Healthy pregnancy diet do’s and don’ts
What a mother eats during pregnancy is the main source of nutrients for the baby in her womb. Dieticians and experts suggest that diet during pregnancy should be rich in nutrients to support the baby’s growth and development. A healthy pregnancy diet must be balanced for the special needs of expectant mothers, with some foods that are recommended and others that should be limited. This Pacific Prime UK article gives you some do’s and don’ts.
Vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy
A pregnant woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron and protein than a woman who is not expecting. Therefore, a healthy pregnancy diet should include pregnancy superfoods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and come from organic sources, if possible.
Calcium is used to build a baby’s bones and teeth, and calcium deficiency in a pregnant woman’s diet might cause the child to draw it from the mother’s body instead, which weakens her teeth and bones.
Food sources: Excellent sources of calcium are milk, yoghurt and cheese. If you are allergic to dairy, you can opt for green vegetables, beans and almonds. You can also take calcium in the form of tablets, which are often also fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that works with calcium to develop a baby’s bones and teeth.
Also known as folate, folic acid is a B vitamin that is crucial in helping to prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord. During pregnancy, a woman’s need for folic acid increases 2- or even 4-fold, which makes it the most important vitamin in the pregnancy menu. Women should supplement folic acid even before getting pregnant.
Food sources: To get a good dose of folic acid during pregnancy, go for leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lettuce, asparagus, fortified cereals, bread, pasta, beans and citrus fruits.
Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double the amount needed by women who are not expecting. Iron helps make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anaemia, a condition that results in fatigue and an increased risk of infections to mothers.
Food sources: The best source of iron is lean red meat, but it can be replaced with other products such as eggs, beans and green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and sorrel.
More protein is needed during pregnancy, but most women don’t have problems getting enough protein-rich foods in their diets. Protein helps build the fetus’s body, including the brain and heart, which is why a good, balanced diet rich in protein is recommended.
Food sources: Protein options include lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and tofu are the best food sources to get protein from during pregnancy. The wise choice is to choose the best quality of protein sources, such as organic products.
Foods to eat during pregnancy
A healthy diet during pregnancy should, first and foremost, contain good quality protein products, complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. However, your nutrition needs will differ depending on the trimester you’re in now.
Note: For a personalised, month by month pregnancy diet chart, it’s advisable to consult your obstetrician/gynaecologist. In addition to this, diet and diet advice might be slightly different for expectant mothers who are vegetarian, overweight, obese or have diabetes.
Foods to eat during the first trimester
Healthy pregnancy meals/snacks for the first trimester include those that are fresh and natural, and those that are without added preservatives. Taking additional vitamins and minerals in the form of tablets (except folic acid) is inadvisable during the first three months of pregnancy. Excess of some vitamins (e.g. vitamin A) can even be harmful to the developing fetus. Of course, you should also give up alcohol completely.
Pregnancy foods to eat after the first trimester
A growing fetus needs nutrients and this applies primarily to protein, which is the basic building block of tissues. A pregnant woman’s overall caloric demand also increases after the first trimester, and usually, a woman in this stage of pregnancy needs about 3000 kcal, only 700 kcal more than before pregnancy. This is because the body can now make better use of food, so eat for two, not for one, and be careful of overeating during your pregnancy.
Best pregnancy food choices
Diet during pregnancy is focused on keeping the mother healthy and maximising the healthy development of the baby. Pregnant women are encouraged to eat a balanced diet that consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products – all of which are rich in the nutrients most needed at this time.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
In addition to the foods that are particularly recommended, there are many foods that a pregnant woman should avoid because they could harm her or her child. Another good tip for a healthy pregnancy is to avoid eating the following:
- Raw or undercooked meat (e.g. tartare, rare beef steak) can be a source of Toxoplasma infection.
- Feta cheese, camembert blue and soft cheeses can contain bacteria of the genus Listeria, which can cause serious illness in pregnant women.
- Raw seafood and fish (e.g. sushi oysters) since they can be infected with dangerous bacteria or parasites.
- Coffee, strong tea and Cola contain caffeine, which over-stimulates the mother and child and can lead to arrhythmias.
- Raw eggs and unpasteurised milk are products that can sometimes be infected with salmonella.
- Alcohol disturbs the healthy development of the baby and may lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Prioritising the mother and baby’s health
Pacific Prime UK, a division of Pacific Prime, has over 20 years of experience in providing international private health insurance for expatriates around the world. We also advise our clients in choosing family health insurance and, of course, maternity health insurance in the UK. We also have a Maternity Insurance Guide that is available for a free download.
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