Pre-natal nutrient needs, what and how much?
“Eating for two” is a common phrase, but what does it truly mean for pregnant women? Although it may appear that pregnancy is an excuse to eat as much as you want, getting the right amount of calories and nutrients is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
The following guide for what to eat, how much to eat, and when to opt for a supplement, can help pave the way to good health during pregnancy.
Counting Calories for Pregnancy
While there are exceptions, many women are shocked to hear that during the first trimester of pregnancy, no additional calories are required. However, by the second trimester, an expectant mother requires an extra 250-300 calories per day. That’s around the same as one or two more snacks. You may require an additional 450 calories per day during the third trimester, which is equivalent to one additional small meal.
Weight gain is natural and encouraged during pregnancy, while losing weight is not recommended. The recommendations below, based on the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines, indicate how much weight gain is considered healthy, based on a mother’s pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). But, as always, it’s important to consult with your dietitian before making any major changes to your diet:
- Underweight (BMI <18.5): Weight gain of 12 – 18kgs (28-40 lbs.)
- Normal (BMI 18.5-24.9): Weight gain of 11- 15kgs (25-35 lbs.)
- Overweight (BMI 25-29.9): Weight gain of 6-11kgs (15-25 lbs.)
- Obese (BMI 30+): Weight gain of 5-9kgs (11-20 lbs.)
- Pregnant with twins: Weight gain of 11-20kgs (25-45 lbs.)
Important Nutrients for Pregnant Women
The following are six nutrients that expectant mothers should consume to promote a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Folate has been identified as a critical nutrient for foetal growth by healthcare professionals over the years. Folate is required for the development of the foetal brain and spinal cord, and deficits can result in neural tube abnormalities. In fact, before conceiving, women should make sure they are getting adequate folate.
Foods including legumes, nuts and seeds, eggs, leafy greens, broccoli, and many other fruits and vegetables, as well as supplements, should provide at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate per day. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant or expecting, talk to your doctor about folic acid.
Iron is a mineral that aids in the transport of oxygen to the mothers’ and foetus’ organs and tissues. During pregnancy, both the mother and the baby’s blood volume expands, and their iron requirements nearly treble. For pregnant women, a daily iron dose of 27 mg is suggested. Pulses, lentils, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and fortified grains are all good sources of iron, but doctors recommend taking an iron-supplement as well. Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, can enhance iron absorption when combined with iron-rich diets or supplements.
Calcium is essential for foetal bone and skeletal development, as well as maternal bone health. A baby will draw calcium from the mother’s stores if the mother’s diet is deficient in calcium, which might damage the mother’s bones. The daily calcium need for expecting mothers is 1,000 mg, which can be met by eating 3-4 cups of dairy each day. Calcium can also be found in soy products, broccoli, tinned salmon, dark leafy greens, and sardines. Also, divide your calcium intake. To enhance absorption, take no more than 500 mg at a time. This vital nutrient is also available in supplement form.
- Vitamin D
Though a mother’s vitamin D needs do not increase during pregnancy it is important to maintain adequate intake. Vitamin D works in conjunction with calcium for the development of fetal bones and skeletal system. The vitamin D recommendation for pregnant women is 600 international units (IU) a day or 15 mcg, which you can get from the sun, fortified milk, fatty fish, eggs, or from a supplement.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has found that choline may help with brain and spinal cord maturation during pregnancy. Choline is found naturally in animal products, eggs, beans and most nuts. According to the National Institutes of Health, this vitamin is frequently included to baby formulae also, because of its significant health advantages.
Constipation affects many pregnant women at some point throughout their pregnancy. Consume enough of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains to avoid it. Drink plenty of water and get between 25 and 30 gm of fibre every day.
Every stage of life necessitates proper nutrition, but pregnancy and the months afterwards entail special dietary requirements for both women and kids. You and your baby have the best chance of being happy and healthy, not just during pregnancy, but also afterwards; if you eat a well-balanced diet and drink enough of water.
For expert advice, you can contact Kanupriya Khanna, a Senior Consultant Nutritionist & Dietitian holding more than 17 years of experience in child nutrition. Because of her sheer involvement in making a difference in people’s life by inculcating healthy food habits and lifestyle, Kanupriya Khanna is ranked as one of the best dietitians in Delhi. (Dietary needs of Children During the Pandemic 🙂