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30April2017

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Healthy Eating for Pregnant Women

It is very important to have a healthy diet whilst pregnant as you will not be only feeding yourself but your baby too.  You will be surprised how influential your diet whilst pregnant is on the taste buds of your little one.  Therefore, start a healthy diet right from the start of your pregnancy.

A well-balanced diet and a healthy diet during pregnancy reduces problems.
If you were eating a balanced diet before pregnancy, during pregnancy, you will not need a major change. You only need to make some small changes that you and your baby will need for a healthy pregnancy, which are additional vitamins, minerals and calories.

You should aim for a well-balanced diet whilst pregnant which should consist of grain products, vegetables, fruits, meat, chicken, fish, milk and dairy products. A well-balanced diet will mean a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.  Furthermore, healthy eating is important to ensure that you do not suffer from things like anaemia, pregnancy toxaemia, morning sickness and fatigue.  Healthy eating will also reduce pregnancy complications such as constipation. 

So what amounts to a balanced diet?

Carbohydrates

Grain products contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your body's main energy source. A slice of bread, 1 cup of rice or a piece of pastry will meet the need of carbohydrates.  However, a selection of whole grains should be your preferred carbohydrates. These products have more fibre, B vitamins and protein. Whole wheat bread, fresh fruits, legumes, cereals, brown rice, vegetables, potatoes, starchy foods, are just a list of some of the whole grains you could consume.  Appropriate amount of carbohydrate in your diet will help keep weight gain under control, as well as reduce constipation, and nausea. Carbs also provide the important nutrients needed for your baby.  You should try and avoid carbs that has very little nutritional value such as white bread, biscuits, cookies, white rice, cakes, sugar, soft drinks, etc.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are very important for a well-balanced diet during pregnancy.  Fruits and vegetables consist of many vital vitamins, minerals as well as fibre that will aid digestion.  Your daily intake should consist of at least three kinds of vegetables and two kinds of fruit or fruit juices that are rich in vitamin C such as oranges.
Green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits do not only help cell growth, healthy skin, bones, it also provides the necessary vitamin A for healthy eyes and bones and they are rich in vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin B and calcium.  Some fruits and vegetables that should be present in your diet are grapes, apricots, peaches, squash, beets, broccoli, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach and potatoes.

Proteins

Proteins are composed of amino acids that are the building blocks of the body which is very important for the development of the baby. Red meat, fish, and legumes contain proteins that are required for the development of the baby. You should eat at least 60-75 grams of these foods 3-4 times a day.  One of your meals a day should consist of either 60 to 75 grams of lean meat or fish or egg. If you are vegetarian and you cannot eat meat, for any reason, then you should consume everyday an egg, soy or soy products, legumes, hazelnuts and or walnuts. Adequate protein intake (75 grams or more per day) would prevent toxicity of pregnancy (preeclampsia), and will protect you against other diseases, as well as provide great benefits for your baby. You should ensure that the following protein based food are included in your diet: 2 cup fat-free or low-fat milk, 2 cups of yogurt, 2 eggs a week, tuna (no more than 140 g per week), 100 g of fish or other seafood, 75 grams of veal or lamb 75 g, 75 g of liver, fat-free cheese, 75 g chicken or turkey.

Milk and dairy products

Milk and dairy products contain calcium that is needed for your baby's teeth and bones. 3-4 servings of skimmed milk, yogurt or cheese should be preferred.  Every day, one of your meals should consist of one or two slices of cheese, 1 cup milk or yogurt. You should take calcium supplements if you cannot drink milk.

Oils

Your daily intake of oil should not exceed 30% of daily required calories.  You should ensure you do not consume or if that is not possible then you consume very little of high-fat foods (butter, gravy, salad dressings, etc.), and, limit your intake of sweets and desserts.  However, you will need a little fat for your baby's development. You can eat raisins, fruits, such as apricot, orange, apple, grape juice concentrates, bananas for your sugar cravings.

Drinks

During pregnancy your body will retain water and therefore your need would increase.  Therefore, you should drink 8-10 glasses of water per day.  You will need even more water in hot weather. You should make sure your source of liquid intake is mainly water.  There many calories in fruit juices.  You should avoid drinking Coffee, tea, and soft drinks that contain caffeine and if you cannot avoid it then you should reduce your intake of these drinks as much as possible. Staying hydrated during pregnancy reduces the risk of premature birth, you will have healthier skin, and it will reduce problems such as constipation and swelling will decrease.  It will also allow your body to get rid of toxins and waste materials more quickly. It will reduce urinary tract infections. Though water is the best drink for your body, milk, vegetables, fruits and soups are also a great source of fluid.

Foods to Avoid or Limit Intake

You should consume less salt

Sodium is essential to keep the balance of liquid in your body but an excessive amount of salt could cause high blood pressure which is very dangerous for pregnant women. The easiest way to reduce the amount of salt you consume would be add salt whilst eating rather than cooking.  This also ensures that your vegetables are not all mashed whilst cooking.

Sword fish such as mackerel

Large ocean fish such as mackerel are very risky for pregnant woman because it contains high amounts of mercury.  High amounts of mercury will interrupt the growth of your baby and may damage the brain and nervous system.

Tuna

Tuna also contains mercury.  FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommends that pregnant women do not consume more than 140 grams of canned tuna a week. 

Delicatessen products

Ham, sausages, salami, and similar delicatessen products and undercooked meat, poultry, or seafood will sometimes cause food poisoning. Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant women either avoid these products altogether or if not possible cook such products thoroughly before eating.  They should be well-done.  Toxoplasma germs found in raw meat can cause disability in infants. Raw fish, especially shellfish such as oysters and unpasteurised fruit juices are among the foods that should be avoided.

Unpasteurized milk and dairy products

Listeria germs can be caught from unpasteurized milk and dairy products, undercooked meat and minced meat and fresh cheese. Pasteurization temperatures will kill the listeria germs, however, if you keep foods that has been contaminated by listeria germs too long in the fridge then the bacteria will keep its vitality. Listeria germs can be transferred from live animals on rare occasions.  Listeria germs are sensitive to heat and cooking food will kill these germs.  However, listeria germs will only die at temperatures above 75 º C. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid eating soft cheese made from raw milk or low temperature smoked fish.

There is no safe limit of alcohol during pregnancy

Therefore, it is best to stay away from alcohol during pregnancy.  Alcohol may result in disability, mental problems, developmental defects, and may cause problems such as learning difficulties. You need to stop or reduce caffeine consumption as well. Excessive amounts of caffeine will result in low birth weight and may cause miscarriages.

Salmonella germs beware!

These germs can usually be found in eggs and chicken. Therefore, you should always cook your eggs and chicken well.  Cut chicken meat should be washed well before cooking just like vegetables.  Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning are headache, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, and shivering.  Symptoms usually begin within 12 to 48 hours, and passes after 2-3 days. Treatment is required only in severe cases.   However, if due to diarrhoea and vomiting you have a lot of fluid loss then you may need IV fluid.

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