Pregnancy is a landmark event in the lives of most women. The confirmation of pregnancy brings with it plenty of excitement, anticipation, expectations and at the same time, it also brings a lot of questions & dilemmas into a young woman’s mind.
One wonders- Should I increase my diet & eat double now that I have to eat for two? What is the best diet for my baby? Should I take any vitamin supplements now? What food items should I avoid? ….. and so on.
In this blog, we bring to you detailed information regarding a healthy diet during the first trimester, i.e the first three months of pregnancy. It may come as a surprise to many that you don’t actually require any extra calories during the first trimester and even during the second & third trimesters, the daily calorie requirement increases by only 340 Cal & 450 Cal respectively. This much requirement can really be covered by a glass of skimmed milk and half a sandwich in a day. So you don’t really need to increase your food intake substantially in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy & optimum growth of your baby, but yes, you do need to eat twice as healthy now that you’re pregnant.
A healthy diet should include a variety of food items from the main food groups including :
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Starchy Foods & Grains
- Protein-rich foods
- Dairy foods
1. Fruits & Vegetables- Aim to eat about 5-7 portions of fruits & vegetables each day.
- These fruits & vegetables may be fresh / canned/ frozen/ dried or in the form of 100% fruit/ vegetable juice. You can consume them as whole fruit/ cut/ pureed or cooked, but it is important to ensure that at least half of the recommended amount should be coming from whole fruit/ vegetable rather than taking only juice.
- Also remember that it is wiser & healthier to choose locally grown, fresh seasonal fruits & vegetables rather than the exotic, imported varieties available in the superstores.
For a general measure, 1 portion consists of
-1 cup of cut fresh fruit/ vegetable OR.
- Half a cup of dried fruit ( eg. raisins/prunes/apricots/berries etc) OR.
-1 cup of 100% fruit/vegetable juice OR.
- 2 cups of raw, leafy green salads.
2. Starchy foods & grains- The daily requirement of starchy foods & grains varies from 5-7 servings per day.
- These include the foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley & other grains. So they are used mostly in the form of Breads, Chapatis, pasta, cereals etc.
- These should form the base of your meals as they are filling, rich in fibre & nutrients including complex carbohydrates, Vit.B complex group & various minerals like Iron, Selenium, Magnesium etc.
- Make sure that at least half of your daily consumption of food grains should be composed of whole grains and when taking refined cereals, it is preferable to opt for the ones that have been fortified with various nutrients like Iron, Folate, Vit B etc.
- Many of you would already be knowing this, but for those who don’t, we’d like to mention here that whole grains & cereals protect you from heart diseases, regulate proper bowel function, help in overall weight management & help maintain a healthy immune system, nervous system & haemoglobin levels.
- 1 serving or portion is composed of either 1 slice of bread/ 1 chapati/ half cup of cooked rice or pasta.
3. Protein-rich foods - You need at least 3 servings of protein rich foods in a day to ensure your good health and optimum growth of the baby.
- Eggs, beans, lentils, pulses, peas, meat, poultry, seafood, soy products, nuts & seeds etc all are protein rich foods.
- Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin & blood apart from being an important part of most enzymes and hormones
- 1 serving is equivalent to:
-1 cup of cooked beans OR.
- 2 eggs OR.
- 2-3 oz of cooked meat OR.
- ¼ cup of nuts.
- When consuming meat, make sure that you don’t use excessive oil/fats for cooking it, and also remember that it is important to cook it thoroughly to minimize the risk of any infection.
4. Dairy foods - You need to consume at least 3-4 servings of dairy products in a day.
- These include milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy milk etc.
- Dairy products are necessary to ensure strong bones for you as well as the baby.
- It is better to choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products rather than the full-cream versions. For eg, choose the semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low fat & low sugar yoghurt & reduced-fat hard cheese.
- While choosing non dairy calcium products like soy drinks, go for the unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions. Women who are lactose intolerant can opt for the lactose-free products available easily in the market nowadays.
- 1 serving constitutes:
- 1 cup of milk or yoghurt OR.
-1.5 oz of natural cheese OR.
- 2 oz of processed cheese.
For a healthy pregnancy, remember that your fluid intake should be at least 2.5 to 3 liters of liquid in a day.
As far as the fat intake is concerned, Your daily intake of fats should be no more than 25 -30% of your daily calorie needs, depending upon the carbohydrate intake and more than 2/3rd of this fat requirement should be in the form of monounsaturated fats.
It is wiser to opt for monounsaturated fat products rather than saturated fats. The monounsaturated fats are the ones that are derived from plant sources like nuts, avocado, olive oil, groundnut oil, or from fish eg Mackarel & trout. Saturated fats consist of fats derived from animal sources eg butter, ghee, cream, etc.
Do I need any Vitamin supplements in pregnancy?
Consuming a healthy & balanced diet will provide you with most of the vitamins & minerals that you need, however, a few vitamin & mineral supplements are usually recommended in pregnancy.
- Folic Acid- About 400mcg of Folic acid supplement per day is recommended to prevent certain neural tube defects or spinal defects in the baby. Some women may need a higher daily dose of folic acid for eg
-Women who have a personal or family history of a baby being born with neural tube defects.
-Women who have Diabetes.
-Women who are on medications for Epilepsy.
- Vitamin D- You need a daily intake of 10mcg of Vitamin D in pregnancy & sometimes your doctor may prescribe a supplement to meet that need.
- Iron – Some women may be having low haemoglobin levels or their iron stores maybe deficient and they are then recommended daily Iron supplements to build up their haemoglobin levels because anaemia can have serious adverse effects both during pregnancy & delivery as well as for the baby in the neonatal period. Usually , Iron preparations are prescribed after the first trimester is over and you have started your second trimester.
- Calcium- Calcium supplements play an important role in providing for the additional calcium requirements of the growing baby during pregnancy especially because many women may not be able to consume enough dairy products to meet the additional needs. Calcium supplements are also usually started in the second trimester.
Are there any food items that I need to avoid during pregnancy?
Most foods & drinks are safe in pregnancy, however, there are some items that you need to avoid while you’re pregnant. These include :
- Alcohol- No amount of alcohol is considered safe in pregnancy. It can lead to restricted growth of the baby, pregnancy loss/ preterm birth and sometimes even fetal alcohol syndrome which may involve brain damage & birth defects in the baby. So avoid alcohol completely while you’re pregnant.
- Smoking- Cigarette smoke can cause tissue damage in the baby & produce birth defects particularly those involving the brain/lungs and the face. It also increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, preterm birth & other complications.
- Excess caffeine / caffeinated drinks – The recommended daily intake of caffeine in pregnancy is 200 mg/ day. The caffeine content of various common beverages includes
- Instant coffee- 1 cup= 100 mg
- Filter coffee- 1 cup= 140 mg
- Tea- 1 cup= 75 mg
- Cola- 1 can = 40 mg
- Unpasteurised milk/ milk products- May contain harmful bacteria & pathogens, hence cook or boil them properly before consumption.
- Raw or partially cooked eggs / non-veg- May cause salmonella or Listeria infection, so make sure you consume only hygienically & properly cooked food items.
- Supplements & skincare products containing Vit A & retinoids – These can cause serious birth defects & should be completely avoided.
For any further queries & doubts regarding diet in the first trimester of pregnancy or related topics, do drop us a message in the chatbox & we would be happy to answer your questions as soon as we can. Meanwhile, eat healthy, eat right & stay bright throughout your pregnancy.
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