There is no magic formula to a perfect pregnancy diet. However, a good starting place is to build on the basic principles of healthy eating -plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins. Additionally, there are many nutrients and vitamins that all pregnant women should have in their daily diet including things like Vitamins A, C and E. Calcium and Folic acid are also valuable during this time.
Good nutrition in pregnancy is unique. Women carry the increased responsibility of eating for themselves as well as providing nourishment for their growing baby. Below, are a list of good eating principles to follow while pregnant.
Vitamins to pay attention to:
Folate is one of the most important vitamins in a woman’s pregnancy. It is a B-vitamin that helps prevent medical complications in the baby known as neural tube defects. These are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord that babies can develop if there is a deficiency of folate in the mother’s diet. Folate can be found in foods such as:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Dried beans
- Peas, lentils or even enriched breads
Most pregnant women require around 400 micrograms of folate daily. Those who are diabetic or have a personal or family history of neural tube defects may need to take larger amounts as per their doctor’s recommendation.
Calcium plays a role in helping the circulatory, muscular and nervous system run normally. Additionally, some studies show that it might also help prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy.
The daily recommended intake of calcium for pregnant women is 1,300 milligrams a day. That’s about four servings of calcium-rich foods daily. Good sources of calcium include
- Dairy products like yoghurt and cheese
- Broccoli and kale
- Fruit juices
- Breakfast cereals that are fortified with calcium
Pregnant women need more water than the usual daily requirement. Water helps to provide nourishment to the baby, keeps you from overheating and reduces the chances of having a fainting or dizzy spell which are the result of low blood pressure.
Although water does not have to be your only source of fluids, it is the best way to stay hydrated. Fruit juices, tea and milk are other good options.
Breads, grains and other starches
The body’s main source of energy during pregnancy comes from carbohydrates. These are found in starchy foods like breads and grains. Good grain products to consume
- Rice (preferably brown)
- Whole-grain breads and crackers
- Peas, corn, fruits and veggies
Many women are iron deficient during pregnancy and do not always realize it. Iron helps to carry oxygen to your growing baby and also carries oxygen to your muscles to help avoid symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, irritability, and depression.
If you are on prenatal vitamins, these likely meet your required amount of Iron. However, other sources or iron are always welcome such as
- Beans and lentils
- Baked potatoes
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Fruits and veggies
No pregnancy diet is complete without fruits and vegetables. When pregnant, it is important to try and work fruits and veggies into your diet. They contain many of the key nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy including Vitamin A, B, C and antioxidants.
Add your favorite fruits and veggies to smoothies, as part of a dessert or a side-dish to your daily meal. Strawberries, bananas, pineapple or kiwi. Anything you can incorporate into your diet is great.
Tips on general nutrition while pregnant
Lastly, here are some tips on general nutrition while pregnant
- Weight gain should be slow and gradual. On average, you should gain about 2 to 4 pounds during your first 3 months of pregnancy and 1 pound a week for the remainder of the pregnancy.
- Take prenatal vitamins as soon as possible, ideally while still trying to conceive.
- Speak to your doctor about any concerns around nutrition, weight gain or healthy eating.
- For women with other existing medical issues such as diabetes, Crohn’s, or epilepsy, make an appointment to speak to your doctor about more specialized nutrition tips.