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What to Eat While Pregnant

A healthy diet during pregnancy is essential for your health and that of your unborn baby. Not only does it nourish you and the baby, but what you eat also affects your baby’s growth and development. With this in mind, you should ensure your pregnancy diet plan contains all the nutrients you and your baby need before, during, and after the pregnancy.

While you don’t have to adopt a special diet, you need to know the right foods to eat to acquire the nutrients you need. To help you make wise dietary choices, read on to find out what your ideal pregnancy diet should contain.

1. Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that helps in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen in the body, which includes supplying oxygen to your baby. Besides facilitating the supply of oxygen, iron is also necessary for your baby’s muscle and brain development, especially in the third trimester.

Since pregnancy increases your body’s demand for iron, you need to ensure you meet your iron requirements to prevent iron deficiency. Iron deficiency may cause fatigue, premature birth, low birth weight, and postpartum depression.

The best way to meet your iron requirements is by eating foods rich in iron and taking iron supplements. As a pregnant woman, you need at least 27 milligrams of iron daily. You can improve your iron absorption by taking iron-rich foods or supplements with drinks or food containing high levels of Vitamin C.

Sources of Iron: Some of the foods containing iron include red meat, liver, soy, kale, dried fruits, beans, nuts, and iron-fortified cereals.

2. Protein

Proteins help develop your baby’s organs, including the heart and brain, tissues, and muscles.  It is also necessary for breast and intrauterine wall growth, boosting blood supply, preventing low birth weight, and making antibodies and hormones. Pregnant mothers need at least 71grams of protein daily, meaning you should have between 2 and 4 portions of protein a day.

Sources of Protein: Common sources of proteins include fish, meat, dairy, plant protein like beans and peas, eggs, and poultry.  Nuts and soy products are also good sources of protein. When creating your pregnancy diet plan, ensure you include both plant and animal protein. Consider healthy habits when eating meat, such as removing chicken skin and eating lean meat to reduce your calorie intake.

3. Vitamin D

The human body needs sunlight to make vitamin D. Vitamin D aids your body in absorbing calcium and phosphates, reduces your risk of pre-eclampsia, low birth weight, and premature birth. It also helps develop your baby’s bones and teeth, heart, kidneys, and nervous system.  Adequate vitamin D during pregnancy can help prevent your child from getting rickets.

The appropriate amount of Vitamin D for pregnant mothers is 10micrograms or (400UI). It should not exceed 4000(UI) or 100micrograms as it may be harmful. Also, consider getting adequate sunlight whenever you can.

Sources of Vitamin D: Other than sunlight, you can boost your vitamin intake by eating eggs, oily fish like salmon, meat, cereals, mushrooms, and fortified foods.

4. Calcium

You need calcium for strong teeth and bones for you and your unborn baby. It also improves the heart, muscles, and nervous system development. If you don’t take sufficient calcium for your baby, your body will draw the mineral from your bones and supply it to your unborn child. Pregnant mothers above the age of 19 should have 1000milligrams of calcium daily, while teenagers between 14 and 19 require 1300 milligrams a day.

Sources of Calcium: The best calcium-rich foods to add to your pregnancy diet plan include dairy, cheese, yogurt, fortified soymilk, soybeans, broccoli, and cabbage. Salmon, sardines, and leafy greens also contain significant amounts of calcium.

5. Folic Acid

Most congenital disorders occur as early as 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid refers to vitamin B9 and is necessary for preventing flaws in the brain and spinal cord in babies. When found in plants, folic acid is known as folate. Start taking folic acid a month before getting pregnant, as part of your first-trimester nutrition and throughout pregnancy.

You should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily when planning to get pregnant and increase the amount to at least 600mcg during pregnancy.

Sources of Folic Acid: Other than folic acid supplements, you can obtain folate from dark leafy vegetables like kale and citrus fruits. Other helpful sources include fortified cereals, dried peas, and dried beans.

6. Fiber

You need fiber to aid digestion and keep your digestive system working smoothly. Besides preventing constipation, it also improves your heart health, prevents diabetes, and reduces your risks of pre-eclampsia. Fiber-rich foods make you feel full faster without increasing your calorie intake. You should aim for 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily and lots of water to facilitate smooth passage through your digestive system.

Sources of Fiber: You can obtain your daily dose of fiber by adding fruits, beans, vegetables, whole grain bread, carrots, potatoes, and dried fruit like apricots to your pregnancy healthy diet. The best way to add fiber to your diet is snacking on fruits and salads between meals, not peeling fruits and vegetables whenever possible, and opting for whole grains.

7. Phosphorus

Phosphorus is crucial for your bone strength and your baby’s bone and brain development.  It also aids in blood clotting, muscle contractions, and tissue and cell repair. As a mother, you need phosphorus to regulate your metabolism and get enough energy for your body to cope with the changes. You also avoid phosphorus deficiency, known as hypophosphatemia, which causes low energy levels resulting in fatigue and muscle weakness.

Pregnant women of ages 19 and above require 700mg per day of phosphorus, while those below the age of 19 need 1200 milligrams.

Sources of Phosphorus:  Examples of food rich in phosphorus are egg yolk, lean meat, bread, yogurt, beans, lentils, millet, and milk. Ensure you get adequate vitamin D to improve phosphorus absorption in your body.

8. Zinc

Zinc plays a significant role in fetal development by facilitating cellular integrity and biological functions like protein synthesis.  You also need zinc for tissue growth and the construction of the baby’s DNA.

By taking adequate amounts of zinc, you also boost your baby’s immune system and normal brain development, which aids in learning. To meet your body’s zinc requirements, you need a daily intake of 7mg. Since zinc is readily available in most foods, you only have to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet plan to meet your daily intake goals.

Sources of Zinc: Some excellent sources of zinc are meat, shellfish, fortified cereals as well as legumes like lentils, beans, and peas. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds and nuts contain perfect amounts of zinc.

9. Supplements

Sometimes you may not get adequate nutrients from the food you eat, and supplements exist to cover the deficit. Since every mother has unique needs, the supplements you take will depend on your health and diet. Do remember that the only way to get supplements is by visiting your doctor.  It is advisable to always seek your doctor’s advice before taking any supplements to avoid harming your health and that of your baby.

10. Water

Drinking a lot of water is important when you are pregnant. You need to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water per day because your body requires extra fluids to produce blood and amniotic fluid, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Staying hydrated during pregnancy helps you to decrease the risk of UTI, boost your energy levels, and soften your skin. If drinking water seems boring, you can try other healthy options to drink like coconut water, smoothies, soups, or even herbal tea.

Read: What is Healthy to Drink Besides Water When You’re Pregnant

With the above list, you can make an ideal pregnancy diet plan by being intentional when choosing food to eat while pregnant. Doing so will help boost your health and that of your baby, ensure proper development and prevent pregnancy-related complications.

There's Plenty to Eat While Pregnant
Make sure you eat food that contain iron, folic acid, protein, vitamin D and much more.

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