume will increase by as much as 60%, your milk production will be optimum, your uterus will grow to accommodate your baby who will grow 2-4 kgs (on an average). Thus, to accomplish this, the body needs that extra wholesome nutritious dose of food to lay the ground for these productive changes.
The food journey – Trimester wise breakdown!
The baby goes through different developmental stages during each trimester. So it is important to understand that the nutrient intake as per requirement of each trimester is unique. Apart from the macronutrients such as carbohydrate proteins and fats, vitamins and minerals intake is of utmost importance.
- NUTRITION IN THE FIRST TRIMESTER
The first trimester does not require additional calories but requires a basket of nutrients to be incorporated into the routine.
Coping with nausea
- Avoid staying on an empty stomach: eat small, regular 3 hourly meals.
- Don’t drink with meals, drink between meals instead.
- Foods that may ease nausea: cinnamon, basil, ginger, fennel, fresh mint, lemon.
- Folic Acid for the normal development of your baby’s brain, skull and spinal cord. Folic acid, or folate, is a B-vitamin needed to avoid neural tube defects known as spina bifida. One should Take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet everyday plus eat foods rich in this vitamin.
Good food sources of folic acid: dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spring greens, kale, and okra), pulses (chick peas, kidney beans, lentils), corn, potatoes, fresh peas, oranges and orange juice, eggs.
- Iron to prevent anemia, infections, to support baby’s growth and brain development and to allow baby to build sufficient stores for later use.
Good food sources of iron: High quality protein sources: lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, and well-cooked eggs. Vegetarian protein sources: pulses, legumes, nuts. Jaggery is one good source of iron. For better iron absorption, have a vitamin C in the form of lemon with or just after your meal and avoid tea – 1 hour before and 1 hour after a meal containing iron.
- Calcium for your baby’s bones and teeth and to keep yours healthy too!
Good food sources of calcium: Dairy products (skimmed milk, low fat cheeses and yoghurt, paneer), tofu (a vegetable protein made from soya beans), cereals such as Ragi and dried fruits such as figs and apricots, and seeds like sesame (til).
- Vitamin D to help your body absorb and use calcium.
Good sources of vitamin D: Fish, eggs, milk. The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight (especially early morning) on your skin. There’s no need to sunbathe though as the amount of sun needed to make sufficient vitamin D is less than the amount that causes tanning or burning.
- NUTRITION IN SECOND TRIMESTER
The second trimester requires additional 350 calories per day so as to supplement the production changes in the body.
Coping with constipation
- Increase your daily fluid intake, especially water.
- Make sure you’re eating at least 3 portions of fruits and 5 portions of vegetables daily.
- Limit refined carbs, choose more wholegrain products – bhakri over roti
- Be physically active; choose a low-risk exercise like walking for 30 minutes per day on most days.
- Vitamin C to form collagen, a structural protein that’s a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin.
Good food sources of Vitamin C: citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons), fruits and vegetables with a deep colour (kiwi, berries, guavas, pineapple) and dark green vegetables (spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, corriander), sprouts.
- Omega-3 (DHA) for brain, nervous and immune system development
Good food sources of omega-3: Fish, flaxseed, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
- Magnesium to reduce cramps in mommy and strengthen baby’s bones.
Good food sources of Magnesium: Whole grains, Nuts, Soybeans, legumes, oilseeds -pumpkin, sunflower, fruits- banana, raisins, avocado.
- NUTRITION IN THE THIRD TRIMESTER
You need an extra dose of calories approximately 350 calories per day for further development, protection of the baby as well as for storing energy for delivery baby. More than understanding about important nutrients it is important to know that in the third trimester of pregnancy you are supposed to be taking wholesome balanced meals that cover almost every nutrient. Fresh home cooked meals ensure nutrient absorption.
Ensure foods from these food groups: Cereals, Pulses, nuts and oilseeds, eggs and lean meats -fish, dairy, fruits and vegetables, fats in the form of ghee.
Pregnancy is also a time to pamper yourself and get pampered.
- Indulge, enjoy and relish all your little food cravings and succumb to your smallest desire. If panipuris and chaats make your mouth water then have it as your evening snack. Just make sure to balance your calorie and nutrition intake in the other meals of the day.
- Pregnancy also leads to an aversion to certain foods in some women. Strong aversion to an onion, garlic is common in many women. Listen to your body at this time. Explain to your family about your aversions and try to stay away from those smells. These smells and flavours can unnecessarily trigger puking sensation and make you feel comfortable.
- Plan your meals every day and do treat yourself to your favourite snack at least once a day. Ice-creams, cold coffees, chaats and any such food items can be had without any guilt. You could always manage a healthy weight gain by indulging in yoga and exercises for expectant mothers.
An expecting mother and a new mother should worry about all the things except for weight gain until after the first year of feeding. The body stores up fats to be able to nurture your child for breastfeeding for a year. All the changes and all the weight gain are all worth it if you have a healthy baby and easy delivery. After all, it’s your time to eat, enjoy and enliven.
Pregnancy is one time in your life when your eating habits directly affect the other person. Your decision to incorporate food choices into your eating plan before and during pregnancy will give your baby a strong life to start!
Akansha is the Founder and Consultant at Beyond the Weighing Scale. With a wide range of expertise and skills, she is adept to speak about nutrition, health, lifestyle management and physical activity. She is a popular food columnist, a passionate foodie, a health enthusiast, an avid traveller and a happy yogi.