A nutritious, healthy and balanced diet for pregnant women is important for so many reasons: for the mother it is important so that she gains enough weight but not too much and so that her nutrition is not compromised in the interests of the fetus. For the unborn baby, what the mother eats will determine growth and organ development among other things.
Milk products as part of a diet for pregnant women
It is recommended that the intake of milk and milk products be increased during pregnancy because this is an important source of calcium and riboflavin. In general it is seen that calcium intake in pregnancy is often below the recommend amount, which can lead to lower bone mineral content of the infant at birth and also less calcium and other nutrients contained in the breast milk.
There is evidence to show that lower calcium intake during pregnancy could increase risk of preeclampsia (pregnancy related high blood pressure).
For all of these reasons most experts recommend that the amount of milk should be increased from 2 to 3 portions a day to 3 to 4 portions a day as part of a diet for pregnant women.
Skim milk, unsweetened yoghurt, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese etc are all excellent sources of calcium.
Meat, eggs and fish in a diet for pregnant women
One of the requirements of intake during a pregnancy is adequate amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet because this is needed for formation of structures of the nervous system and eyes of the baby. Two recommended portions of fish, meat or eggs per day should be of a larger size: 170 g instead of 140 grams.
In particular it is recommended that intake of fish as well as eggs should be increased during pregnancy, and this is in part so that the dietary requirement of choline in pregnancy is addressed.
This can also contribute to the Vitamin D requirement (also obtainable with the help of exposure to the sun) which is a nutrient necessary for calcium absorption in the body.
Cereals in diet for pregnant women
Cereals are important to include in the diet, particularly for those women who typically have a high fat and protein diet and who eat less of good quality carbs. Cereals can help give pregnant women a much needed energy boost, and can also increase the amount of fiber, minerals and vitamins in their diet. Cereals are also a good source of Vitamin E, which is important for the progression of a pregnancy.
Nuts, legumes and cereals are important to consume also because they are a good source of zinc and magnesium. If possible, women should eat at least 4 portions of whole grains every day.
Fruit and vegetables as part of a diet for pregnant women
These are vitally important in pregnancy because they are nutrient dense foods that contain minerals and vitamins needed by mother and baby. 4 to 5 portions of these should be consumed each day, and should form a major portion of any meal.