Pregnancy is a time when your body begins to undergo sudden and rapid changes. There was a time when mothers to be were advised to eat enough for two. Today, this advice is way off the mark because new research finds that in terms of quantity, pregnant mothers need take in an extra 300 calories only. So, pregnant mothers who habitually eat enough for two may find themselves developing undesirable health conditions. Therefore, it is important for pregnant mothers to understand what kind of food is best for them and their baby.
Even if you have been eating a healthy diet prior to your pregnancy, you have to pay extra attention to what you eat when you are pregnant. A healthy diet is vital to a successful pregnancy because it ensures correct fetal growth and reduces complications.
Given below are a few guidelines regarding nutrition for pregnant women:
- Avoid empty calories. Choose whole grain foods and substitute high calorie foods with foods that have higher nutritive value.
- Pregnant women need approximately 1,500 mg of calcium everyday. This supplies enough calcium to the fetus for bone growth and prevents the mother from losing her bone density. In this regard, it is important to remember that most women do not get enough calcium even when they are not pregnant. So, extra effort has to be made to get the right amounts of calcium throughout pregnancy. Calcium rich foods include tofu, salmon, green leafy vegetables and dairy products.
- Another important aspect of nutrition for pregnant women is regarding the need to stock up on food rich in iron. These include fish, poultry, eggs, enriched grains and green leafy vegetables. However, since iron absorption from food takes place at a very slow pace, many doctors advise the intake of iron supplements. Iron supplements often lead to constipation, though it may help if you take your supplements with food. To improve iron absorption, include food that is rich in vitamin C.
- Folic acid is important to proper fetal growth. Taking in 400 mg of folic acid everyday can prevent more than 70% of birth defects commonly found in newborn babies. Natural foods like dark green vegetables, oranges, grains, beans, lean meat and liver are rich in folic acid. You also get folic acid supplements, and doctors often recommend the intake of prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid.
- Pregnant mothers must not follow a restrictive diet. Do not skip meals. Eat enough to gain weight at the recommended rate. Include a variety of foods since this ensures that you are getting all the minerals and vitamins that your body needs. Eat at regular intervals so that your blood sugar levels do not peak and dip.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Avoid alcohol and quit smoking.
- These days, it is common for pregnant women to take in large doses of supplements. Although some amount of fortified foods is helpful, large doses can cause health problems. So always discuss with your healthcare provider before you start taking supplements of any sort.
- Pregnant women should avoid undercooked food, swordfish, mackerel and tilefish since these may contain high levels of Mercury.
By following these tenets of good nutrition, a pregnant mother can ensure the health and proper development of her baby. At the same time, she can also prevent unnecessary weight gain that may lead to health complications later on.