To have a healthy pregnancy, you need nearly 300 extra calories daily. You must also ensure that you get these calories from a nutrient-rich diet that includes protein, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. There are also certain foods that you should consume less or avoid once you find out you are pregnant. That’s because maintaining optimal pregnancy diet will aid your baby’s development, ease pregnancy symptoms, and reduce complications.
A Nutritionist’s Guide to Pregnancy: 6 Vital Nutrients
Every woman looking forward to welcoming her baby should know the basics of maternal nutrition. So, let’s learn everything about healthy eating for expecting mothers.
1. Folic acid
Folate is a type of B vitamin that keeps several serious problems at bay. For instance, neural tube defects can take place in the fetus if your body lacks folate. The synthetic form of this mineral is called folic acid, and it is present in some fetal health foods and supplements. Studies have revealed that women who take their folic acid supplement dedicatedly have the minimum risk of low birth weight and premature birth.
Now the question is: How much folate per day do you need during pregnancy? 400 mcg of folic acid is essential before conception. After that, you should intake 600- 1000 mcg of folate daily throughout your pregnancy – be it the first trimester or the third. In addition to taking folic acid supplement, you should also eat foods where folic acid naturally occurs. These include dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, peas, lentils, and dried beans.
The human body needs iron for making hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to the different tissues. And when it comes to prenatal nutrition, your body will require a lot more iron than a nonpregnant woman. This extra demand for iron is because your blood needs to constantly supply oxygen to the baby.
Hence, if iron intake during pregnancy is not adequate, you could suffer from iron-deficient anemia. Some common symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue and headaches. Extreme iron deficiency in a pregnant woman also doubles the risk of premature birth, thus leading to low birth weight and postpartum depression.
So, you must keep in mind that your body should get 27 milligrams of iron per day and for that, have fish, poultry, red meat, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, leafy vegetables like spinach, and beans every day. Taking an iron supplement is a great idea as the food you consume cannot always fulfil your body’s daily requirement of iron.
Calcium will strengthen the fragile bones of your body as well as assist in the formation of teeth. It is also crucial for healthy functioning of the nervous, muscular, and circulatory systems. So, a pregnant lady should have 1000 mg of calcium regularly and for that, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are the best sources. Kale, broccoli, breakfast cereals, salmon, and spinach are some other calcium-rich foods for pregnancy.
Your body requires 71 grams of protein daily and it will promote steady growth in the fetus. Subsequent amounts of it are also required for the development of maternal tissues and increasing blood volume. It will also help your body produce enzymes and hormones. Thus, to have a successful pregnancy, additional protein is mandatory.
Hence, make sure your balanced maternity meals include plenty of poultry, seafood, lean meat, eggs, seeds, soy products, peas, and beans.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is necessary to build the bone and teeth of your baby. It will help prevent gestational diabetes, preterm birth, small-for-gestational-age, and preeclampsia. Did you know that higher levels of vitamin D also increases your chances of getting pregnant and staying pregnant? So, you should have 600 IU of vitamin D per day right from the moment you plan a baby.
Wondering what is a good source of vitamin D? Fatty fish like salmon, orange juice, and fortified milk, and eggs are some incredible sources. Prenatal vitamin tablets also contain vitamin D as well as vitamin C.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids is important when you are expecting as they can determine the length of your labor and get rid of perinatal depression. They are also the building blocks of the baby’s retina and fetal brain. Omega-3s will also prevent your baby from a variety of allergic conditions like asthma.
Part of a pregnant person’s dietary goal should be 650 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. If there is omega-3 fatty acid deficit in your diet, you have two choices: algae-derived DHA or fish oil supplements containing DHA or EPA. Basil seed drink, Brussel sprouts, flax seeds, avocados, salmon, walnuts, tuna, mackerel, catfish, sardine, seeds, trout, soybeans, and eggs are some prenatal omega-3 sources.
Hydration During Pregnancy: How Will It Benefit the Baby and the Mother?
A pregnant woman needs more water than any average human in order to carry nutrients, aid digestion, flush out toxins and waste, build tissues, and produce more blood. So, you should make sure you are never dehydrated, especially during summer. Here are the major reasons why you should prioritize hydration in pregnancy:
- Softens skin and makes it radiant
- Keeps your body cool
- Prevents urinary tract infections
- Gives energy
- Decreases hemorrhoids/ constipation
- Decreases the chances of preterm labor
- Reduces swelling
So, how much water must you drink? Doctors recommend having at least 3 liters (8-12) glasses of water per day. As long as your urine is colorless and pale, you will know that you are having enough water. For people who don’ like drinking too much water, follow these tips for preventing dehydration:
- Add limes, frozen raspberries, and lemons to the water you drink
- Drink milk, soups, and tea occasionally
- Say no to caffeine (because of its dehydrating effects)
- Have lots of fresh fruits
Why Consult a Nutritionist for Optimal Pregnancy Diet?
Irrespective of your healthy eating habits during pregnancy, you may miss out on some key nutrients. Hence, to be on the safe side, you should get in touch with a certified dietician to get a diet chart that will fill all the gaps in your diet. Moreover, the person will suggest what to eat based on your specific condition. For instance, gestational diabetes diet is not the same as the healthy diet of a lady who does not have diabetes.
You should also not skip the monthly check-ups. If there are some complications, they will be detected at the earliest and thus, won’t risk the life of your baby.
The Final Thought
Therefore, making sensible food choices during pregnancy will meet your body’s nutritional needs and keep your baby healthy. Does this mean following the above-mentioned guidelines will be enough?
As explained already, every pregnancy is different and hence, you should visit an esteemed health care provider. Your dietician will prescribe pregnancy vitamins and give dietary guidelines curated specifically for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the essential nutrients for an optimal pregnancy diet?
Folic acid, calcium, protein, vitamin D, and iron are the most vital nutrients you need as part of your optimal pregnancy diet. Scroll up to find out the best sources of calcium, iron, and other minerals.
Q. How can pregnant women safely manage their weight while ensuring proper nutrition?
While weight gain during pregnancy is a sign of healthy pregnancy, excessive weight gain can have adverse effects. So, your aim should be to eat nutritious food like fresh fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and protein. To promote healthy weight gain, you should also exercise and stay away from unhealthy fats, sweets, deep-fried and processed food.