Good and balanced pregnancy nutrition is important for a healthy mother and healthy baby, as also to avoid possible pregnancy complications. We look at the important constituents of a healthy pregnancy diet, what you need to eat and why.
Increase your overall daily caloric intake
Increase your caloric intake by about 200 calories per day. This is an important requirement for pregnancy nutrition because the body is now working a lot harder. It is nourishing the baby, creating the placenta, increasing the blood circulation, laying down stores of fat for childbirth and subsequent breastfeeding. Concentrate on increasing the quantity of quality protein in your diet, by adding eggs, lean meat, fish and whole grains to your diet.
Adequate consumption of calcium is necessary for building the baby’s bones, teeth, nerves and muscles and is also important to maintain the mother’s calcium stores.
Your doctor will recommend whether or not you need a supplement but you may probably get enough from milk, cheese, yoghurt, fortified juices, etc.
Folate (Folic Acid)
This is a vital nutrient for pregnancy and a supplement of this should be started as soon as you decide to get pregnant or as soon as you know you’re pregnant, whichever is earlier. This is vital particularly in the first trimester for preventing certain birth defects. You can naturally derive folic acid for pregnancy nutrition from dark green vegetables, lentils, fortified foods and so on.
This is vital for the development of the baby’s nervous system and for regulation of the metabolism. It can be obtained from iodized salt, some sea vegetables and fish such as cod. No supplement of this is usually required unless there is a deficiency.
This nutrient can be obtained from lean meat, peas, and other green vegetables, and is important for development of the brain, as well as growth of the heart among other things.
This is another important constituent of pregnancy nutrition because it can help the brain cells develop properly and prevent certain birth defects. One of the important sources of choline is eggs (particularly the yolks), pork and some types of fish.
Iron is also a vital nutrient for the mother’s wellbeing and for fetal development. Many doctors routinely supplement a pregnancy diet with iron because it is important the baby’s blood circulation and cell growth as well as to maintain maternal energy. Iron can also be obtained from liver, leafy green vegetables, beef etc. which are useful foods to include for pregnancy nutrition.
Many doctors feel that a multivitamin supplement is a good idea for pregnant women because Vitamin A (spinach, carrot etc) is important for the eyes, the immune system and the metabolism. Vitamin C (citrus fruits broccoli) is important for skin, tendons and cartilages. Vitamin D (milk, fish, sunshine) is important for strong bones.
Other nutrients such as zinc, potassium, magnesium and copper are also an important part of pregnancy nutrition and can be obtained from bananas, sweet potato, halibut, crabmeat, kidney beans, nuts, tofu etc.