What a pregnant woman eats has a direct bearing on her unborn child. She has to take a well-balanced diet which has all the required nutrients, vitamins and minerals, not only to keep her body healthy and prepare it for childbearing and breastfeeding, but also to aid in the proper growth and development of the unborn child. A normal, healthy woman requires approximately 2100 calories in a single day and during pregnancy, she needs about 2500 calories in a day. Besides increasing the number of calories, she should pay attention to the kind of foods she eats, so that she and her unborn baby get the right kind of nutrition. What constitutes a balanced diet for pregnant women, let's find out.
Diet for a Healthy Pregnancy
Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins
A balanced diet for women is the one in which all food groups i.e. foods containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats are included. A pregnant woman's diet should mainly consist of carbohydrates, which can be derived from including foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, corn, rice and whole grains in the diet. Fats, which are found in oils, butter, nuts and dairy products as well as high protein foods, which are found in meat, eggs, fish, beans and dairy products have to be included in the diet too.
As constipation is common during pregnancy, so including fiber rich foods in the diet is essential. Some of the foods rich in fiber are whole grain breads, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables and cereals.
A well-balanced diet would be incomplete without including at least four servings of calcium rich foods in a day. Ideally, a pregnant woman should get around 1000-1300 mg of calcium through her diet every day.
Iron rich foods are a must in a pregnancy diet plan, because they provide the body with extra blood needed for the placenta. Broccoli, spinach, wholemeal bread and muesli are some of the foods that are rich in iron and thus, are an important part of a healthy diet.
Vitamin C and A
A pregnant woman should eat at least one food product which is a good source of vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin A, everyday. Foods rich in vitamin C are oranges, strawberries, papaya, cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers, sprouts and grapefruits. Foods rich in vitamin A are spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, beet greens, turnip greens, apricots and pumpkins.
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is essential for the development of the nervous system of the baby. Folic acid helps in preventing neural tube defects as well as certain congenital malformations in the baby too. A woman should start taking folic acid rich foods such as green vegetables, lentils, orange juice, barley beans, rice and peas, even prior to conception and continue taking them for the first three months of pregnancy.
Prenatal Vitamin Supplements
If by any chance a pregnant woman is lacking in vitamins or minerals or the required nutrients of a healthy diet, she should take prenatal vitamin supplements to make up for it. It is always best to consult a doctor who will then prescribe prenatal vitamins, according to the body's requirement.
During pregnancy, majority of women experience morning sickness, nausea and vomiting, making it difficult for them to increase their calorie intake. However, undertaking a diet, which includes all the foods mentioned above, is a must. Pregnant women should strive as much as they can to consume all the necessary food in the right quantity, so as to keep themselves as well as their baby healthy.