Changing Your Diet When You Are Pregnant

For the first time mom-to-be, pregnancy is uncharted territory. An alien environment and experience for them to be in and this might cause them to be anxious. “What should I do?” , “What should I eat?”, “Is it okay for me to keep exercising?”.

These are some common doubts that you may have. While we would recommend you to consult your doctors on exercising during pregnancy, we do have a few tips to share about prenatal diet. These are the 7 nutrients you should get during pregnancy!

Calcium

Calcium is an essential nutrient to your everyday meal. An evergreen staple to the balanced diet plan and a proven one at that. It helps in strengthening your bones, keeps your blood and muscles moving and helps your nerves send messages from your brain to the rest of your body. Having sufficient calcium intake helps to reduce your risk of pre-eclampsia, a hypertension disorder during pregnancy that can increase the risk of miscarriage. 

Calcium is not only beneficial for your health but it is also important for your baby as well! How so, you may ask. During pregnancy, your baby’s bones and teeth are developing at a drastic rate! Hence, calcium is essential not only for this purpose but also for boosting your baby’s muscles, promoting heart development and encourages nerve growth.

Furthermore, calcium-based foods make for good confinement snacks too. It helps you reduce your risk of brittle bones in later years. Examples of foods that are rich in calcium are milk, cheese, dairy foods, soy milk, soy products and black sesame seeds.

Iron

During pregnancy, it is wise for mothers to consume diets that are rich in iron. This is because your body would require twice the amount of iron compared to a non-pregnant woman. Iron is an essential nutrient that is needed to form haemoglobin, the protein component of your red blood cells which transport oxygen to your tissues.

Moreover, the lack of iron in your diet at this stage would lead to iron deficiency anaemia. A condition which could be severely harmful to the pregnant mother as it could cause premature births, low birth weight for the baby and postpartum depression.

Also, iron-rich food is quite easy to obtain as they are available in abundance. For instance, lean red meat, poultry, fish, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, prune juice, dried beans and peas. Do remember to take a fruit with these meals as vitamin C increases the absorption of iron intake.

Besides that, do make sure to avoid having dairy, tea or coffee with these meals as calcium and caffeine reduces the absorption of iron in these foods. If you do, take these foods 2 hours before or after your meals. 

Vitamin B12 

During pregnancy, it is worth keeping Vitamin B12 in mind when you are getting or preparing food for yourself. While this nutrient is not mentioned as frequently as the other nutrients on this list, it is not in any way less important or inferior.

Vitamin B12 is vital for your nervous system. This nutrient, alongside folic acid, is essential in preventing Spina Bifida, a condition that affects the baby’s spine and is usually apparent at birth. Moreover, this nutrient is also effective in preventing central and spinal nervous system birth defects in your baby. So what are the foods that are rich in vitamin B12? They are red meat, poultry, fish and seafood.

Vitamin D

For you to have a healthy pregnancy and a smooth delivery, Vitamin D intakes are important during this period. This is due to the fact that Vitamin D helps in facilitating the absorption of a sufficient amount of calcium and phosphate in your body. This nutrient is crucial for both you and your newborn as it helps your newborn’s heart, kidneys, nervous system, teeth and bones to develop. It can also help to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant mothers.

With that said, how much vitamin D should you consume during pregnancy? You are advised to consume around 10mg of Vitamin D daily to provide your baby with enough Vitamin D during their first few months of life! The main source of vitamin D is the sun! To allow your skin to generate sufficient vitamin D for yourself, it is generally recommended to expose your skin safely by exposing only your face, arms and hands to midday sun for at 15 to 30 minutes daily. If you are of a darker skin tone you may need up to 1 hour.

Vitamin D can be obtained from some foods such as salmon, shiitake mushrooms, fortified cereal, fortified milk and fortified soy milk. However, it may be insufficient to obtain solely from our diet. Alternatively, you can obtain sufficient vitamin D intake through supplements. Check with your doctor if you need supplementation Vitamin D supplements are also advised for breastfeeding mommies as their requirements remain high. 

Folate/ Folic Acid

It is worth mentioning that you are recommended to consume at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Based on the study by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most prenatal vitamins contain this amount of folic acid. Folic acid supplements are generally recommended to take three months before conception and the first three months of pregnancy.

Folate is important because it prevents NTDs (Neural Tube Defects) such as Spina Bifida. In addition, this nutrient is important for the development of your baby’s nervous system as well. Plus, folate is easily accessible as it is a natural nutrient found in food especially green leafy vegetables, legumes and beans.

Iodine

Consumption of iodine is key to a healthy pregnancy It is important because it contributes to the production of maternal and fetal thyroid hormones that regulate the development of the fetal brain and nervous system.

It is also worth noting that your needs to increase substantially during pregnancy to ensure enough supply to the fetus. The recommended amount of iodine you should consume ranges between 220mcg/ day. This is essential for proper fetal growth and prevents cognitive or psychomotor impairments. Common food sources of iodine are seaweed, fish, shellfish and iodized salt. 

Choline

Choline is an essential micronutrient you should have during pregnancy as it is critical for baby’s brain development much like folate. Thus, as your baby bump grows bigger, your need for choline in your maternal diet increases to 450 mg/day during pregnancy as recommended by NIH. Good sources of Choline are eggs, beef, soybeans, chicken, fish and potatoes. Having as simple as 2 large eggs per day on top of your normal diet can help you to achieve sufficient choline intakes during your pregnancy.

All in all, having a balanced diet is essential in promoting you and your baby’s health. While you might find that the dietary requirement for a pregnant mother is stricter compared to your previous state, you will turn to appreciate it for the better once you smoothly give birth to a healthy baby. Not to mention, this could be the perfect reset button for you to rebuild yourself and start healthy eating habits!