What is the best Nutrition in Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time for eating sensibly – think wholesome, nourishing foods for both mother and baby. However, every one – mother, mother-in-law, aunt, neighbour, co-worker, doctor – all seem to have some tip for the mother-to-be. Many myths and some potential facts are dumped in good spirit, leaving the pregnant mother confused:
- Eat for two?
- Do not touch a papaya?
- Consume supplements?
- Eating citrus fruits will cause a cold?
- Coconut water consumption will make your baby bald?
Read on, if you want to make sense out of all this advice, and enjoy your pregnancy to its healthiest best!
What should I eat during Pregnancy?
Pregnancy can be a magical time, but for some mothers-to-be it can also be full of stress and anxieties; especially when it comes to what we put in our bodies. Pregnancy is not a time for strict diets, but for eating sensibly. Think wholesome, nourishing foods for the health of both mother and baby. However, there will be times in your pregnancy when you just can’t stomach a bowl of greens and even the thought of vegetables is enough to make your stomach turn! So, go easy on yourself! Listen to your body and try to incorporate foods that are going to support you and your baby at every stage throughout your pregnancy.
The 1st Trimester
Folic Acid: The first trimester is where most women are adjusting to their surges in hormones. By the beginning of week 5 (even though your fetus is the size of an apple seed) the baby has all the correct building blocks in place for its vital organs. At this stage, folic acid is one of the important key nutrients for the normal development of the neural tube. Low levels are commonly associated with a Neural Tube defect, Spinal Bifida and Cleft Palate.
Where are the natural sources of Folic Acid for the mother?
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Dried figs
Above are some of the best natural sources of Folic Acid.
Morning Sickness and Nausea: The first trimester can also come with some very tricky symptoms. Mothers-to-be might need to navigate morning sickness, nausea and tiredness… Top this up with slowed down digestion, bloating and frequent urination – it is enough to keep moms feeling as if they want to curl up on the bed again, after brushing their teeth in the morning. Many mothers will have afternoon/evening sickness, especially when they are tired after a full day of work.
- Ginger (adrak/allum) and mint (pudina) are commonly welcome foods to help settle the tummy
- Try grating some fresh ginger into hot water, put in some crushed pudina, and a pinck of pink Himalayan salt (kaala namak/saindava lavanam), for a quick hot drink.
One of our favourites to nourish you, and yet get good source of folic acid: Delicious and Quick Smoothie
- Spinach (palak)
- Mint sprigs
- Grated ginger
- Fresh lemon juice
- Pink salt, a little pinch of pepper powder
Voila – Your power smoothie, full of nutrients, including folic acid & vitamin C, and trace minerals is ready! And guess what, it may just decrease your nausea too!
The 2nd Trimester
As the first trimester symptoms start to settle down by weeks 14-16, and your nose is less sensitive to smells of your kitchen, you’ll start to feel more normal again! By week 15-17, your baby can already swallow and taste thanks to amniotic fluid, so she may be already getting an insider’s tasting palate of your kitchen!
Your energy levels will also pick up, and you will want to do more. This is a wonderful time of your pregnancy, but it will also need excellent nourishment, enriched by:
- Vegetables & Fruits: Think colourful varieties packed full of antioxidants like: beetroot, carrots, red pepper, broccoli, tomatoes, as well as plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, and a combination of one or 2 fruits daily
- Wholegrain or wholemeal carbohydrates:Sweet potato, rice (brown/red/white), whole wheat (rotis/phulkas), millets (ragi, jowar, bajra), wholewheat pasta
- Proteins:Either vegetarian sources like whole pulses/beans/sprouts and lentils (daals) or eggs/animal sources and fish.
- Good Fats:Ghee, coconut, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds, avocado
But sensible eating, with varying your foods ensuring all above nutrients are a part of your diet is the key. One of our favourites is an Easy-Peasy Salad:
- Grated beetroot and carrot with grated coconut shavings
- Pre-soaked moong daal (lentils)
- Finely chopped green chillies ( if you like it a little spicy)
- Grated ginger
- Salt to taste
- Finally throw in a sauté of mustard seeds and asafoetida (hing), squeeze half a lemon on it
You have a super tasty dish full of vitamins, fibre, a little bit of carbs and proteins, and good fat, that is easy to make, and Tasty!
The 3rd Trimester
You’re in the home stretch, but nutrients like calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and omega-3 fats are particularly important for both you and baby! Many mothers will complain of excessive calf cramping, and one of the reasons could be lack of calcium in the diet. Also, mood swings are a common part of this trimester, and can be minimised with a good supportive environment at home/work, but also with a daily dose of Vitamin D.
- Calcium: As most people know, calcium can be found in dairy products, but smaller amounts can also be found in almonds, tofu and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Magnesium: Good sources can be found in foods like – avocado, almonds, walnuts, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables and apricots.
- Vitamin D: Actually comes from sunshine, so just 5 – 10 minutes of sun exposure around 4 to 5 pm, would be a good idea. If you cannot get it from nature, you can talk to your care-provider about a Vit D supplement.
- Omega-3 fats: Walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds are easy sources. If you eat fish, that can be another good source as well. Baby’s brain development is supported by good Omega 3 fats!
A good recipe for a wholesome snack that we love
- Take wholewheat bread as the base.
- Smear some organic olive oil, or a small quantity of butter/ good quality cheese spread.
- Put a teaspoon of salsa sauce on it (If you want to know how to make homemade salsa, keep tuned for our reciepes J)
- Top this with chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies (optional), lots of coriander, and a bit of grated cheese on it.
- Grill it for 2 mins (or less) in a preheated oven/grill/ electric tandoor/ or even a tawa on low heat on your stove
A fantastic nutritious snack is ready! Be aware of portions, as this is calorie dense. But, what a great way to get in your nourishment, as long as you balance out your food for the rest of the day! Or you can make this your meal, with a side of tomato or lemon-coriander soup
A Final Word on Pregnancy Nutrition:
- Don’t eat foods such as under-cooked meats, raw eggs, specific fish and unpasteurized cheeses. Do keep different cutting boards for your meats and your vegetables, and wash hands thoroughly as you meal prep.
- Don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to make poor food choices – Unfortunately, pregnancy is not an excuse to eat extra pooris, Rasmalai or extra serving of ice cream! Never has there been a better time to be mindful and conscious about your food choices! What you eat is what you will be serving your kids in the future! Not only that, unnecessary weight gain leads to complex needs like Gestational Diabetes, impacting birth outcomes and future generations! Keep your foods wholesome, simple and nutritious at least 90% of the times!
- Don’t go for long periods of time without food. Eat to hunger, small meals, at 2 to 3 hour intervals, and drink plenty of water which will help to keep both hydration and digestion on track!
Dr. Vijaya is the founder of Healthy Mother Sanctum – one of the first modern midwifery led birthing centers in India. Sanctum is proud to have an average track record of more than 90% natural births.