Your body works harder when you’re carrying a baby and when giving birth, than at any other time. Therefore It is important to eat well in order to cope with the increased demands on your body, keep up strength and also enjoy every step of your pregnancy journey. Eating healthy in pregnancy means having a wide range of the right kind of food. These are food rich in essential vitamins and minerals like fresh fruits, vegetable, whole grains, organically reared meat and low-fat dairy product.
PRINCIPLES OF PROPER NUTRITION
Good nutrition during pregnancy is essential for
- The well-being of the mother and developing fetus
- Development of the essential uterine musculature.
- Development of breast tissue
- Development of an adequate functioning placenta ( facilitate the flow of needed nutrients and inhibits passage of potentially harmful substances). Poorly nourished mothers have placentas with fewer and smaller cells and have a reduced ability to synthesize substances needed by the fetus.
- Development of infant’s weight, length, bones, and brain. A nutritionally deprived fetus may have decreased development of brain cells. (Though if optimum nutrition is provided after birth the effects on the brain may be reversible)
- Continued development of the infant after birth.
There is no need working out calories and measuring out portions as long as you follow some basic guidelines to healthy eating. You are in sole charge of your unborn child’s nutrition. Therefore the quality, the quantity of food, every vitamin, calorie, and protein it needs must come from you
THE GOLDEN RULE
- The nearer food is to its natural state, the better. ( So fresh is best, frozen is next best, make tinned food your last choice)
- Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, wholemeal cereals, fish, low-fat dairy product.
- Sometimes it may be difficult to eat all the nutrients in one go but could be done within 24-48hrs.
Each type of nutrient has a specific purpose and meets a specific need.
The human body is approximately 50% – 55% water and it is needed to carry out these functions; movement of nutrient to the cells in your body and regulates body temperature. Also drinking enough fluid helps to reduce the risk of urinary tract infection.
Responsible for the formation of the cells. The tissues that make up all the muscles, bones and many of the organ walls are formed from protein.
CARBOHYDRATES AND CALORIES: Supplies energy
- Simple Carbohydrates: These includes: raw sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, and sucrose, fruit juice concentrate
they are absorbed quickly from the gut. It is a good source of “instant energy” especially when in dire need of energy.
- Complex Carbohydrates: These are the starches found in grains, potato, lentils, beans peas. The body has to break down into simple carbohydrates before it can use them. So they provide a steady supply of energy over a period of time. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Vegetables and fruits are good sources of many vitamins and minerals. Some are rich in vitamin C; others contain Vitamins A, B, E, minerals and folic acid
- Vitamins A, E, B6, Iron, Zinc, magnesium, are found in green leafy vegetable, yellow or red vegetables and fruits.
- Vitamin B is found in vegetable and fruits but majorly come from meat, fish, dairy products, grains and nuts.
- Vitamin D. is important for bone formation. Derived from exposure to sunlight. Women who live in a temperate region with little or no sunlight are at risk of deficiency in Vitamin D.
*Please note that most of these vitamins can’t be stored by the body, so the need to top up every day is important. If you are not getting enough, supplements are advised.
- This is essential blood cell production and plays an important part in the growth of your baby especially in the first 12wks of life.
- Folic acid is vital to the development of the growing foetus nervous system.
- Research shows that folic acid supplement if taken up to 3months before conception and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy——Significantly reduce the incidence of neural tube defects such as Spinal Bifida.
(*Folic acid is available in tablets form and also in green leafy vegetables, and cereals).
High levels of iron and calcium, in particular, are important for your baby’s healthy development. They are essential chemicals that help the body function properly but cannot be made by it. The only source of minerals is from your food and these include whole grains, vegetable, legumes, milk, nuts etc.
The body needs iron to make haemoglobin( the oxygen-carrying part of the red blood cells), when you are pregnant your iron intake must not only be adequate but also continuous. You need to keep up the supply of extra iron to support the large increase in the amount of blood in your body during pregnancy because your baby’s need for iron is constant.
However, the need for iron varies from woman to woman. If you lacking in iron in pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe iron tablets or injections to prevent you from developing anaemia. Also, it is important to also eat Zinc-rich food like fish, wheat germ because iron blocks the absorption of Zinc.
- A baby’s bone begins to form between four and six weeks, so you will need plenty of calcium both before you conceive and while pregnant.
- Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, soya, broccoli, any fish containing bones (such as sardines) are rich in calcium.
- Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, so eat cheese and eggs
FOR THE VEGETARIAN MOTHER
- Vegetarians should make sure they eat enough protein, vitamins, iron to meet their needs and the baby.
- Plants contain protein too, but you need to eat them in the right combination to provide you with most of the necessary amino acids found in animal protein.
- You will also need to make sure you’re getting enough iron, as there are relatively little in plant foods. You will work harder so that you don’t lack nutrients- particularly calcium and vitamins B6, B12 and D, all which are provided by dairy products.
- since your diet contains no animal products, its best to take vitamin B12 supplements ( Although you don’t need much of B12. Lack of it may lead to pernicious anaemia)
- Contain little other than fat and sugar.
- Your body converts these empty calories to fat.
- We advise you reduce junk food intake or don’t eat junks e.g. Chocolate, sugar. Art. Sweetener and so on.
ADVANTAGES OF PROPER NUTRITION
- Eating healthy food will help the body recover from the strain of pregnancy and hard work of labor.
- It prevents anaemia.
- It helps reduce morning sickness and leg cramps.
- It reduces mood swing, fatigue and other common complains of pregnancy.