Eating a balanced and nutritious diet during pregnancy leads to healthy child development and decreases the risk of congenital disabilities. A nutritious diet is beneficial for both the mother and the developing fetus. It reduces the likelihood of unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, including anemia, morning sickness, fatigue, stress, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
Research shows that an imbalanced diet, including spicy foods during pregnancy, can cause miscarriage and birth defects. Many pregnant women experience heartburn, and consumption of an inappropriate diet can aggravate it.
Numerous studies have highlighted the harmful effects of unhealthy diets during pregnancy that can put a baby at risk of developing obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, increased blood sugar, heart problems, poor brain development, and more. In today’s article, we will talk about ten dietary changes or what foods you can consume for overall baby’s wellbeing. Read on!
Dietary Changes during Pregnancy
A growing body of research evidence shows that unhealthy dietary patterns increase the risk of adverse outcomes, such as low birth weight, preeclampsia, neurodevelopment issues, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and preterm birth. Personal beliefs and values about diet in pregnancy, doctors’ advice, physical and psychological changes also interact with eating behavior during pregnancy.
Although some women are aware of the importance of a nutritious diet during pregnancy, many lack knowledge of dietary recommendations or do not know how to make nutritional changes. Some women face barriers like cravings, food aversions, constipation, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and hemorrhoids, leading to difficulties in adopting a healthy diet.
1. Avoid High Mercury Fish
Mercury is a harmful element that can affect your baby’s nervous system and immune system. Avoid eating high-mercury fish like swordfish, tuna, marlin, tilefish, king maceral, and shark.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends low-mercury fish during pregnancy, including cod, haddock, freshwater trout, tilapia, flounder, anchovies, and salmon. It is beneficial to include salmon in your pregnancy diet because it is a rich source of essential omega-3 fatty acids that support the baby’s brain and eyes development.
2. Replace Processed Meat with Lean Meat
Consuming processed meat increases the risk of infection from several microbes, bacteria, and parasites, including salmonella, listeria, e-coli, and toxoplasma. Bacteria can harm your baby’s health, causing severe neurological illnesses, such as blindness, intellectual disability, and epilepsy. Avoid eating patties, pork, minced meat, burgers.
Chicken and lean beef are rich sources of high-quality proteins, iron, choline, and B vitamins. Iron is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in the hemoglobin formation of red blood cells. It is particularly important in the third trimester of pregnancy to avoid anemia, low birth weight, and other complications.
3. Stop Consuming Raw Eggs
Raw eggs are usually contaminated with bacteria like salmonella that can severely affect your baby. It also causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever in pregnant women.
Bacterial infections can also lead to cramping in the uterus and cause premature birth. Avoid food items like poached eggs, mayonnaise, cake icings, and salad dressings that contain raw eggs as an ingredient.
It is recommended to eat properly cooked eggs to get proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Eggs are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient required during pregnancy to develop the baby’s brain and spine.
4. Consume Dairy Products
A pregnant requires additional proteins and calcium to meet the needs of a growing fetus. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent dairy products that contain two high-quality proteins: whey and casein. These are also a great source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc.
Greek yogurt contains higher calcium levels than other dairy products that help develop the child’s muscles and bones. Milk and yogurt also contain probiotic bacteria that support your digestive health. Therefore, you must consume parfaits and smoothies made with milk or yogurt.
5. Switch from Raw Sprouts to Leafy Greens
Although raw sprouts make a delicious salad, it includes harmful ingredients that can affect your health and the wellbeing of your baby. Raw sprouts, including radish, clover, alfalfa, and mung beans, can be contaminated with bacteria. According to the FDA, avoid raw sprouts altogether and include leafy green vegetables in your diet.
Dark green veggies, including spinach, kale, and broccoli, are healthy choices for pregnant women. These veggies provide vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, calcium, potassium, and folate to your body. The higher levels of vitamins in your body reduce the risk of low-birth-weight and other complications.
6. Say No to Alcohol
Many research studies have concluded that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause brain damage and development issues. It can also lead to blurred vision, blindness, hearing problems, and heart defects, and some studies have linked heavy alcohol drinking with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, premature birth, and low-birth-weight.
Therefore, we advise you to completely avoid consuming alcohol during pregnancy, as it can increase the miscarriage risk and impact your baby’s brain development. Instead, you should drink water to stay hydrated and make smoothies or shakes to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals that will support your baby’s development.
7. Eat Avocados for Fetal Development
Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, making them buttery and creamy food for consumption during pregnancy. Avocados are a rich source of vitamin B, folate, fiber, vitamin K, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, and potassium.
Because avocados contain high quantities of healthy fats, potassium, and folate, they are always a great choice for pregnant women. The monounsaturated fats help build the brain, skin, muscles, and tissues of your baby. Likewise, it nourishes your body with folate that can prevent neural tube defects, brain problems, and spinal abnormalities.
Moreover, potassium is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in pregnancy. It helps relieve leg cramps and send nerve impulses to contract your muscles. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by up to 50%, so you need more electrolytes like potassium and sodium to keep the additional fluid in the right chemical balance.
The interesting thing about avocados is that they contain more potassium than bananas. You can use avocados as guacamole, in smoothies, in salads, and on whole-wheat toast. It is also a great alternative food item for sour cream and mayo.
8. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest limiting your caffeine intake to 200 mg or less per day. Your body can absorb caffeine quickly and pass it to the placenta.
Because your placenta does not contain caffeine metabolism enzymes, it can accumulate higher levels of caffeine that can restrict baby growth. Some studies have linked higher caffeine intake to low birth weight at delivery.
Coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, and energy drinks contain higher quantities of caffeine. Therefore, you must avoid these items and beverages during pregnancy to reduce premature labor and preterm birth risks.
9. Drink more Water for Hydration
The human body is composed of 60% water. Research shows that the heart and brain contain 73% water, lungs 83%, skin 64%, kidneys and muscles 64%, and bones 31% water. The volume of blood increases by 45% during pregnancy, necessitating more hydration for you and your baby.
Drinking more water helps relieve digestive issues, such as constipation and stomach cramps, and reduce risks of urinary tract infections (STIs). It also helps prevent stress, anxiety, tiredness, and headaches, which are common during pregnancy.
A pregnant woman should drink at least 2.3 liters of water daily. Although the quantity varies from one woman to another, it is essential to check with your health provider and follow his recommendation. You can also get water from tea, coffee, vegetables, and fruits.
Water helps your body absorb nutrients and transports essential vitamins, minerals, and hormones to red blood cells. The nutrient-rich white blood and red blood cells eventually reach the developing fetus and support different functions.
10.Eat a handful of Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are rich sources of high caloric nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A handful of dried fruits provides a large percentage of essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, and folate. Besides, prunes are excellent sources of vitamin K, potassium, and fibers, and they are natural laxatives to relieve constipation and other digestive issues.
Dates are also helpful in pregnancy, as they provide all necessary plant compounds, iron, and potassium to your baby. Dried fruits also contain higher quantities of natural sugar that can meet your nutritional needs. However, you should avoid candied varieties.
Fish liver oil: It contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA that help support the developing baby and prevent preterm delivery. Fish liver oil also reduces the risk of preeclampsia and maintains a healthy birth weight. EPA and DHA obtained from fish liver oil and lower risks of maternal depression.
Blueberries: These are a great source of essential nutrients, including vitamins and folate, that help prevent birth defects like spina bifida. Blueberries are packed with calcium and polyphenol that support muscle and bone development in a fetus. Additionally, they can help prevent some medical conditions like hypertension, bone diseases, skin problems, and even control diabetes.
Legumes: Legumes are plant-based sources of iron, fiber, protein, calcium, and folate. You need these nutrients throughout your pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Because legumes are packed with B vitamins, including them in your diet can lower risks of congenital disabilities, spina bifida, and neural tube defects.
Although it is not easy for most women to make dietary changes during pregnancy, it is crucial to include healthy food items to promote proper baby development and growth. The recommendations above can keep your body healthy throughout your pregnancy and lead to your child’s overall wellbeing.