The period of pregnancy is a very delicate one; the choices you make and what you eat now and throughout your pregnancy period can affect your health and that of your baby. Since the placenta connects a pregnant woman to her unborn baby and everything from the mother is affects the baby, special care must be taken as to what she eats, drinks or consumes generally during the period of pregnancy. Pregnancy places an extra demand on the body, and so to meet up with that demand, a well balanced diet consisting of protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fats and oils (kept at a minimum) is required. A healthy diet during pregnancy can also help to minimize some pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and constipation.
Healthy eating during pregnancy is critical to the growth and development of the foetus. The necessary nutrients required are obtained from a variety of food groups, including whole grains, seeds and nuts, fruits and vegetables, plant and animal proteins, milk and dairy products, water.
Energy is obtained from essential carbohydrates found in grains, cereals, roots and tubers. Unrefined cereals and whole grains provide important nutrients such as iron, B Vitamins, etc. They are also good sources of fibre which helps to prevent constipation which is common during pregnancy.
It is also important to consume a wide variety of proteins, especially beans, fish, eggs, meat, etc. Organ meats (such as liver and kidney), provide some of the best sources of iron. Iron from meat is absorbed better than that from plant sources. Iron helps to carry oxygen to the developing foetus, and also carries oxygen to the mother’s muscles, thereby, preventing symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and depression. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and some B vitamins. They are also rich sources of calcium which is essential for the development of healthy bones and teeth in babies and is also important for the formation of breast milk.
Fruits and vegetables provide the best source of many vitamins and minerals, including folate and iron, which are important for the prevention of anaemia during pregnancy. They are also rich in fibre, thus, preventing constipation. When possible, get locally grown vegetables and fruits, especially when they are in season as they are less expensive, more nutrient dense, fresh, safer and less contaminated.
Fats and oils intake should be limited. Most of the fats and oils in the diet should come from plant sources such as those found in nuts, avocados, plant-based oils (including sunflower, corn, soybean and olive oil). Some types of fish like salmon, herring, tuna and trout contain omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the healthy development and functioning of the brain, nervous system, heart, eyes and immune system.
Fluid intake is also a critical aspect of healthy pregnancy nutrition. Drink plenty of fluids such as water, milk products and unsweetened juices. Alcohol, smoking and caffeine are a no-no for pregnant women.
NOTE: Do not take vitamin or mineral supplements or any medication at all without your doctor’s prescription.