Pregnancy Food Guide For Expecting Mothers

When you’re expecting a baby, everybody from friends and relatives to total strangers will give you advice about what foods to eat when pregnant. At best, the recommendations you receive could be slightly confusing. At worst, it could be downright harmful. We’re here to dispel myths about good and bad food for pregnant women to help you enjoy a completely safe and healthy journey to motherhood. To be completely safe, we recommend that you always consult your doctor before changing your food intake.

Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Let's start with what's good for you. When you're pregnant, your body needs extra nutrition. During your second and third trimesters of pregnancy specifically, you'll need to consume around 350-500 extra calories per day. So, what should you be eating to get the kind of nutrition you need? Here's a look at the healthiest food for pregnant women:

1. Greek Yogurt – It goes without saying that you need to up your intake of dairy products during your pregnancy. Apart from providing you with the kind of calcium that you and your growing baby need, Greek yogurt also contains probiotic bacteria, which keeps your digestive tract healthy, making it an excellent pregnancy food. Higher calcium and probiotics in your meal plan helps you seriously reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, allergies, vaginal infections and preeclampsia. Read more about preeclampsia during pregnancy, its causes & preventive measures here.

2. Lentils – Offering generous helpings of fibre, protein, calcium and folate (B9), lentils and other legumes are absolutely essential for you and your baby. A single serving (one cup) of chickpeas, black beans or lentils can provide you with around 65-90% of your required daily amount of folate. If you don't consume quite enough B9, your baby may suffer from neural tube defects or have a very low birth weight. Apart from all the folate, certain lentils also have high magnesium, iron and potassium, making it an absolute must-have food for pregnant women.

3. Fatty Fish – Adding fats to your pregnancy diet may seem a bit odd, but fish like salmon have a very high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which will help your baby's brain and eyes develop. Unfortunately, due to pollution and other contaminants, pregnant women are told to limit their intake of seafood. To ensure you still get the omega-3 fatty acids you need, without suffering the risk of mercury poisoning from contaminated fish, it's a good idea to eat seafood for 2 or 3 meals per week.

4. Sweet Potatoes – Unlike its starchy counterpart, sweet potatoes are chock-full of beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A. Ideally, expecting mothers are asked to increase their vitamin A consumption by around 10-40%. By adding sweet potato to your diet, you'll get the required amount of vitamin A you need to aid your baby's development. Another reason sweet potato is a great pregnancy food is its high fibre content, which keeps you feeling full for longer, improves your digestive health, and reduces blood sugar spikes.

5. Greens – Broccoli and dark, leafy veggies are crucial foods to eat during pregnancy. Vegetables like kale and spinach provide a large chunk of the nutrients that expecting mothers require. Leafy vegetables are rich in antioxidants, calcium, folate, potassium and vitamins C, K, and A. They also have a high fibre content, which helps prevent constipation, an issue that may plague many pregnant women. Additionally, leafy greens can improve your baby's birth weight too. Leafy vegetables are a rich source of calcium and iron which are important to preserve your born strength. Learn more about importance of iron and calcium in pregnancy diet here

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Apart from understanding what foods to eat when pregnant, it's also crucial to evaluate your pregnancy diet to see what's harmful for you and your baby. Let's take a look at few food items that you should try to avoid when you're expecting:

1. High-Mercury Fish – High amounts of mercury can cause problems with your nervous system, kidneys and immune system. It also causes serious developmental issues in children. Fish that are known to have high contents of mercury are king mackerel, tuna, shark, and swordfish.

2. Undercooked & Processed Meats – When you eat a meat that isn't cooked properly, you run the risk of contracting an infection from a parasite or bacteria. Some of the most common infections related to eating undercooked or raw meats include salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and toxoplasma. These infections could damage your baby's growth and progress in a number of ways.

3. Raw Sprouts – Bacteria such as salmonella thrive in the kind of humid climate required for beans to sprout. These bacteria can't simply be cleaned with water. The only way to truly omit the chance of infection is by cooking the sprouts really well before you consume them.

4. Processed Junk Food – Junk foods are high in fats, sugar and calories, making it one of the top foods to avoid during pregnancy. They cause you to gain excess weight and increase your risk of gestational diabetes and complications during childbirth. It's also important to limit your intake of junk food as it could adversely affect your child.

5. Caffeine – There are many people who feel like they can't function without at least one cup of coffee in the morning. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant, but it can be damaging to your growing foetus. Too much caffeine in your diet could lead to a higher risk of a miscarriage or low birth weight. It's a good idea to limit your intake of coffee, tea, energy drinks, colas and chocolate (caffeine is also found in cocoa) while you're pregnant.

For a healthy lifestyle and pregnancy, you need to ensure that you follow a well-balanced diet. By increasing your consumption of whole foods and decreasing the amount of fried and processed food in your diet, you can enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy. If you're craving a certain food item, it's your body's way of telling you that it's missing out on a few nutrients. The easiest way to get all the nutrition you need is by listening to your body and consulting with a doctor to find out what you can or cannot eat. You can explore additional healthy pregnancy diet tips & plans here. Remember, a happy mom is a healthy mom, and a healthy mom means a healthy baby.

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