Keeping a healthy diet isn’t only important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is also important if you are planning to get pregnant or during pregnancy.
It won’t only make you feel good but provides all the nutrients essential for the development of the baby in the uterus.
A balanced diet is composed of the right combination of foods from the basic five groups such as:
- legumes and vegetables
- cereals and breads
- yogurt, milk, and cheese
- fish, poultry, meat
- alternative fruits
Aside from the right combination of foods, a healthy diet for pregnancy must contain the required amount of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats.
The prenatal multivitamins may give all the basic nutrient requirements, but it is still best to consume fresh foods.
What is the recommended composition of a healthy diet for pregnancy?
A healthy diet for a pregnant woman contains higher amounts of the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. If you are practicing a healthy eating habits prior of pregnancy, it would never be a big deal to make a few adjustments.
Consuming complex carbohydrates is recommended during pregnancy and healthy choices include the following:
- Pastas and whole-grain breads
It follows that you should avoid intake of simple carbohydrates such as cookies, white bread, chips, pretzels, sweeteners, and sugar.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women must eat additional 300 calories more than the normal requirements. Binge eating is not recommended during pregnancy, instead you should eat in moderation.
The recommended intake of protein every day is four servings. Pregnant women should take between 75 and 100 gm of protein daily. However, if your pregnancy is at high risk, it may be recommended for more protein intake.
Legumes and grains
Legumes and whole grains should be included in a healthy diet during pregnancy. You should eat beans, dried peas, starchy vegetables and fruit. The recommended servings are about nine or more a day. Legumes and grains are nutrient-rich such as B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc selenium.
B vitamins are essential for the body’s proper development of the baby. Likewise, legumes and grains also help to develop other tissues of the body and the formation of placenta.
Yellow and green vegetables should be included in the healthy diet for pregnant women. At least 3 or more servings of these vegetables are recommended as they are rich in vitamin A, fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin E, folic acid, riboflavin, trace minerals, and calcium.
To get other nutrients, you should add in your diet fruits and non-yellow and green vegetables. They provide other vitamins, magnesium, and potassium.
Pregnant women should limit intake of foods that have high amount of unhealthy fat. These include fried foods and packaged products that are high in trans fats and saturated fats. But, it does not necessarily mean removing fat from your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important along with other healthy fats such as avocado, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin, flaxseed, chia seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish. Healthy fats play big role for the development of the baby’s brain.
Constipation and hemorrhoids are associated to pregnancy. To prevent such condition, it is advised to consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily. You can obtain fiber from veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Avoid consuming products that are enriched or refined because they are not healthy for you and your baby.
Additionally, you should also limit intake of foods that are high in salt and use salt moderately when cooking.
Water plays a significant role in following a healthy diet particularly during pregnancy. It is better to drink at least eight glasses of water every day than caffeinated drinks. Since pregnant women is prone to constipation, drinking enough water reduces the possibility of developing such condition. Likewise, drinking water will also increase the frequency and flow of urine, thus avoids developing UTI that is dangerous to both you and your baby.
What prenatal vitamins should I take?
Before you take any vitamins, make sure to consult first your doctor. Never attempt to take any prenatal vitamins without the doctor’s prescription for your safety and the baby.
Here are some of the vitamins vital during pregnancy:
Calcium is essential for a pregnant woman to strengthen the teeth and bones. It is important to take calcium for proper development of the heart and muscles and for its functions as well. During the development of the fetus, there should be sufficient supply of calcium.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends 1,000 mg of calcium should be taken by pregnant woman daily. You can get calcium from dairy products and milk, cooked beans, cooked dark green leafy vegetables, calcium-set tofu, and canned fish with bones.
Keep in mind that prenatal supplement isn’t enough because it may only contain 150 to 200 mg of calcium.
Another vitamin that is essential during pregnancy is folic acid. It stimulates the production of red blood cells and main chemical signals present in the nervous system. Folic acid also plays a big role in the process of producing DNA and it also prevents developing spina bifida, a neural tube defects.
It is advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day if you’re planning to get pregnant. During pregnancy, you should take 600 micrograms of folic acid daily.
Excellent sources of folic acid or folate are asparagus, broccoli, bran flakes, chick peas, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, lentils, and dried beans.
This vitamin is essential during pregnancy because it encourages the growth of tissues and cells, general metabolism, and hair growth. It also plays significant role for the development of your baby’s skeletal system, nervous system, and circulatory system. The required amount of copper that should be taken during pregnancy is 2 to 3 mg a day.
Iodine is a mineral that is important for the growth and development of the baby. This mineral is necessary to produce the thyroid hormone. Insufficient intake of iodine during pregnancy may cause cretinism and mental impairment of your baby.
Foods having high content of iodine include seaweed and seafood, dairy products, eggs, and meat. You can also use iodized salt when cooking. The iodine requirements increase in pregnant and nursing women.
If you can’t get enough iodine from the foods you eat, then you should take iodine supplementation. The recommended intake is 150 micrograms daily throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding period.
It is recommended to eat foods that are rich in iron during pregnancy every day. It is because the fetus obtains iron from the mother that is essential up to six months after birth. The recommended intake of iron when you’re pregnant is 27 mg/day. Make sure to take just the suggested dosage as it can be poisonous.
Foods that are rich in iron include dried beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, chicken, and meat. Iron from animal sources are best absorbed by your body. If you’re getting iron from plant sources, make sure to consume it together with vitamin C-rich foods.
If you can’t get enough iron from the foods you eat, you can get it from prenatal supplements. This way, experiencing iron-deficiency anemia will be prevented.
Vitamin A is vital for the development of the eyes, blood, skin, and immune system as well as proper cell growth. However, there are instances in which vitamin a is rarely recommended during pregnancy. It’s because too much intake of this vitamin can cause birth deformities. You can obtain vitamin A from fish, milk, eggs, and margarine.
Vitamin C is not present in your body all the time. That’s why pregnant women should take 80 mg of vitamin C daily. Consuming citrus fruits, fresh vegetables and fruits like berries, broccoli, and bell peppers can also help.
Vitamin B1, B2, B12
B Vitamins are essential during pregnancy particularly the Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), and B12.
Thiamine helps for the development of the heart, nervous system, and the brain as well as the metabolism. A pregnant woman should take 1.3 mg of vitamin B1 per day.
Vitamin B2 is important for the growth and development of the fetus that’s why it is recommended to take 1.6 mg of riboflavin. Liver is rich in vitamin B2 and small amounts can be found in yogurt, mushrooms, and soybeans.
On the other hand, vitamin B12 is mainly present in dairy products and meats. Thus, if a pregnant woman can’t eat enough of those foods, she should take vitamin supplement.
This is essential for the development of the skeletal, circulatory, and muscular systems. Pregnant woman should consume 1,200 mg of phosphorous. It is best obtained from nuts, beans, seafood, yogurt, and milk.
Vitamin D is present in the skin of human beings in response to sunlight. It is also found in fish liver oils. The good thing is that almost all milk produced are fortified with vitamin D.
It is important to follow the recommended pregnancy diet to ensure that both the mother and the baby will be healthy throughout the pregnancy. Keep in mind that what you eat during your pregnancy will impact the health of the developing baby and your own health.
Make sure to follow a healthy diet so that it won’t be hazardous considering your condition. Never attempt to follow weight loss regimen as it will lead to deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals important during pregnancy.