Maintaining the right diet is of utmost importance during pregnancy. This is because what you take in as food is directly consumed by your unborn baby as a source of nourishment. It is imperative that you consume the right amount of nutrients by creating a pregnancy diet plan. This will ensure that you and your baby stay healthy all through the course of the pregnancy. In addition to this, your body accumulates and stores nutrients during pregnancy in preparation for breastfeeding.
The pregnancy diet plan and neonatal development go hand in hand. Diet is a prescribed selection of food categories, while nutrients are substances found in those foods that are metabolized to supply energy to the body and build body tissues. They include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The table below details the nutrients required during pregnancy.
NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENT DURING PREGNANCY
WHAT IS A GOOD PREGNANCY DIET?
A good pregnancy diet plan contains all or most of the essential nutrients required by your body during pregnancy and is low on foods that contain “empty calories” and do not play any role in nourishing your body. Some of the essential nutrients include:
IRON: Iron is an important source of nutrients during pregnancy. It is vital for maintaining normal hemoglobin levels. A little or lack of it can lead to Anaemia which poses a threat to you and your baby’s health. Foods such as green leafy vegetables contain a large amount of iron. Your doctor might recommend iron supplements, but an intake of natural iron will help cut down on the necessity of taking supplements (some of us are not so keen on drugs). Soya beans, kidney beans, and meats such as beef, pork, turkey, and chicken are all good sources of iron. Beans, lentils, almonds, walnuts, dark green vegetables are foods that contain some iron. If you haven’t incorporated these foods into your diet, you might need to do a major grocery shopping as soon as possible.
Fun fact: Foods cooked in Iron pans can help increase its iron content. However, You may want to note that foods cooked in an iron pan can turn black (burn easily).
PROTEIN: It is a generally accepted fact that proteins are one of the most vital nutrients required by the body, it’s relevance is even more established in pregnant women. Proteins are necessary to build your baby’s developing body and to repair the tear and wear that occurs naturally in your body. An adult woman naturally requires about one gram per kilogram of protein, as a pregnant woman you need an extra fifteen grams of protein per day. The good news is, there are a variety of staple foods that you can inculcate into your diet to give you and your baby much-needed protein. These include pulses, wheat, milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt), eggs, Nuts(almonds, peanuts, walnuts), soya beans and soya bean products, chickpeas and a host of others.
Fun fact: Do you know that potatoes are not fattening as generally believed but in fact contain little fat and some protein? Boiling or baking potatoes with the skin is very nutritious. However, frying them increases their calorie content.
CALCIUM: We all adore babies with strong, beautiful dentition and of course good bones. The key to achieving this is incorporating a good amount of calcium into your diet. The average pregnant woman needs about 1000 mg of calcium per day. For women aged 18 or younger, a dose of 1300mg/day is recommended. Calcium is needed by your growing unborn child for strong bones and teeth development, to grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles and obtain blood clotting abilities. The developing baby obtains calcium requirements directly from the mother’s diet. If you do not have enough calcium in your diet, your body may resort from leeching it off your teeth and bones which will adversely affect your health. Milk and milk products are good sources of calcium. It is highly recommended to take about three glasses of milk per day during pregnancy. Calcium is also contained in green leafy vegetables, eggs, and lime, but in smaller amounts. If you do not like the taste of milk or you are lactose intolerant, you can substitute calcium-containing foods with calcium supplements. It is important to note that that too much intake of calcium has adverse health effects, it may cause kidney stones.
Fun fact: Calcium is needed during breastfeeding too, as you lose some of your body’s calcium through breast milk while nursing. It is imperative to continue eating foods rich in calcium or taking calcium supplements.
FOLATE/FOLIC ACID: The importance of this nutrient in your diet during pregnancy cannot be overemphasized. Folic acid is responsible for the formation of your baby’s neural tube. The neural tube is a structure that subsequently forms the baby’s spinal cord and brain. The spinal cord and brain make up the central nervous system. Judging by the huge role this indispensable nutrient plays in your baby’s body development, you really wouldn’t want to be caught without folic acid or folate(the form of folic acid found in food) in your diet. Nobody wants a deformed body, and this is why you should incorporate this nutrient into your diet, lack of folic acid during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spinal Bifida, a condition in which the spinal column does not close properly, hence leaving the spinal cord exposed. Food sources of folate include cabbage, orange, strawberries, Asparagus, Broccoli, peas, lettuce, and spinach. A daily dose of 400mg/day of folic acid is highly recommended during pregnancy. In as much as folic acid is present in foods, it is nearly impossible to meet the daily dose requirement from your diet only, hence you would need to make up for this by taking folic acid supplements, (some of us don’t like drugs, but there is no cheat code out of this). It is either that or insufficient folic acid levels in your body, and you already know what that means. To be on the safe side, it strongly advised taking folic acid supplements to augment the folate in your food.
Fun Fact: Foods containing folate should not be subjected to boiling or stewing as they tend to lose about 40%-80% of their folate. To prevent this from happening, you can choose to steam, blanch, or bake your folate containing foods, or simply eat them RAW!!
PREGNANCY DIET PLAN
A pregnancy diet plan helps you monitor your nutritional intake during pregnancy. It ensures you consume the right amount of nutrients and stay well within your nutritional limits. For the first trimester, a pregnancy diet plan includes
1.Foods rich in Vitamin C: At this stage of the pregnancy, the body begins to make preparations to support your baby. Vitamin C plays a key role as it helps in the synthesis of collagen which is a structural protein found in the body that gives support and structure to tissue and organs such as skin, cartilage and blood vessels. In addition to this, it contains antioxidants that help to keep the cells healthy. A daily intake of 40mg of Vitamin C is highly recommended. Good sources of vitamins include colored fruits and vegetables. Brighter or darker colored fruits are the best.
2: Foods rich in Folate: This helps in early spinal development as aforementioned. It also provides building blocks needed to construct cells in your baby’s body. Due to their high magnesium content, it also helps in easing morning sickness. Foods rich in folate include peas, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, lettuce among others.
Foods to Avoid in the First Month of Pregnancy
While you are laying out your pregnancy diet plan for the first trimester, it is important to put into consideration certain foods you should avoid during the first month of your pregnancy. Some of these foods include :
1.Papayas : Papayas are no doubt a very healthy fruit but may prove harmful for the pregnant woman. This is because it contains an enzyme called papain which the body may mistake for the prostaglandins used to induce labor. Papaya can trigger uterine contractions due to its papain content which may invariably lead to premature labor or miscarriage. Hence it should be excluded or taken in moderation in a proper pregnancy diet plan.
- Raw/Undercooked eggs: Raw eggs may likely contain a bacteria called Salmonella Enteritidis which can cause intestinal infections. Foods that are made with raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided. Some of these foods include scrambled eggs, Chocolate mousse, French toast, Mayonnaise, sunny side up eggs, etc.
- Junk foods: Research has shown that consuming too much junk foods during pregnancy can be linked to mental health problems in children such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorders. So the next time you are craving that ice cream, you might want to reach out for a bowl of fruit yogurt instead.
4: Pinneaple: Pineapples contain a substance called bromelain which can soften the cervix. When the cervix becomes too soft, premature labor or miscarriage may occur. Although some scientists argue that pineapples pose no threat as bromelain is only found in the core of the fruit as opposed to the flesh which we consume, it is better to be on the safe side by avoiding the fruit or taking it in limited quantities.
Pregnancy Diet Plan Week by Week
The following makes for a good weekly diet plan during pregnancy.
- Fresh Vegetables (4 servings daily every week)
- Fruits ( 2- 3 servings daily every week)
- Whole grain cereals/bread(6-9 servings daily every week)
- Milk and milk products (3 servings daily every week)
- Protein-rich foods (3 servings daily every week)
- Liquids (Water, 8 glasses along with milk or juice)
Pregnancy Diet Plan App
With the advent of modern technology, Modern day applications that serve as an easy guide and diet planner have emerged. You do not have to stress yourself breathless, drawing up a manual pregnancy diet plan to help you monitor and stick to your diet plan. You can simply get on the internet and download some of these “life made easy” applications. Easy peasy right!!! I thought so too. Below is a list of some pregnancy diet plan apps you can easily download. Feel free to surf the net for more at your own convenient time.
- Pregnancy diet_Day by Day chart
- Healthy pregnancy diet plan 56
WHAT NOT TO EAT DURING PREGNANCY
Caffeine: Caffeine can cause detrimental changes in your baby’s heart rates and adversely affect yours too. It depletes oxygen and nutrients in the body by constricting the blood vessels, due to an increase in stress hormones. It also reduces calcium and water content in the body.
Beverages such as coffee, tea, colas, and some soft drinks contain caffeine. Some over the counter drugs used for headaches and colds may contain caffeine. Be sure to read the labels of such drugs to scout for caffeine among the ingredients. Chocolate also has a chemical that is similar to caffeine. You should totally avoid these foods or limit the intake to as little as possible for a hitch-free and smooth sailing pregnancy.
Non-food substances: It is not uncommon for pregnant women to crave absurd and weird things that are nothing like food. This craving for non-food substances is known as PICA. These substances may include charcoal, clay, dust, matches, mothballs amongst others. These substances are harmful to you and your baby and should not be consumed. Contact your doctor or caregiver to help you manage these cravings.
Unpasteurized Milk: Pasteurization is a process that involves heating milk at about a temperature of 72°c for 15 minutes. This is necessary as it helps to eliminate harmful pathogens found in milk such as bacteria, yeasts, and molds. When buying a company or factory produced milk or cheese, ensure to check the label for the word “pasteurized”. On no occasion should you drink raw or unpasteurized milk, as this would expose you and your unborn child to severe health risks?
Packaged, Canned, and Processed foods: Foods such as cakes, biscuits, canned juices, condensed milk contain empty calories that provide your body with invaluable nutrition. In addition, they may contain preservatives, additives, and high sugar content. Avoid such foods like the plague, as they do you and your baby more harm than good. If you can’t keep your cravings under check, you can opt to prepare some of these foods yourself at home using healthy ingredients. You can also opt for healthy snacks in place of these foods.
Herbal concoctions: Herbal mixtures and concoctions should totally be avoided during pregnancy as it can disrupt a perfect pregnancy diet plan. Some might be helpful but most are harmful. Although it is claimed to be made out of natural ingredients, there is no known dosage for these mixtures, nor are they refined. If you have to take any of these mixtures, it is advisable you talk to your doctor first.
Alcohol: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy especially during the early stages poses a huge threat to the health of your unborn child. This is because alcohol which contains some toxins can be transmitted directly from the mother’s blood to the baby through the umbilical cord. The baby’s liver at this stage is not fully developed and cannot wash out the effect of the toxins. This might cause a condition called fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAE) Which is characterized by learning and behavioral difficulties, stunted growth, and facial abnormalities. As a pregnant mother, your baby’s health and safety should be your topmost priority, it is pertinent to completely avoid alcohol or any drink that contains alcohol for the sake of your baby’s health.