Eating healthy is very important, not just only during pregnancy, but also every other day. But, what should a woman eat during pregnancy? The human body needs a certain amount of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals for its normal function. However, during pregnancy there is an increased need for iron, zinc, folic acid, proteins, etc. The iron is needed for carrying more oxygen from the red blood cells to the baby. The folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube birth defects, while the calcium and proteins are needed for the baby bones and tissues.
Women during pregnancy intend to think more carefully about what they eat, as food is the main source of nutrients for the growing baby. The food we eat during pregnancy, will directly affect our baby and its development. But, there is no strict diet that should be followed during pregnancy. However, some basic rules should be kept in mind. The most important thing is to wash the food properly and to cook it properly. This will minimize the risk of any contamination and infections. Certain foods should also be avoided as they can harm the development of the baby, or they might contain some harmful bacteria like listeria or salmonella. Try to eat as much as you can fruits, vegetables, fresh food, healthy fats, grains and lean proteins. Do not skip any meal. Eat three main courses daily and snacks in between.
But, first let us see what we should eat first.
Fresh fruits and vegetables – are always recommended. Oranges are rich in vitamin C, while bananas are rich in potassium. Broccoli is rich in calcium, folate and vitamin C, fibers and antioxidants. Spinach is also recommended as it has high levels of folate and iron.
Whole grains – cereals and bread enriched with whole grains should be a part of the diet during pregnancy, as they contain more folic acid, iron and fibers, comparing to white bread.
Beans – are rich in iron, zinc, folate, calcium, etc.
Eggs – are a good source of proteins. They also contain other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Be very careful, as they should not be undercooked.
Berries – are delicious and full of vitamin C, folate, fiber and potassium. Eat blueberries, blackberries or raspberries as much as you can.
Salmon – among fish is the most recommended during pregnancy as it contains low mercury levels and is enriched with omega – 3 fatty acids, proteins and vitamins.
Drink water as much as you can. The normal intake of water during the day should be at least 2-3 liters.
When you are craving for some sugar and need a snack, have some dried fruits like cranberries, cherries or apricots, instead of having cookies or chocolates. Stay away from dried bananas as they are processed in oil and contain a lot of fat.
However, there are some types of food that should be avoided during pregnancy. Fish for example. Even though fish is usually a great source of omega 3 acids and proteins needed for the baby’s brain to develop, some fish and shellfish contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. High levels of mercury in your food could damage the process of neural development of the baby. Shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel should be avoided. Instead, salmon, trout, shrimps or catfish are recommended. Also, avoid raw fish and shellfish like sushi, scallops, clams and sashimi. Avoid undercooked or refrigerated seafood, but also smoked seafood. Cook it properly and avoid eating raw fish.
Avoid unwashed fruits and vegetables as they can be a good source of contamination.
Avoid eating undercooked or raw meat and poultry.
Avoid unpasteurized milk and other dairy products like feta cheese, blue cheese or Brie. Instead use mozzarella cheese, parmesan and cottage cheese, as they are rich in proteins. Avoid dishes prepared with raw eggs.
Avoid fresh juices, especially in bars and restaurants as they might not be pasteurized.
Avoid drinking herbal teas, even the once that are marketed specifically to pregnant women.
Avoid drinking too much caffeine. It is known that caffeine can cross the placenta and affect the baby’s heart rhythm.
Avoid drinking alcohol. Even though one glass of alcohol will not harm your baby, the best idea is to totally avoid it from the moment you realized that you are expecting. It is well known that mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy have a higher risk for miscarriage, stillbirth and birth of babies with fetal alcohol syndrome. The fetal alcohol syndrome is known to cause mental retardation, heart defects and facial deformities.
Eat regularly during pregnancy and do not diet. A balanced and healthy diet every day is necessary for your baby to grow. Knowing what to eat when pregnant is very important. Eating a variety of nutritious food and being as healthy as possible during pregnancy is the best think you can do for your baby.