Advice from a dietician: Good nutrition is important during pregnancy

Healthy meals are key for a mother-to-be. Picture: Pexels/Maarten van den Heuvel

Healthy meals are key for a mother-to-be. Picture: Pexels/Maarten van den Heuvel

Published May 26, 2021


By Omy Naidoo

Good nutrition during pregnancy is vital not only for a good healthy baby but also to ensure the good health of the mom.

The old saying of ‘eating for two' is not actually accurate as your calorie requirement only increases by a small amount (about 300kcal = half a cup of cereal, with milk and a banana).

One needs to be mindful of overeating as this can be harmful to both mom and baby.

There seems to be a growing rate of gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that presents during pregnancy and this thought to be affected by unhealthy eating prior to and during pregnancy.

A study conducted during 2019 in KwaZulu-Natal showed that pregnant women consumed less than 50% of all the required nutrients, and also consumed nearly half of the recommended amount of Fruits and Vegetables on a daily basis.

An alarming statistic was that 1 in 2 pregnant women was classified as obese (BMI > 30), which places the pregnancy at an increased risk for complications.

What you eat during pregnancy is crucial for a healthy baby, and research shows healthy eating during pregnancy can even result in the baby having fewer chronic conditions later on in adulthood.

Nutritional basics of pregnancy

Consume a variety of foods so as to ensure you consume a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Have a balanced plate, simplistically half your plate should be vegetables, with ¼ for good quality carbohydrates (bread, rice, potatoe, pasta) and ¼ for protein such chicken, meat, fish, beans, peas, lentils).

Ensure you adhere to good hygiene/food safety practices when cooking, as well as ensuring foods such as meat, chicken, and fish are cooked fully to avoid food poisoning.

Be mindful of your beverages

Water would be the best option.

Coffee can be consumed around 1 cup (300ml) per day, whilst green and black teas may need to be limited as they can affect the absorption of certain vitamins such as folic acid.

The better option would be Rooibos.

Alcohol should also be avoided as it complicates the brain development of the foetus.

Choose healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, as well as vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil

A high fibre diet is highly recommended, these include whole grains (brown bread, Rice, Pasta), beans, peas, lentils, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Nutrients specifically needed for pregnancy

Folic acid: This vitamin has been found to prevent birth defects that affect the spinal cord. Good sources of folic acid include: green leafy vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, fortified cereals, and grains

Iron: Iron Deficiency (anemia) is very common during pregnancy. Iron is important for ensuring oxygen transportation through the body and to the fetus. Good sources include meat, chicken, fish, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables. Iron absorption from food can be increased by combining it with a food rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, strawberries, or tomatoes.

Calcium: is essential for the strong bones and teeth development of the fetus. Good sources include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, salmon, and sardines

Chat to a dietician to determine if you would need supplementation of any of the vitamins or minerals during pregnancy.

Omy Naidoo is a registered dietician and founder of Newtricion Wellness Dieticians

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