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Eating for Two

Article Highlights
  • Your food is the main source of nourishment for baby
  • Don't just double your calories, but eat nutritiously
  • You need calcium for your body and for the growing baby
  • Omega-3 fats are vital for baby's brain


Eating for Two During pregnancy, the mother's diet is the main source of nourishment for baby. Nutrients from the mother's blood are the building blocks for baby's organ systems, muscles, brain, and skeleton that are forming.

But when you are battling morning sickness, eating a healthy diet may not always be easy. A well balanced diet is necessary for your baby's growth, proper brain development, reduced risk of birth defects and a strong immune system. Since it's not how much but what you eat that makes the difference, here's how a healthy pregnancy diet can help:

NutrientNeeded forBest sources
ProteinCell Growth & Blood ProductionBeans, Tofu, lean Meat, Fish, Poultry, Egg Whites etc.
CalciumStrong Bones & Teeth, Muscle Contraction, Nerve FunctionMilk, Cheese, Yogurt, Spinach and certain types of Fish
IronRed Blood Cell Production (needed to prevent anemia)Whole-wheat grain breads and cereals, Spinach, lean Red Meat
CarbohydratesDaily EnergyRice, Vegetables, Fruits, Potatoes, Pasta, Breads & Cereals
Vitamin AGood Eyesight, Bone Growth & Healthy SkinCarrots, Dark Leafy Greens, Sweet Potatoes
Vitamin CHealthy Gums, Teeth & Bones, helps in Iron AbsorptionCitrus Fruit, Broccoli, Tomatoes & Fortified Fruit Juices
Vitamin B6Red Blood Cell formation, effective use of protein, fat, and carbohydratesWhole-grain cereals, Bananas, Pork & Ham
Vitamin B12Formation of Red Blood Cells and healthy nervous systemMilk, Poultry, Meat & Fish
(Note: Vegetarians who don't eat dairy products need supplemental B12)
Vitamin DAbsorption of Calcium, Healthy Bones & TeethFortified Milk, Dairy Products, Cereals and Bread
Folic AcidProduction of Blood & Protein, Effective Enzyme FunctionGreen Leafy Vegetables, Dark Yellow Fruits & Vegetables, Beans, Peas & Nuts
FatEnergy StorageMeat, Whole-Milk Dairy Products, Nuts, Peanut Butter, Margarine, Vegetable Oils. Note: Fat intake should be limited to 30% or less of your total calorie intake.

Thus the key to a healthy pregnancy diet is to eat a variety of nutritious foods to keep you and your baby healthy. If you are a vegetarian, do discuss your diet with your doctor. As you may not be able to get all the nutrition you need if you do not eat fish, chicken or eggs, your Doctor may recommend protein, Vitamin B12 and D supplements.

What to avoid during pregnancy
Food cravings are very common during the first trimester. Though it is unclear why women crave a particular food, it is not harmful to indulge in your cravings - as long as they contribute to a healthy diet. But certain food and beverages are a strict 'no' during pregnancy.

Alcohol - Avoid alcohol totally, as no level of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy.

Herbal Medicines & Supplements - These could contain ingredients that can be harmful to the developing fetus - so check with your Doctor.

Caffeine - Though one or two cups of coffee, tea or soda per day won't harm your baby, it is wise to limit your intake as high caffeine consumption has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

Soft, unpasteurized "fresh" Cheese and raw or undercooked meat - As these could lead to food-borne illnesses like listeriosis and toxoplasmosis, which can be life-threatening for the unborn baby.

Fish, high in Mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackeral, tilefish etc.) - Fish is an extremely healthy part of your pregnancy diet as it contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and is high in protein and low in saturated fats. Almost all fish and shellfish contain small amounts of mercury, but you can safely eat those with consistently low mercury levels (like salmon, shrimp, tilapia etc.). But certain types of fish contain high levels of mercury, which can cause damage to the developing nervous system of a fetus. Discuss with your Doctor if you have any doubts about which fish you can eat.

Castor Oil - A common old wives remedy, it interferes with your body's ability to absorb nutrients.

And on the whole, eating a variety of nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water will ensure that you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • In China gift-giving before birth is considered unlucky. The mother-to-be's own mother is typically responsible for the new baby's entire clothing. A month before birth, the maternal grandmother sends a gift of clothing for the newborn to hasten delivery, then three days after the baby arrives, she visits with the remainder of her grandchild's wardrobe and gear.
  • In Japan, friends and family don't meet the new addition or bestow gifts of money on the new parents until mom and baby have had ample time to bond and heal.
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