Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition: What Kind of Diet Should a Pregnant Woman Have? (7 Healthy Food Choices)
Pregnancy is a very delicate time and one of the things you will come to quickly discover is that you need to eat the right diet, not just for your health, but to also guarantee the continued development of your baby.
There are three types of diets in pregnancy:
- The first set of food is marked code red and you want to completely avoid these.
- The next, while not completely off the red zone, could be taken if done in moderation and with some caution.
- For the last set, these have the utmost approval of your doctor and you should eat these to stay healthy.
First Set: Foods You Should Avoid Completely
Your doctor, midwife, and even friends will usually give you a warning of what these potentially harmful foods are and the type of harm they cause.
Even if these foods were your favourite before getting pregnant, you want to avoid them completely now that you are expecting.
Here is a list of foods to avoid
1) Fish high in mercury (like shark, swordfish, King mackerel, turn, tilefish, and marlin).
These fish have a high toxic level which could pose some risk to your immune system, nervous system, and kidneys. It could also cause severe developmental issues in children.
2) Undercooked or raw fish (like Sushi and all raw shellfish). This type of diet increases your risk of infection in pregnancy like salmonella, vibrio, and listeria.
Listeria is especially bad as it could get passed on to your baby, leading to premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
3) Undercooked, raw, or processed meat.
Again with the risk of getting an infection, undercooked or raw meat are potential breeding grounds for a number of bacteria and you want to avoid these at all costs.
4) Unpasteurized milk and cheese as could also be contaminated.
5) Eating raw eggs also promotes your risk of getting an infection and in extreme cases could lead to a stillbirth.
6) You also want to avoid organ meat.
Now, while these are huge sources of nutrients like copper, selenium, zinc, iron, and vitamins A and B12, taking in too much preformed vitamin A in your first trimester has been linked to miscarriage and congenital malformation.
7) You also want to avoid alcohol, and not just during pregnancy, but also while breastfeeding.
Taking alcohol in pregnancy increases your risk of a miscarriage and stillbirth. It also affects your baby’s brain and heart development.
Foods That Can Be Eaten in Moderation
Experts agree these next sets of foods can be taken in moderation. You should follow every single rule put out there while eating these foods to maintain your and your baby’s health.
Here are the foods that fall into this category:
If you were a coffee lover before getting pregnant, experts recommend you do drop this habit for the time being, as there have been reports of women who took even half a cup of coffee daily having slightly smaller babies.
However, if you must take coffee and all other such caffeine drinks, then you want to limit your daily intake to no more than 200 mg daily, that’s one 12-ounce (340 g) cup of coffee.
2) Hot dogs and luncheon meat
Other foods like hot dogs and luncheon meat should be taken only after they’ve been heated to steaming hot to kill any bacteria.
Foods You Should Actually Eat During Pregnancy
Now for the final part, this lists a number of foods you should actually eat during pregnancy.
These foods come highly recommended, not just because they will help ease your hunger pangs (and these come often! Especially when you are over that first trimester of pregnancy), but because they are beneficial to your baby’s growth and development.
So…what kind of diet should a pregnant woman eat?
1) Food rich in folate
Folate is a key nutrient in pregnancy, especially during early pregnancy when your baby’s neural tube is formed.
Taking this nutrient helps prevent birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.
Foods like eggs, beet, citrus fruits, papaya, banana, avocado, broccoli, brussels sprout, asparagus, beef liver, dark leafy greens, lentils, and fortified grains lime pasta, and bread are good sources of folate.
However, because you cannot always get the daily recommended folic acid you should take, you want to turn to a folic acid supplement, which is the synthetic form of folate to meet this need.
It is recommended that women trying to get pregnant take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day for up to three months before conceiving and continue afterward, especially during the first 3-4 weeks when most birth defects occur.
2) Eat Lots of Vegetables
Veggies are essential in pregnancy for a few reasons. Besides being high on healthy nutrients, they are also a great source of fiber for keeping constipation at bay.
They also come low in fat, cholesterol, and calorie for keeping you healthier.
Healthy vegetables to eat in pregnancy include broccoli, celery, asparagus, cucumber, corn, squash, sweet potatoes, artichokes, cauliflower, salad greens, and pepper.
3) Healthy Proteins
Healthy proteins like turkey, chicken, lean meat, lamb, pork, eggs, beans, nuts, peanut butter, and meat substitutes like tofu will not just provide energy for you, but will also support your baby’s tissue, organ, and brain development.
Here are more reasons to include protein in your diet during pregnancy:
- Protein promotes optimal breast and uterine tissue growth during pregnancy.
- It boosts your blood supply which means more blood will flow to your baby.
Fruits are also a good source of essential nutrients and you want to colour your diet with a few of these
Some good fruits to eat during pregnancy include bananas, apples, citrus fruits, avocados, strawberries, and mangoes.
You should aim to eat five portions of fruits daily to get the range of nutrients and antioxidants needed in pregnancy.
5) Healthy Dairy
Dairy products are great sources of nutrients like protein and calcium, which are essential for your baby’s bone development.
You want to opt for pasteurized dairy as these are more healthy during this time.
6) Healthy Fat and Oil
It is recommended to take up to six teaspoons of oil daily as this is essential for your baby’s brain and eye development.
You should however opt for plant oils like canola, sunflower, and olive which are healthier.
7) Drink Up
Alongside your meals, you want to ensure you take a lot of water to keep hydrated.
It is recommended you take 7 -8 glasses of water when not pregnant. During pregnancy, you need an extra 3-5 glasses (if you can take up to that) to keep things going.
Taking adequate water in pregnancy helps prevent constipation.
Water also does some key jobs like
- Enhances digestion
- Help form the amniotic fluid
- Help in the building of new tissues.
- Transports nutrient
- Help produce extra blood.
- Eliminate wastes