What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s primary source of nourishment. Experts recommend that a mother-to-be choose a variety of healthy foods and beverages to provide her baby with the nutrition required for growth and development. Here are four vital nutrients that must be included in the diet during pregnancy.

1. Folate and Folic Acid:

Folate is a B-vitamin; essential for cell division and to make DNA and other genetic material.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9. It helps prevent neural tube defects in the baby – congenital disabilities that affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

It may be hard to get the recommended amount of folate from diet alone. Therefore, it is recommended to take 400 mg of folic acid supplements daily for at least three months before conceiving. During pregnancy, the intake should be increased to 600 micro-grams a day.

Food sources: Leafy green vegetables, fortified or enriched cereals, beans, citrus fruits.

2. Calcium:

Calcium helps build bones and teeth. It is imperative to get enough Vitamin D since it facilitates the absorption of calcium in the body. Apart from exposure to sunlight to boost the synthesis of Vitamin D, consuming dairy products is a great way to supplement your calcium needs from natural sources.

Food sources: Milk, yogurt, cheese, finger millet (ragi), calcium-fortified juices and foods, sardines or salmon with bones, some leafy greens like kale and bok choy.

3. Iron:

Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double the amount required by women who are not expecting.

Additional amounts of the mineral are needed to enrich the blood supply to the baby with oxygen. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anemia, a condition resulting in fatigue and an increased risk of infections.

Food sources: Meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal, green leafy vegetables.

4. Protein:

More protein is needed during pregnancy. Protein is considered as a “builder nutrient” because it helps to build vital organs in the baby, such as the brain and heart. Food sources: Meat, fish, pulses, peas, eggs, nuts, tofu.

The goal is to watch what you are eating and ensure you get the most out of nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products.

Ideally, your plate should be half filled with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with whole grains and a quarter with a source of lean protein.

Fruits and vegetables:

  • These foods are low in calories and filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Should be consumed a lot particularly during the second and third trimesters.

Lean protein:

  • Intake of protein supports the baby’s growth.
  • Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, yogurt, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds.

Whole grains:

  • Provide energy, fiber, iron and B-vitamins.
  • Good sources of carbohydrates are oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta or bread and brown rice.

Dairy (not recommended for those who are lactose intolerant):

  • Aim for 3 to 4 servings of dairy foods a day
  • Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese are good dietary sources of calcium, protein and vitamin D.

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