The pregnant woman should eat just as healthy as the adult woman, there are just a few nutrients we need in extra amounts during pregnancy.
There are also individualised recommendations depending on the pregnant woman’s body weight, diet history and health status. This article will give key nutrients during pregnancy but each mother is advised to seek individual guidance especially those at risk or known to have diabetes and hypertension.
Most people start to focus on nutrition after confirming pregnancy. However, one of the most critical part of child development is in the first weeks of pregnancy. Before conception ensure adequate intake of Folate (folic acid) from greens. This helps in the fetus’ neural tube development, preventing birth defects.
Luckily folic acid supplements are given during antenatal visits , reducing risk of child with birth defects.
If you are eating all your folic acid, you would not need the supplements but sadly most mother’s do not eat all the recommended 600mcg Folate.
Ensure you eat three servings of fruits and vegetables daily to get your vitamin C, B and Vitamin A.
Rich sources of vitamins to include in your daily diet.
1. Vitamin C: oranges, lemon, pineapple, hibiscus
2. Vitamin A: cow pea leaves (called Boo in Northern Uganda), spinach, carrots, pumpkin
3. Vitamin B: B group vitamins are abundant in greens
Remember a serving of fruit or vegetables is about the size of your fist. That makes 3 fruits and at least 2bowl full of vegetables daily.
Btw this is the recommendation for all adults, not only during pregnancy.
Caution on taking vitamin A supplements as excess vitamin A can cause birth defects.
Calcium: ensure a daily intake of calcium rich foods like greens, milk, yogurt, fish where bones are eaten (mukene and nkejje).
Iron: women are receiving Iron supplements to avoid Iron deficiency especially in preparation for child birth where bleeding is possible. Iron requirements are also higher in pregnancy as the fetus uses mother’s Iron to build iron stores.
Iron is therefore for both mother and babies health.
To meet iron requirements (27mg) , eat four servings of these foods daily:
Meat, liver, millet, Beetroot, hibiscus,bugga (red amaranth leaves), beans eg: millet with Breakfast, liver with lunch, 500ml hibiscus drink between meals and beans with your dinner.
Pregnant women should have a protein food at every meal; egg, dairy, beans, peas, fish, meat and chicken.
I always frown when i see a pregnant woman have a meal often breakfast like donuts or bread and tea or soft drinks. This meal provides no source of protein vital for the growing fetus.
You were probably waiting for me to confirm that you needed to eat for two. Thus us not necessarily true as you do not need extra energy during the first trimester. Focus on eating healthy not eating bigger quantities.
You need more energy in the last 6months of pregnancy. You do not have to eat more at your meals as you can introduce a morning or evening snack like porridge for extra calories.
Do not eat junk foods as you put yourself at risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
All the recommendations can easily be implemented by ensuring a healthy plate at each meal. You can see examples of healthy meals using our LYA Nutrition application available for android users in August 2022.
Postpartum and Lactating Phase: this is a critical Nutrition period especially for first time mother’s.
Concerns include weight loss, feeding your child right especially when you have to work after your 3 month leave.
Here are a few tips:
- Have a healthy plate at each meal.
- Hydrate for breast milk
- Start your weight loss journey immediately after child birth. It should not be extreme dieting but start.
- Feed your baby at least 8times daily , keep away the bottles.
- Get an individualised diet plan that works for you.
Summary on eating right during pregnancy
- Eat healthy: do not miss vegetables, protein and fruit
- Have enough Folate, Iron and add a snack for extra energy in the last 2 trimesters.
- Plan your pregnancy.
- Do not miss the antenatal visits.
- Establish a workout routine.