What kinds of food should you eat when you are pregnant? Is there such a thing as pregnancy food? Or will any food do? When you are pregnant, you have to take your baby into consideration before you make a decision about almost every aspect of your life to ensure that it does not negatively affect your child. This is great motivation to get your act together if you haven’t been doing so already. So it comes as no surprise that the food you eat during your pregnancy will affect your health and in turn the health of your baby. Which is why you need to eat the right kind of food when you are pregnant.
So when should you begin taking steps to a healthier lifestyle and eating pregnancy food? Ideally, it should be months before you get pregnant, even before you start trying for a baby. But if you haven’t already done so, you should start the minute you find out you are pregnant. Quit smoking and drinking alcohol, start exercising, and adopt pregnancy food habits immediately.
But before we get into the food you should eat or not eat when you are pregnant, let’s take a look at what is meant by pregnancy food and how much food you need to eat during pregnancy.
Is There Such a Thing as Pregnancy Food?
Well, not really. In the sense that you still eat the same food you would eat when not pregnant, but perhaps in different quantities during pregnancy. However, there are a few food items you should generally avoid during pregnancy, which we will discuss a little later. There is no special food as such that you have to eat during pregnancy. You just have to make sure that you are getting the right kind of nutrition from the food you do eat during your pregnancy.
However, if you are like most folks, then you are not very healthy and you do not lead a balanced life or eat a balanced diet. You probably eat junk food or fast food quite often. You do not drink enough water or eat enough fruit and vegetables. You also probably drink a lot of tea or coffee to give you the mental boost to make it through the rat race of a day. If you are nodding your head in agreement, then there will be several changes you will have to make to your food intake during your pregnancy. And you may go back to your regular habits after you have delivered your baby. If this is the case with you, then yes, there is such a thing as a pregnancy diet where you will have to give up or limit certain foods and partake of other food items that you normally would not consider.
Also, your body is in a bit of a delicate state due to the elevated level of hormones in your body. So certain types of food will not agree with you during your pregnancy.
Pregnancy Food and Nutrition
How much food do you really need to eat during pregnancy? Most people think that if you are having a baby, it means you must eat food for two. This misconception is rather widespread and causes many pregnant women to stuff themselves with copious amounts of food on a daily basis in an effort to meet the so-called requirements. There are a few women who use their pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever they want in whatever quantities they want.
But think about it logically for a moment. Do you know how small the baby is during pregnancy? Tiny, right? Even when it is born, the baby is no larger than your forearm. So what makes you think this tiny being needs that whole big bowl of mac and cheese or the bi-weekly pizza binge?
Truth be told, you need from 20 to 300 extra calories per day throughout your pregnancy, depending on the trimester, to sufficiently sustain your pregnancy and to feed the baby. During your pregnancy first trimester, you would only need about 20 extra calories a day, by the pregnancy second trimester, it would increase to approximately 100 to 150 calories a day, and it is only in the pregnancy third trimester that you need to go all the way up to 300 calories a day. To give you a better understanding of what that means, let’s look at a few examples of what would constitute 300 calories.
- 2 bananas
- A large handful of mixed nuts and dried fruits
- 1 bowl of porridge with raisins or honey to sweeten
- Two eggs scrambled with a slice of toast
- 2 energy bars
As you can see, that’s not a lot of pregnancy food that you need to add to your diet per day. So plan your meals accordingly. Every woman is different and your calorie needs may be different depending on several factors. The best way to determine how much more you need during pregnancy is to speak to your doctor or a nutritionist. Take into account that every extra calorie that you are putting into your body during pregnancy will be another calorie to burn after the baby is born. And where do you think you will find time for exercise when you have all those diapers to deal with?
But this does not mean you should starve or diet during pregnancy either. Eat pregnancy food sensibly in moderate quantities and you should be fine. Pregnancy is a very trying time for your body and you need to ensure that you are eating foods with the highest nutritional value to meet the ever-increasing demands of your body and baby. The key here is quality, not quantity.
Nutritionists advise smaller meals five to six times a day instead of the standard three meals. The main reason for this during pregnancy is your delicate digestive system. With the growing baby pressing down on your organs and the phenomenal level of hormone production in your body during pregnancy, you will experience heartburn and constipation on an almost daily basis. You can greatly ease your suffering by eating smaller, healthier meals that do not tax your system.
What to Eat During Pregnancy
Your pregnancy food must include a variety of food items from all food categories so that you get a sufficient intake of all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need to ensure smooth development of your baby.
- More fruits and vegetables should definitely be on your pregnancy food list. Eat generous portions on a daily basis at every meal during pregnancy. Remember to eat a range of veggies and fruits to gain the benefits of all that the plant kingdom has to offer. Vitamins, minerals, fibre, calcium, sodium, phosphorous, iron – you name it and there is a fruit or vegetable out there which embodies that wholesome goodness. Fruit especially is a great pregnancy food.
- Apart from cheese, include other dairy products in your diet in limited quantities during pregnancy like yoghurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk and skimmed milk.
- Whole grains, lentils, cereals and pulses are wonderfully filling carbs and proteins. Oats, brown rice, lentil soup, whole wheat breads may be included in the pregnancy food plan on a daily basis.
- Stick to home-cooked meals as much as possible. Use fresh ingredients and eat freshly-prepared meals during pregnancy. Try to avoid leftovers.
- Water is a very important part of any pregnancy food plan. Don’t forget to remain hydrated by drinking water and fresh fruit or vegetable juices and soups throughout your pregnancy.
What Not To Eat During Pregnancy
There are some food items that are best avoided during pregnancy for several reasons. Some types of food can cause miscarriage or mar normal foetal development, others can really mess up your digestion, and there are a few that have the potential to make you sick. Your immune system is not very strong when you are pregnant so apart from taking care of yourself in other ways, you have to be careful about the pregnancy food you eat as well.
- Avoid spicy food during pregnancy. This will just elevate your heartburn and cause digestive problems.
- Avoid cheeses made with unpasteurised milk as they can contain bacteria that are harmful to you and your baby.
- Over 300 gm of caffeine a day has been known to cause miscarriage. So lay off the tea, coffee, and cold drinks. Limit yourself to one cup of tea or coffee a day.
- Say no to processed food, deep-fried food, and food items high in sugar. An occasional treat is OK as long as it is not a regular thing.
- Another no-no pregnancy food is raw eggs as they can contain bacteria which can make you ill.
- In fact, any kind of raw or lightly cooked meat like mutton, beef, fish or oysters should be banned for the same reason. Although it is not guaranteed to hurt you or your baby, it is best that you don’t take the chance with these food items.
- Fish especially is banned as some varieties of fish contain high levels of mercury – the most deadly substance on the planet.
- Also say no to butter, oil and ghee. A small quantity is all right once in awhile, but these fats do nothing for your body and are not exactly healthy fats.
- Avoid fast food and eating out as much as possible.
These food lists are not exhaustive. You should consult your doctor or a nutritionist for a customised pregnancy food plan that takes into consideration your lifestyle, eating habits, nutritional needs, food preferences, and individual health problems or concerns.