Your Pregnancy Nutritional Guide

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Your nutrition while pregnant plays a huge role in the growth of your baby. Here are the dos and don’ts to be mindful of to ensure the health of the little one in your belly.

WORDS NURULHUDA

 

Consuming a healthy diet full of the essential nutrients the human body needs is important for the average individual, but for a pregnant woman, it’s not enough to just satisfy her own nutritional intake. She not only has to ensure her growing baby is receiving enough nutrients but also how the nutrients affect her baby’s development.

 

“For example, malnutrition can lead to low growth and birth defects, and lack of folate increases the risk of spina bifida. ‘Overnutrition’ may lead to excessive weight gain and the increased risk of gestational diabetes. Food that is not sanitary (e.g. uncooked meats) might increase the risk of listeria infection, which is harmful to the baby,” says Bibi Chia, principal dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre.

 

Maintaining good nutrition during pregnancy can get confusing, so here are the important guidelines you should take note of to ensure both you and your baby are in the best possible care.

 

DO Increase Your Calorie Intake

According to Kellie Kong, dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, pregnant mums need to increase their energy requirements by 300 calories a day. Kong provides some examples of meals you can consume to satisfy these 300 calories:

 

  • One chicken curry bun and one cup skimmed milk
  • One plain thosai with dahl curry and half tub low-fat yoghurt
  • One roll popiah and one cup reduced sugar soybean milk

 

However, don’t be too concerned with whether you’re gaining the exact amount of calories.  Advises Kong, “It is not necessary to calculate your calorie intake per day. Use your pre-pregnant body mass index (BMI) as a guide as to how much weight you should gain.”

 

If you’re unsure of how much weight you should be gaining while pregnant, you can refer to the guidelines below, as provided by the Health Promotion Board.

 

BMI (Pre-pregnancy)

Recommended Weight Gain (During pregnancy)

Recommended Weight Gain for Twin/Multiple Births

< 18.5

12.7 – 18.1kg

Discuss with your obstetrician and/or dietitian

18.5 – 24.9

11.3 – 15.9kg

16.8 – 24.5kg

25.0 – 29.9

6.8 – 11.3kg

14.1 – 22.7kg

≥ 30

5.0 – 9.1kg

11.3 – 19.1kg

 

 

DON’T Eat for Two

Increasing your calorie intake doesn’t mean eating for two. Following this age-old approach to eating during pregnancy can lead to excessive weight gain, which may not only lead to delivery complications but also result in potential negative health effects for the baby.

 

Instead of eating for two, Janice Chong, dietitian, Department of Nutrition & Dietetics, Mount Alvernia Hospital advises mums to consume a healthy and balanced diet consisting of different types of food from these four food groups:

 

  1. Rice and alternatives
  2. Fruits
  3. Vegetables
  4. Meat and alternatives

 

DON’T Go on a Diet

If you’re gaining too much weight during your pregnancy, don’t resort to dieting to shed the extra kilos. By doing this, you’re limiting the amount of nutrients needed for the health of both you and your baby, which can lead to harmful effects to the both of you.

 

 

Instead of going on a diet, start by cutting your intake

of foods high in fat. “For example, replace high-fat snacks

such as curry puff and potato chips with healthier snacks

such as steamed pau and sandwich,” says Chong.

 

 

Be careful with what you drink too, as well as the amount of sugar you’re consuming. “Choose only plain water or unsweetened beverages, and cut down on sugar intake by limiting desserts such as chocolate, cake and ice-cream,” advises Chong.

 

If you find that you get hungry easily, include more high-fibre foods in your meals. For instance, switch the white bread you eat for breakfast with multigrain bread or eat a bowl of wholegrain cereal instead. Ensure you have enough servings (at least two) of vegetables for lunch and dinner. Vegetables high in fibre include broccoli, brussels sprouts, and artichokes.

 

 

Don’t forget to eat fresh fruits such as berries and

pears. Fruits make great snacks, especially if you tend

to crave unhealthy sweet foods. The naturally sweet

taste of fresh fruits can help satisfy your cravings,

which brings us to the next point.

 

 

DO Control/Substitute Unhealthy Cravings

Food cravings are normal during pregnancy; from sweet to sour to spicy, there are no limits to what a pregnant mum might crave. If you’re experiencing food cravings, make sure to still control the intake of that particular food. “While it is common during pregnancy, expectant mothers should always be cautious with certain food cravings as everything you eat goes to your baby,” says Chong.

 

This is especially so if you’re craving unhealthy food. If you’re in this camp, try to control your intake of these foods or substitute your cravings with healthier alternatives instead. “If you have cravings for unhealthy food or junk food such as potato chips, chocolate, ice cream, and soft drinks, limit to a maximum of twice a week, and downsize to smaller portions. Alternatively, substitute your cravings with healthier food. For example, replace ice cream with low-fat frozen yoghurt, replace potato chips with plain popcorn, replace soft drinks with plain water but add a squeeze of lime or lemon,” suggests Chong.

 

DO Take Antenatal Supplements

As your pregnancy progresses, the food you eat may not be sufficient in providing you with certain nutrients you need to satisfy your requirements.

 

 

If your doctor finds that you need a boost to your

nutrient intake, he or she may prescribe you antenatal

supplements to ensure your requirements are being met.

However, don’t rely on general multivitamins as

substitutes for antenatal supplements.

 

 

While they may contain essential nutrients you need during pregnancy like folic acid, calcium and iron, general multivitamins may also have vitamin A – this is one nutrient you can’t have too much of while pregnant because taking too much vitamin A can be dangerous to your baby.

 

So, to err on the safe side, consult your doctor on whether you need antenatal supplements.

 

 

Thanks for sharing!