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Healthy Diet for Moms-to-be

Eat well, be well during pregnancy

By Samya Athamneh, International Dietician

Congratulations, you are pregnant. However, if you are like most women, who have concerns running through your mind, how can I eat healthy for both my baby and my self? In addition, how can I gain the right amount of weight so that it does not take me until my child is in preschool to fit back into my jeans again?

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Between cravings and morning sickness, eating well during pregnancy may not always be a piece of cake. However, prenatal nutrition is a serious business. It is necessary for you and your baby’s growth, brain development, reduced risk of birth defects and a strong immune system. Since it is not how much, but what you eat that makes the difference, here is how the healthy pregnancy diet can help. During pregnancy, the body requires extra calorie, protein, vitamins, mineral in order to support the baby’s growth and to allow for changes in mothers body.

Important considerations in pregnancy

The extra food you eat should not be just empty calories, it should provide the nutrients your growing baby needs. For example, calcium help makes bones and teeth strong, while you are pregnant; you still need calcium for your body plus extra calcium for the developing baby. Similarity, you require the all-essential nutrients than you did before become pregnant.

Here are some of the most common nutrients you need and the foods that contain it:
Nutrient Needed Needed for Best sources
Protein Cell growth and development Lean meat, fish, poultry, egg white,beans, peanut butter, tofu
Carbohydrate Daily energy production Breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta
Calcium Strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction/nerves function Milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines with edible bone, spinach, okra
Iron Red blood cell production / needed to prevent anaemia Lean red meat, spinach, iron fortified cereals, nuts, dried fruits
Vitamin A Healthy skin, good eye sight, growing bones Carrot, dark green leafy vegetable,potatoes
Vitamin C Healthy gums, teeth and bones, assistance iron absorption Citrus fruit, broccoli, tomato, fruit juices
Vitamin B6 Red blood cell formation effective use of protein, fat and carbohydrate Whole grain cereals, banana
Vitamin B12 Formation of red blood cell, maintain nervous system health Meat, fish, poultry, milk
Vitamin D Healthy bones and teeth, aid in calcium absorption Fortified milk, dairy product, cereals,fish, sardines
Folic acid Blood and protein production/effective enzyme function Green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, peas
Food craving during pregnancy

Food craving during pregnancy is normal. Although there is no widely accepted explanation for food cravings, almost two thirds of all pregnant women have it. If you develop sudden urge for a certain food, go and indulge your craving, it provides energy or an essential nutrient. However, if your craving persists and prevents you form getting other essential nutrients in your diet; try to create more of a balance in your daily diet.

During pregnancy your tastes for certain foods may change, you may suddenly dislike foods you were fond of before your pregnancy. In addition, during pregnancy, some women feel strong urges to eat non-food items such as ice, laundry starch, dirt, chalks, ashes, paint chips, clay.

This is called pica and may be associated with a mineral deficiency like anaemia. Do not give in to theses non-food cravings; they can be harmful to both you and your baby.

Foods to avoid

Some foods make you and your baby sick, avoid these foods as they can cause food poisoning or certain harmful diseases.
• Raw fish, especially shellfish
• Soft scrambled egg and food made from raw or lightly cooked eggs
• Un-pasteurized juices
• Un-pasteurized milk and foods made from it
• Herbal supplements and teas
• Raw or uncooked meat, poultry, seafood and hotdog
• Never eat non-food items like clay , starch, coffee grounds
• Avoid alcohol during pregnancy; alcohol has been linked to premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects and low birth weight babies
• Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tile fish (also called white snapper), because they contain high levels of mercury.

What to eat and when

During pregnancy, you may have morning sickness, diarrhoea or constipation, you may find it hard to keep foods down or you may feel too sick to eat at all. Here are some suggestions:
Morning sickness: Eat crackers, cereal or pretzel before getting out of bed, eat small frequent meals throughout the day and avoid fatty, fried, and grassy foods.
Constipation: Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, drink six glasses of water.
Diarrhoea: Eat more foods that contain pectin and gums to help absorb excess water such as apple, applesauce, banana, white rice, oatmeal, boiled potatoes.
Heartburn: Eat small frequent meals throughout the day. Try drinking milk before eating and limit caffeinated foods and beverages like tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks.

Unveiling myths with reality

Pregnancy produces a host of physiological and emotional changes in women. Advice seems to pour in from all sources, well-meaning friends, family member, and colleague at work and even perfect strangers tend to comment on a pregnant woman’s health. In the face of often-contradictory advice, especially concerning ones diet, it may be hard for a mum to achieve a comfortable and healthy balance. Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important things any pregnant women can do to enhance her health as well as the health of her baby. Here are some nutrition myths followed by information to get you and your baby off to a good start.

Myth#1: You are eating for two

In reality, you are eating for one plus one very small being. Most women only need to consume an extra 300 calories per day. Far from being a tome to overindulge, pregnancy is a time to eat sensibly and healthily. The suggested weight gain during the pregnancy is approximately 24-35 pounds (10-15 kg). However, this weight may vary depending upon each mother-to-be, pregnancy weight and the number of babies she is carrying. An under weight woman may gain up to 40 pounds, while an overweight woman may be asked to gain just 15 pounds, your doctor will specify an appropriate weight gain for your height and body build.

Myth#2: Eat low carbohydrate, high protein diet

In reality, weight loss diet, high protein – low carbohydrate, is not recommended during pregnancy. According to the daily food guide pyramid, grains, fruits and vegetables should compromise more of your diet than the meat groups. In fact, 2-3 servings of protein are required each day for pregnant women. This is easily achieved by consuming an egg/ 2-3 oz of poultry or meat/ ½ cup of dried beans or peas in the course of one day. Extra calories consumed during pregnancy should be evenly distributed among five major food groups.

Myth#3: Pregnancy induced high blood pressure caused by too much salt

In reality, pregnancy induced high blood pressure is due to a variety of physiological changes in the body during pregnancy and is therefore not treated the same way as hypertension in non pregnant adults. Moderation is the key. While overindulging in processed foods, typically containing too much salt would be unhealthy, eliminating salt and consuming no salt or low sodium specific food will be inappropriate. Aim to get 6 grams of sodium as a table salt in your foods every day.

Myth#5: It is better to rely on vitamins rather than ones diet during pregnancy

In reality, Vitamin should never be a substitute for a healthy diet, while most obstetrician and midwives will prescribe a multivitamin for their patients, these vitamins are intended to supplement and not replace a sensible diet. The best sources of vitamin and minerals may be found in their naturally state as they are better absorbed and are accompanied by their other nutrients such as protein or fiber.

Myth#4: Now that you are pregnant, it is a good time to start thinking about folic acid and B complex vitamins

In reality, Folic acid is particularly important in the first days and weeks of fatal formation, for this reason it is recommended that women take multivitamin before becoming pregnant to ensure they have adequate folic acid during the early development of the baby’s brain and spina bifida. Optimal folic acid consumption should continue through out pregnancy and in every woman’s diet during the childbearing years. Beside vitamins, excellent sources of B complex vitamin include orange juice, beans, citrus fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

Dietary guide

In order to achieve a well balanced healthy adequate nutrition during pregnancy, you should cover the daily allowances from the different criteria of food on a daily basis as following:

Nutrient Food allowances per day
Milk 2-3 cup
Meat/fish/poultry(liver once a week) cooked weight 4 oz
Vegetables including:
Dark green leafy or deep yellow
Other vegetables
½ cup
1 medium
½ to 1 cup
ruits including:
Apples or other fruit
1 serving = 1 fruit
1 serving = 1 fruit
Cereals enriched or whole grain
As pasta/rice/macaroni
3 Serving (1 Serving to ½ to 1 cup)
Bread, enriched or whole grain 4 slices (2 in the morning as breakfast / 2 for
dinner and keep 1 slice as a snack in between )
Vegetables oil 4-5 teaspoons
Vitamin D supplement or use fortified milk
Iodized salt
400 IU ( consult your doctor)
5-7 grams per day
Eggs 3 eggs per week

Repeatedly, it has been emphasized that reduced nutritional intake has a depressing effect on physical development. Malnutrition during the period of rapid brain growth will lead to some neurology impairment. Past studies of nutrition in women during pregnancy have shown a definite relationship of the diet of the mother and the condition of baby at birth.

To protect your self and your precious baby from any possible complications review your lifestyle and try to change any unpreferable behaviour related to your diet toward the better.

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