Diet in Pregnancy
The food you consume during pregnancy helps to provide sufficient nutrients for yourself, as well as your growing baby. A well-balanced nutritious diet during pregnancy keeps you and your baby healthy and is required for your baby’s overall growth and development.
A diet consisting of the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and water constitutes a healthy diet. Some important nutrients to be included into your diet are:
Folic acid: Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the early stages of a developing fetus. Getting the recommended amount of folic acid, alone from food, may be difficult; hence, it is necessary to include folic acid supplements before and during your pregnancy.
Calcium and Vitamin D: A growing baby has high demands for calcium and vitamin D as bones and teeth develop. You can take in calcium through food or as a supplement during pregnancy. Foods with high sources of calcium, such as milk, milk products and broccoli, should be included in your regular diet. Vitamin D can be obtained from milk fortified with vitamin D and from exposure to sunlight.
Iron: During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to carry oxygen to the growing fetus; hence, the quantity of iron required for this transfer of oxygen, needs to be increased. You should include iron-rich food, such as fish, poultry, lean red meat, prunes and dried beans into your diet. Including vitamin C rich foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits, to help in faster absorption of iron in the body.
Fish: Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and an important nutrient for the development of your baby’s brain, before and after birth. Fatty fish, like salmon, is a good source of Vitamin D and sardines are rich in calcium. However, fish with high concentrations of mercury, such as shark and swordfish, should be limited or avoided during pregnancy, as mercury is responsible for causing birth defects and damaging the baby’s nervous system.
The consumption of alcohol and caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy. Other foods to be avoided include:
Unpasteurised milk, cheese and juices
Raw eggs, and foods that have raw eggs, such as Caesar salad
Uncooked seafood and meat
Processed meat products like pate
Doctors generally do not suggest a vegetarian diet while pregnant, but if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can continue with the same foods. Your doctor may suggest protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D supplements if you do not consume meat, eggs, milk products and seafood.