Getting a healthy diet is an important part of living healthy at any time, but if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy a healthy diet is especially vital. Healthy eating and getting the right amount of nutrients during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow healthy. In pregnancy, a woman needs to boost her nutrient intake, rather than her kilo joule intake, because pregnancy creates extra demands for certain nutrients, including iron and folate. If you are pregnant, a good approach is to eat to satisfy your appetite and continue to monitor your weight. Steady weight gain during pregnancy is normal and important for the health of the mother and baby. For women who are a healthy weight, it is recommended that you gain between 11.5 and 16 kg. Underweight women may need to gain more weight (between 12.5 and 18 kg). It is recommended for women who are overweight to gain less weight during pregnancy (between 5 and 11.5 kg). To maintain appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, it is important to choose healthy foods from the five food groups and limit discretionary foods, and drinks high in saturated fat, added sugars and added salt, such as cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks. It is essential to choose a wide variety of healthy foods to make sure that the nutritional needs of both mother and baby are met.
During pregnancy healthy eating can be achieved by: •Enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables of different types and colours. •Increasing your intake of grain and cereal foods to 8-8 ½ servings a day. Choose mostly wholegrain and high fibre foods, to help with constipation. •Choosing foods that are high in iron, such as lean red meat or tofu. Iron-rich foods are very essential for pregnant women. •Making a habit of taking calcium-enriched foods and drinks, such as milk, hard cheese and yoghurt. Reduced-fat varieties are best. •Taking lots of water (fluid needs are about 750 to 1,000 ml extra per day).
However, foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and salt should be limited. Below is an outline of the approximate daily dietary requirements of a pregnant woman, needed to make sure she has enough energy and nutrients for herself and for her growing baby. Carbohydrate: Pregnant women and lactating mothers have a recommended daily intake of 135g/day and 160g/day respectively. Anything less and the energy level drops, leading to fatigue. Because carbohydrate is easily stored up in the body if energy derived is not expended, any more than the recommended daily intake could lead to excessive weight gain. Carbohydrate can be found in most foods like bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, sweet potatoes, yams and cornmeal. Choose wholemeal instead of processed (white) varieties, or potatoes with their skins on when you can, as they contain more fibre. These foods should be the main part of every meal. Protein: Pregnant women are recommended to consume 0.88g/kg/day. Eat some protein foods every day. Sources of protein include meat (but avoid liver), fish, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts. Choose lean meat, remove the skin from poultry and try not to add extra fat or oil when cooking meat. Try to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel. Vitamin A: It is also known as retinol. Consuming about 550μg/day during pregnancy helps to form and maintain healthy skin, teeth and immune system, and it is an important factor for good vision.
Good sources are milk, cheese, fortified low fat spreads, liver, vegetables. Vitamin A supplements are rarely recommended in pregnancy, as excessive intake may cause deformities in birth. Vitamin C: The recommended daily amount of Vitamin C during pregnancy is 70 mg/day. Vitamin C is necessary for normal growth and development, maintenance of healthy connective tissue and it also helps wound healing. Lack of sufficient Vitamin C in the body causes scurvy. Oranges, strawberries and potatoes are common sources of Vitamin C. Vitamin B12: The recommended daily amount of Vitamin B12 for pregnant women is 2.2μg/day. It is essential for the production of healthy blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Lack of this vitamin can cause fatigue, lack of energy, headaches and loss of appetite. Food sources for Vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, eggs and milk. Vitamin B6: Pregnant women are recommended to have a daily intake of about 1.6mg/day. It plays an important role in converting food into energy and also for healthy hair, skin, liver etc. Food sources for Vitamin B6 include cereals, beef, poultry and potatoes. Iron: High intake of iron is necessary for pregnant women (22mg/day), as it reduces the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and infant mortality. During pregnancy, the developing foetus draws iron from the mother to last it through the first five or six months after birth. It is important for pregnant women to eat iron-rich foods daily, such as meat, chicken, seafood, dried beans and lentils, and green leafy vegetables. Iron supplements are also available, but it is important to discuss your need for supplements with your doctor, because iron can be poisonous in large amounts and can lead to constipation.