A pregnant woman needs to closely monitor her nutritional intake during all three trimesters of gestation.
The First Trimester of Pregnancy does not need any extra increase in calories. During this stage, many women go through hormonal changes which result in nausea and a general loss of appetite. It is important that small, frequent and nutrient-dense meals are a part of the pregnancy diet. Instead of reaching for potato chip almonds, one can substitute white bread or its wholemeal counterpart and sneak in vegetables and fruits in any form.
From the Second Trimester onward, calorie requirements increase to about 300 to 500 additional calories per day and it is again important that these come from nutritious foods and are not just empty calories.
We have compiled a list of the major food groups that become a part of your balanced diet during pregnancy :
Carbohydrates: Foods that contain carbohydrates should not be ignored. lt is important to spread their consumption over the whole day, with the highest intake in the morning and the lowest at night. Carbohydrate rich foods include rotis, rice, breads, grains, pastas,
Cereals: The minimum serving requirement is 6 per 24 hours. This food contributes to the overall growth of the foetus, adds fibre to your diet and helps to keep the stomach juices settled, thus reducing nausea and acidity.
It is recommended that if you feel a wave of nausea rising, eat a small piece of toast or a cracker and it will help settle your stomach
Fruits and vegetables: These act as your pregnancy support system. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and have a high level of nutrition in a fewer number of calories. This is the group we must turn to when we want to satisfy our hunger pangs. A good rule of thumb to follow in this group is to ensure that we eat a wide range of colors, The more the colours on our plate, the higher the probability of obtaining all the nutrients that this group has to vegetables in a serving period.
Protein: This is the building block cells and it is also essential for foetal brain development. Sources of protein include non-vegetarian foods such as chicken, fish and eggs, and vegetarian foods such as lentils, legumes, nuts and soya beans. It is important to have a serving of protein along with each meal from the 12th week onward.
Milk and Dairy Products: Calcium is responsible for the baby’s bones, teeth and muscle tone and development. A pregnant woman needs about 600 ml of milk or milk products in a 24-hour period. You can consume this directly in the form of milk or try alternatives such as cottage cheese, yoghurt, cheese, custard or ice cream.
However, it is important to watch the sugar content and use products such as honey or jaggery to sweeten the foods. Also it’s not necessary to consume full cream milk. The skimmed and toned variety will give you just as much calcium with less of the saturated fat. Plant foods that contain calcium include sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables and ragi.
Sweets: Pregnant women often develop a craving for sweets, but these are best limited to no more than one small piece of chocolate or an Indian sweet every day. They contribute to little else than excessive weight gain.
Oils: The requirement for oil/butter/ghee cream shuold be restricted to 2 tbsp in a 24-hour period. This includes all the oil in the cooking and hence leaves no scope for fried foods
Water: Remember to consume at least 8 glasses of water every day. Water helps to keep you hydrated, keeps constipation at bay, aids in digestion and ensures that the levels of fluid in the amniotic sac are maintained.
The most important rule to remember is that pregnant women should eat every 2-3 hours. The foetus inside you is growing at a phenomenal pace and needs constant nutrition. It is not necessary to eat a full meal and small snacks at regular intervals are a cardinal rule.