"Pregnancy is a crucial period for one to take care of their nourishment, as it is vital for the growth of the foetus" – says expert nutritionist Ranjani Raman.
From the time when one starts preparing for pregnancy till the time of delivery, extra care and precautions should be taken especially on the food intake. Questions like “what should one eat during pregnancy and what food should be avoided” are the most commonly asked questions by expectant mothers. Eat this but not that, avoid flaxseeds, should one eat chicken and fish or completely avoid it? These questions confuse and frustrate women who are already going through a lot of hormonal and physical changes. The first thing which has to be understood is that during these 9 months, diet plays a very important role as there is a development happening inside the woman’s body and complete nutrition is a must. Here is a recommended diet for pregnant mothers which will help you put up a chart of your daily meals during your pregnancy –
- Start your day with Banana
Banana is a power packed fruit with necessary vitamins, minerals and fibre. This can help provide the necessary energy dose and can keep your blood pressure under control. This also helps relieve constipation which is a common issue during pregnancy. If one is finding it difficult to get up and start a day during pregnancy start your day with this quick energy booster – Banana. It’s completely mess free and needs no preparation, go for it!
Egg is complete protein, rich in amino acids and minerals, and can be added at least 3 times a week. Boiled egg is easiest to have if you are working or do not have time to make an elaborate English breakfast.
Milk, paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese), curd and low-fat cheese should be added to ensure there is sufficient calcium, protein and vitamin intake. Curd is a probiotic and can help improve digestive health. If drinking plain milk is a challenge, as lot of pregnant woman develop a dislike for milk, then include it in the form of shakes and smoothies. Include Fresh curd or Greek yogurt, you can also add few dry fruits or just another banana, few prunes and almonds to make a quick mid- morning snack for you.
- Add green leafy vegetables
It’s time to have your lunch; and with high amounts of vitamins, minerals and fibre, green leafy vegetables should be taken regularly for wholesome benefits. Care should be taken to not overcook and to ensure it is cleaned well and is pesticide free. Go for organic greens if possible. Broccoli can also be included for its high levels of antioxidants. Take the greens along with rice/chapati/bread to get carbohydrates needed for the energy-demanding body.
Pulses such as chickpeas, kidney beans, green gram, horse gram etc. are concentrated sources of protein and fibre. They also contain folate which is very important for a healthy foetal growth.
It’s important to intake healthy fats during pregnancy to promote healthy neural health in the foetus. Fish can be included once or twice a week, cooked in a healthy way to promote protein and healthy fat intake. Lean chicken is also a good way to include protein and iron and hence can be included in small portions 2-3 times a week.
Its 4 PM and the time when most of the balanced diets are shelved as one is tempted to open a packet of chips or your favourite cookies. Completely avoid it as it might develop acidity by end of the day. The best solution is to go for nuts like almonds, cashews (unfortunately there is myth that they contain a lot of cholesterol, 4-5 nuts per day are perfectly fine) and walnuts (highly recommended) which are nutrient dense, high in minerals and contain healthy fats which promote a healthy heart. These nuts also help in effective nerve function but due to high calories one should restrict the portions. Make a trail mix and have 7-8 pieces of all the nuts and one is sorted for the day.
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins, especially Vitamin A and fibre. Intake of sweet potatoes at least 2 times a week can take care of the vitamin A needs during pregnancy. Bake as sweet potato chips or roast sweet potatoes and carry it for your mid-day snack.
All fruits are welcome when eaten in moderation. There is a certain myth that some fruits like papaya, pomegranate and kiwi should be completely avoided, but our dietician - Ranjani says that ripened papaya is good but raw papaya should be avoided. So always carry some fruit and grab them when you need to lift your spirits after throwing up.
Dates, figs, raisins, apricots, prunes (2-3 per day), etc are highly concentrated forms of nutrients and can provide a good dose of energy along with vitamins and minerals. Snacking on dry fruits is much better than any other junk food, especially during pregnancy.
- End the day with a light dinner
Digestion is an energy consuming process and the body needs to rest; Eating heavy and spicy food would lead to acidity and indigestion. Best is to go with thick soups which have lots of veggies, stir fried vegetables, a bowl of rice or 1-2 chapatis (Indian bread). Avoid Spicy and heavily cooked Non-Veg food. Sleeping well is as important as diet and so eating a light and nutritious dinner would mean a peaceful sleep.
Above all, consumption of water is very essential during pregnancy. All nutrients need a medium to travel and to be absorbed and without water, there is minimal nutrition absorption. Also, water flushes out toxins and keeps the system clean enabling overall functioning of the body.
5 foods to be avoided/reduced during pregnancy
- Raw or undercooked chicken/fish/eggs
Undercooked chicken, fish or egg can have contaminants and microorganisms that can be harmful and can cause food poisoning. This should be avoided.
Some of the foods such as nuts, milk, sea food, etc can become an allergen during pregnancy and hence one should notice for allergic reactions upon consumption and change the diet accordingly.
Shrimp, oyster and prawn can be avoided because there are chances that it can lead to food poisoning if the source of procurement is not reliable. Clean and well-cooked sea foods in moderate quantities are fine as long as one is not allergic.
Some of the cheese made from unpasteurized milk can cause food poisoning and should be avoided.
Flaxseeds are believed to show estrogenic like effects and promotes menstruation and hence one should avoid flax seeds, specifically during the first trimester. It can also lead to digestive issues in some people.
- Fennel seeds, sesame seeds and methi seeds
High and regular intake of these are believed to trigger hormones and can initiate menstruation. An intake of 1tsp spread through the week should be fine.
A nutritious and healthy diet during pregnancy would lead to a happy and safe delivery. During these nine months, it is very important to be conscious about the food that you are eating as it has a direct impact on the growth of the foetus. The above list is a general recommendation and one should be encouraged to check with their doctor and dietician to know more about what food is suited for them, as lot of women develop pregnancy related health issues. In essence, Eat healthy and stay happy is the mantra.
You can reach out to Ranjani Raman for pregnancy-related nutrition queries by contacting her on her website - Nutrilife (A Wellness and Nutrition consultation company). Ranjani is also a Certified Paediatric Nutritionist and works closely with children, as she believes nutrition education should begin during the foundation years. You can also interact with her on her Facebook page or connect with her on Linkedin