Pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. Yet, being pregnant is a worryfilled time too. To be certain you’ve done everything right and to make sure that your baby gets a healthy start, it is imperative to know about what you should eat and how much weight you should gain.
Nutrients are divided between you and your growing baby. Sustenance for your child comes from nutrients stored in your bones and tissues. In the past, it was believed that a developing foetus took all the nourishment it needed from the mother, regardless of the her diet. This myth maintained that if a woman’s diet was deficient in something, it did not matter because the baby could simply siphon the nutrient from the reserves in the mother’s bones and teeth. Now experts believe that it is the growing baby who is affected most if the woman’s diet lacks adequate nutrients.
Only a well-nourished woman is in a position to optimally nourish a foetus. For optimal foetal growth, diet during pregnancy must meet the needs of both the mother and the foetus.
A woman should approximately put on 10 to 12 kilograms during her pregnancy. Normally the weight gain goes like this:
- 0 to 14 weeks — no gain
- 14 to 20 weeks — 3 kilograms
- 20 to 30 weeks — 5 kilograms
- 30 to 36 weeks — 3 kilograms
- 36 to 40 weeks — no gain
These proportions are on a daily basis:
- Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta — Medium to large helpings
- Vegetables — Large helpings
- Fruits — About two to four types (seasonal)
- Milk, Yogurt and Cheese — Two to three cups
- Meat — Medium helpings
- Fats, Oils and Sweets — Fats and oils, 2 tsp/sweets: 1 ounce)
No two women have the same need for calories. That is because caloric need during pregnancy is based on an individual’s physical activity level, current weight, muscle and fat mass, metabolic rate, and the stage of pregnancy. That makes it impossible to state with certainty a specific number of additional calories needed by individual pregnant women. The best way to judge the adequacy of caloric intake is by assessing weight gain.
Protein is an important ingredient of every diet chart, more so during pregnancy. Some vegetarian sources of protein are nuts and seeds, milk and other dairy products, pulses, soya products, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, spinach, sweet corn and oats. Animal protein contains all the essential amino acids in amounts proportional to human needs. This means if you eat two four-ounce servings of animal protein, you’re almost assured of meeting your minimum needs. Good sources of animal protein include eggs, dairy products, poultry, fish and lean red meats.
Other Key Nutrients
Just as protein is an important nutrient, so are carbohydrates and fat. It is important to consume all the nutrients required during pregnancy. Besides being calorie sources, carbohydrates and fat are also essential components of the prenatal diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals provide calories from carbohydrate and many essential vitamins and minerals. They are also the best sources of fibre in the diet. The less processed or refined these foods are, the higher the fibre content which is helpful for managing constipation, common during the later stages of pregnancy. It also provides a sense of satiation that discourages overeating. Fat in the diet provides substances that are essential for cells to form and keep their shape. They are also the only source of Vitamin E in the diet whose purpose is also to protect growing cells.