Nutritional Diet for Pregnancy

Good nutrition during pregnancy helps to keep the developing baby and its mother healthy. The need for certain nutrients, such as calcium, iron and folate, is increased at this time, but only a small amount of extra energy is needed. Women should be encouraged to eat until they are full and monitor their weight. A normal weight gain is around 25 to 30 pounds for women who have a healthy pre-conception weight.

Healthy Foods for Pregnant Women
A wide variety of foods is necessary to ensure the nutritional needs of both mother and baby are met. A healthy diet for a pregnant woman includes:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Moderate amounts of low fat dairy foods and lean meats
  • Small amounts of foods high in fat, sugar and salt
  • Lean meat, chicken, and fish
  • Dried beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Low fat milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Green leafy vegetables

Folate Supplements
Apart from a healthy diet, it is also recommended that a folate supplement be taken prior to conception and throughout pregnancy. It helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Anemia and Iron Intake
Pregnancy increases the need for iron in the diet. The developing fetus draws enough iron from the mother to last it through the first five or six months after birth. So a woman has an increased need for iron during pregnancy.

Iron losses are reduced during pregnancy as a pregnant woman is no longer menstruating and is able to absorb more iron than usual. Include foods that are good sources of iron in the diet every day, as well as eating foods that are good sources of vitamin C, which helps to absorb the iron. The recommended daily intake of iron during pregnancy is 22-36mg. However, the amount needed depends upon the amount of iron the mother already has in her body prior to pregnancy.

Folate and Neural Tube Defects
A pregnant woman should increase her folate intake to 0.4-0.5mg per day. Folate, also known as folic acid, is a B-group vitamin found in a variety of foods. If a pregnant woman does not consume enough folate, the baby may develop neural tube defects, like spina bifida. It is found that folate taken before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy helped to prevent seven out of ten cases of neural tube defects.

Excellent food sources of folate include:

  • Asparagus
  • Bran flakes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chick peas
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Spinach

Very good food sources of folate include:

  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Oranges
  • Orange juice
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Wheat germ
  • Wholegrain bread

Good food sources of folate include:

  • Hazelnuts
  • Vegemite
  • Parsnips
  • Potato
  • Salmon
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato
  • Unsalted peanuts
  • Walnuts

Vitamin Supplements
Multivitamin and calcium supplements are recommended for pregnant women who are: vegetarians, teenagers who may have an inadequate food intake, substance abusers of drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, and obese pregnant women restricting their energy intake to avoid large weight gains.

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