Pregnancy diet: what to eat & what to avoid
A healthy pregnancy diet is essential for both the mother and the baby because what a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is the ultimate source of nutrition for her baby. Experts recommend that a pregnant woman’s diet should include a mixture of healthy foods and beverages to provide vital nutrients for the growth and development of the baby.
In this article, Dr Deepika Aggarwal, a leading gynaecologist at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon, will discuss a healthy pregnancy diet, including what a pregnant woman should eat and what to avoid, and why.
There is no fancy formula for a healthy diet during pregnancy. The basic principles of a healthy diet during pregnancy remain the same: eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. However, there are certain nutrients in the pregnancy diet that deserve special attention.
Food to eat during pregnancy
Here is the list of foods to eat during pregnancy that are considered good food for pregnancy.
Vegetable and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients. Adding a variety of these to your diet will likely provide you with most of the vitamins, minerals, and fibre that you and your baby need. Eating fruits and vegetables also help to prevent constipation, a common symptom during pregnancy.
Starchy foods (carbohydrate)
Starches are a good source of vitamins and fibre. They will help you to satiate without having too many calories. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that your body uses as an energy source for muscles and organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain.
Abundant sources are vegetables (sweet potatoes, corn, and potatoes), bread, pasta, rice, and fruits. Foods that contain carbohydrates in smaller amounts include milk, yogurt, and legumes such as beans.
Protein is vital for a baby’s growth during pregnancy. Healthy animal protein sources include- fish, lean meat, chicken, and eggs. All pregnant women, and vegans, in particular, should consider the following foods to be good sources of protein:
- Quinoa: also known as ‘complete protein,’ and it contains all of the essential amino acids.
- Soy and tofu products.
- Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, legumes, and nut butter are good sources of protein and iron.
You need to have a healthy daily intake of calcium. The deficiency of calcium during pregnancy may affect bone metabolism or may affect fetal growth. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are high in calcium. Some foods rich in calcium include soymilk, soybeans, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, okra, beans, mustard greens, kale, and soy nuts.
Whole grain products like whole-grain bread, rice, whole-wheat pasta, fruits, vegetables, legumes like beans and lentils are high in fibre. Women usually develop constipation during pregnancy; so consuming lots of fibre is effective in minimizing this risk. Eating an adequate amount of fibre during pregnancy reduces the risk or severity of haemorrhoids.
During pregnancy, healthy fats are essential for a baby’s brain and eye development. A good source of healthy fats are nuts, avocados, and plant-based oils (including sunflower, corn, soybean, and olive oils). Some types of fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and trout are a rich source of good fat. Fat is very high in calories, so eating much or eating too often can lead to obesity. During pregnancy, 40-90 grams of fat each day is sufficient for a healthy diet routine. Eating too much-saturated fat can also increase the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Zinc is an essential trace element. It is helpful in growth and development, cell integrity, and various biological functions such as protein synthesis and nucleic acid metabolism. Hence, zinc is vital for the development of the baby. The best sources of zinc are chicken, turkey, beans, peanut butter, nuts, ham, shrimp, crabs, oysters, red meat, fish, dairy products, sunflower seeds, ginger, onions, bran, wheat germ, rice, pasta, cereals, eggs, lentils, and tofu.
Your body uses iron to make haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy, you need twice as much iron as you would normally. Low iron levels in early and mid-pregnancy can lead to iron deficiency anaemia and increase the risk of low birth weight and other pregnancy complications.
It can be tough to meet your iron needs with meals alone, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Those who are non-vegetarian can consume lean red meat to increase the amount of iron in the diet. For vegetarian dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, dried fruit, like raisins and apricots, will be a great option.
Folic acid or folate
Folate (vitamin B) helps to prevent neural tube defects, brain and spinal cord abnormalities. Folic acid supplements can reduce the risk of premature birth. You can find folate in broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables (such as cabbage, kale, spring greens and spinach), peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans.
Watch the video as one of the top obstetrician & gynaecologist is explaining the importance of Folic acid during pregnancy:
Even with a healthy diet, you can miss out on some essential nutrients. Taking prenatal vitamins daily- ideally at least three months before conception, can fill the nutritional gap in the body. Your doctor can recommend special dietary supplements if you are strictly vegetarian or have a chronic illness. If you want to take any herbal supplements during pregnancy, take advice from your doctor.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
Some foods are considered not so good during pregnancy for you and your baby’s health. These are;
- Uncooked or partially cooked meat: Avoid eating half-cooked food. For example, partially cooked shellfish contain a risk of bacterial or viral contamination that can lead to food poisoning.
- Mercury in some fishes: Fishes like swordfish and marlin should be avoided or kept to a complete minimum.
- Raw eggs: Eat fully cooked egg to avoid salmonella infection.
- High-calorie food: High-calorie food such as cakes, cookies, biscuits, chips, and candy should keep to a minimum. Many of these options are high in sugar and fat and are low in nutrients. It can create a problem for a pregnant woman to maintain a healthy weight.
- Alcohol: Avoid alcohol during pregnancy as it can cause serious health issues to the baby.
- Caffeine: Avoid or limit caffeine during pregnancy as it can also cause serious health issues to the baby.
Pregnancy diet: outlook
Your growing baby is just waiting to sip all of these high nutrient foods from your complete pregnancy diet. For more information on a healthy pregnancy diet or any personal enquiry with Dr Deepika Aggarwal, you can book an appointment or call at +91 124 4882248.
Ques: Is papaya bad for pregnancy?
Ans: If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, then you should avoid eating raw papaya. Raw or unripe papaya contains a latex substance that may cause uterus contractions. Papaya or papaya enzymes are sometimes responsible for soothing indigestion, which is common during pregnancy. For more information on eating papaya good in pregnancy or not check out the YouTube video by Dr Deepika Aggarwal on our YouTube channel.
Ques: What are the common diet-related problems during pregnancy?
Ans: It’s always important to eat healthily and a balanced diet, and it is even more essential during pregnancy because the food you eat is the only source of nutrients for the baby. However, several women don’t get enough iron, calcium, vitamin D, folate, or protein during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman does not eat enough, it can lead to malnutrition. That means the body is not getting enough calories to maintain good health.
Ques: Do you really have to eat for two when pregnant?
Ans: No, it’s a myth that a pregnant woman must eat for two. During pregnancy, the body increases the need for nutrition and calories. Always ask your doctor regarding the recommended weight gain during pregnancy. After the doctor’s consultation, follow a pregnancy diet plan for eating nutritious foods to gain a healthy weight during your pregnancy.
Ques: Is craving for sweets good during pregnancy?
Ans: Craving for sweets during pregnancy may indicate the result of a drop in blood sugar. To avoid this situation, you must eat small and frequent meals. These small meals may help you to avoid eating too much sugar. For more information regarding cravings and healthy eating during pregnancy, talk to your doctor.