Healthy eating in pregnancy – The best gift for baby

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Do you know that pregnancy is the only time when what you eat directly affects another person?

One of the best things you can do for your baby is to eat well-balanced and nutritious food during pregnancy. In a depressed economy with tight household finances, other pressing needs can take priority over healthy eating but should not be the case if you’re pregnant.

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What to eat and why

Nutrients are nourishing substances found in food and together with vitamins are essential for your body to stay healthy and function well. In pregnancy your baby takes all the nutrients, she needs to grow from you. Some key nutrients and vitamins are required in greater amounts during pregnancy to allow your baby to develop properly.

Eating a balanced diet every day that contains the main food groups is more important than ever during pregnancy. The food groups include:

  • Protein – lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, milk
  • Grains/Carbohydrates – rice, wheat, millet, oats, cereal, pasta, bread, yam
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables – Leafy green vegetables mainly

Pregnant women often deal with morning sickness, food cravings, and food avoidance, which make it difficult to eat well. In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty is also a major obstacle to healthy nutrition for pregnant women. Even with a balanced diet, it’s difficult to get all the nourishment you and your baby need during pregnancy. That is why doctors recommend prenatal vitamins to all pregnant women to provide the essential nutrients the growing baby needs.

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What not to eat and why

Pregnancy weakens your immune system. Also, your unborn baby’s developing organs are very sensitive to disruption from outside influences such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and medicines. For these reasons, it is vital to pay careful attention to what you eat.

Mercury is a metal that with links to various birth defects. It is present in high levels in some fish. Fish and shellfish, however, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for baby’s brain development. Fish low in mercury that is safe to eat include shrimp, salmon, catfish, canned mackerel, and sardines.

Listeriosis is a food-borne bacterial infection that can cause miscarriage, premature birth or stillbirth. Pregnant women are at very high risk of listeriosis.

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Foods to avoid:

  • Shark, swordfish, tuna and King mackerel – due to high mercury level
  • Raw or undercooked eggs, meat, and seafood – risk of Listeriosis or Salmonella food poisoning
  • Unpasteurized milk – risk of Listeriosis
  • Hot dogs and luncheon meats, soft cheese – risk of Listeriosis
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood – risk of Listeriosis

What to eat in moderation:

  • Limit artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin
  • Limit caffeine – do not take more than 12 ounces of coffee or tea daily

Food cravings and dislikes

Pregnancy hormones may make your sense of smell stronger, which can affect your sense of taste, making you want certain foods all the time or avoid some types of food altogether. Some women even crave non-foods like sand, clay or chalk, which can be extremely toxic to the unborn baby.

Eat the foods you crave in moderation. You only need 300 additional calories daily from your fourth month to the end of your pregnancy! If the foods you can’t stand are important sources of vital nutrients, find a different way to include the nutrients in your eating. For example, if meat makes you nauseous, get your protein from beans instead.

If your approach to nutrition during pregnancy has been to eat whatever you feel like – and a lot of it – there’s no need to panic. It’s never too late to start eating well. No matter what stage you are in pregnancy, you can give your baby a great start by making healthy food choices now.

 

 

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