Eating the right foods during pregnancy not only gives a child a good start in life but also protects the mother’s health and vitality. A well-nourished mother also has a better chance of breastfeeding adequately.
Nutritional requirements during pregnancy
An expectant mother’s energy requirements are only slightly increased; the total quantity of food should be much the same as usual, but she needs some extra protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Diet should be based on the following foods: cereal and bread; fruit and vegetables; meat, fish, eggs or legumes; milk and cheese; butter and table margarine. Foods from each group should be eaten daily. Sweet and fatty foods should be restricted so that more essential foods can be included.
The expectant mother should have three regular meals each day, although sometimes, generally in the early months, it is more satisfactory to have small meals and extra mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.
Such snacks should not be large, but should be nutritious: for instance a sandwich, a glass of milk or a piece of fruit. If a woman does not feel hungry at a regular mealtime, she is better to have a small meal than to miss it, because an empty stomach can cause nausea.
Reducing weight during pregnancy is not recommended.
Best foods to eat during pregnancy
The expectant mother needs these foods every day:
- Bread and cereals: Four slices of bread; one serving cereal if desired; wholemeal or brown bread, and whole grain porridge such as oatmeal, rolled oats or wheatmeal or whole grain ready-to-eat cereals is preferable.
- Fruit: Three pieces, raw or stewed. Oranges, tomatoes, cantaloupe, mandarins, paw paw and grapefruit are rich in vitamin C. Try to have one serving from this group of fruits every day.
- Vegetables: Three servings or more, including some raw (e.g salad). Meat, fish, poultry, egg, cheese or legumes: Two or three servings.
- Milk: 600 ml whole or skim milk. Use it plain or flavored, as milk coffee or milk pudding. Powdered skim milk is inexpensive and contains only half the calories of whole milk. 30 g cheese or 150 g yogurt equals 200 ml milk.
- Butter: 15 g to 30 g.
Healthy meal ideas during pregnancy
Diet must be well-balanced to ensure an adequate thiamine (vitamin B1) intake. Large amounts of highly refined foods that are high in calories provide little or no thiamine while greatly increasing energy intake. Large amounts of sweet or fatty foods should therefore be avoided.
Here is a suggested daily meal pattern:
- Breakfast: Rolled oats, oatmeal or wheat meal porridge or whole grain ready-to-eat cereal; egg, or cheese or peanut butter; toast or bread with butter; fruit juice, milk, tea or coffee.
- Lunch: Lean meat, poultry, fish, cheese, egg or legumes, served cold with salad or with hot vegetables; wholemeal bread and butter; fruit; milk, water, tea or coffee.
- Dinner: Lean meat, poultry, fish or legumes; potato, rice or pasta; vegetables and/or salad; fresh or stewed fruit; milk pudding; water, milk, tea or coffee.
Common problems and tips during pregnancy
Here are 4 things you need to know:
1. Constipated while pregnant what can I take
Many women become constipated during pregnancy. It helps to have enough exercise, to drink plenty of fluids such as water and fruit juice, and to eat foods that contain a lot of fiber, including unprocessed bran and bran type cereals, wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals, vegetables, salads, and fresh and dried fruits.
2. Foods for morning sickness in pregnancy
If an expectant mother has morning sickness, a cup of tea and a dry biscuit in bed half an hour before rising may help. Fruit juice, dry ginger ale, or similar fluids also may be helpful. If morning sickness continues to be troublesome, small meals every two or three hours instead of ordinary meals may help. Cut out fatty foods and avoid becoming constipated.
Simple cold foods such as sandwiches, salads or biscuits with cheese or yogurt are often easier to manage than hot meals. Some food usually relieves nausea, whereas not eating will probably make an expectant mother feel worse.
3. Foods to avoid during pregnancy
In summary, pregnant women should remember to use only moderate amounts of sugar, honey, jams, sweets, and sweetened drinks, cakes and fatty foods. They should avoid large amounts of salt or highly salted foods, avoid fruit salines or antacid powders containing soda, and they should avoid alcohol. Two or more standard glasses of alcohol a day may harm a baby.
4. Nutritional requirements during lactation
During lactation, nutrient requirements are higher than during pregnancy, so the mother’s diet after the baby is born is very important. It should contain at least the amounts of milk, cheese, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, fruit, vegetables, cereal, bread and butter recommended during pregnancy.
Extra energy is needed to produce milk – just how much depends on the amount of milk the baby takes, so the best guide is for the mother to weigh herself regularly. There is no reason to gain or lose weight excessively while feeding.
Milk intake should be maintained at the level of 600 ml a day, plus extra fluids as dictated by thirst. A good regular diet is needed; onions or other strongly flavored foods may upset a young baby, but in general the usual foods may be eaten.