Are you expecting? Just what are the diet changes to make right now? MH gives you some tips to do it right.
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
Now that your baby is growing inside you, not just you but he will be what you eat. And which mother doesn’t want the best for her child? Besides supporting the healthy development of your foetus, research has shown that adequate nourishment during this critical period increases your baby’s resistance to infection and lowers his chances of developing degenerative diseases. Furthermore, as pregnancy is a demanding time for your body, eating well keeps you strong and aids recuperation from childbirth. Welcome these changes into your diet and we promise it will all be worth it.
Eat Better, Not Just More
Eating for your pregnancy does not only involve increasing your food intake. More importantly, it is about being aware of your changing nutritional needs and making changes to your diet to meet them. Pregnant women need more of certain nutrients such as protein, iron, iodine, chromium, copper, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate (folic acid), Claudia Correia, dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, says. They should also take more calcium necessary for the formation of their baby’s bones and teeth. Inadequate calcium intake during pregnancy increases maternal bone calcium mobilisation and a woman’s risk of osteoporosis. In order to ensure an adequate intake of these vital nutrients, experts recommend mothers-to-be to eat more fruits and vegetables, low-fat pasteurised dairy products and lean sources of protein. Janice Chong, dietitian at Mount Alvernia Hospital, advises taking more whole grain products and green leafy vegetables as they are not only high in iron, folate and fibre but can also help to prevent constipation, which is common during pregnancy. Mothers-to-be also need to eat more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids that decrease the risk of preterm delivery and postpartum depression, Correia highlights.
Henrietta Norton, author of Your Pregnancy Nutrition Guide, says you only need an extra 200 calories a day in your second trimester and an extra 400 calories in your third, so think twice before giving in to that char kway teow craving at 10pm. If you find yourself eating more frequently, be mindful of what you are eating and exercise portion control. Make smart food choices to ensure that you don’t end up consuming empty calories. Also, take into account your activity level when determining how much more you should eat during pregnancy.
Steer Clear of Certain Foods
Dr Anthony Siow, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore, as well as Janice Chong and Claudia Correia, explain why certain foods are no-nos for expectant women.
Pregnant women and their foetuses are at an increased risk of developing a food-borne illness because of hormonal changes during pregnancy, Correia says. Therefore, besides avoiding the foods listed above, expectant mothers should also follow food-safety recommendations closely:
Reduce Sugar, Fat and Caffeine
All the experts interviewed say pregnant women should consciously cut down on food that are rich in sugar and fat like chocolate, pastries, ice-cream, cake, soft drinks and deep-fried food to avoid excessive weight gain. Gaining too much weight puts you at risk of developing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and complications during labour. Correia says women who put on too much weight during pregnancy are also more likely to retain weight post-partum and be unsuccessful at breastfeeding.
Another thing to reduce that the experts are unanimous on is caffeine. While research on the effects of high caffeine intake on miscarriage and foetal growth is inconclusive, caffeine can stay in your body from three hours in the first trimester to 80 to 100 hours in late pregnancy, Correia says. Caffeine is not only a stimulant that could keep you awake when you should be resting but is also a diuretic that increases the rate you lose water.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200mg (the approximate amount in one 355ml cup of coffee) a day. Besides coffee, caffeine is also found in teas, chocolate, cola, energy drinks and even painkillers!
Consider Taking Supplements
While supplements are generally encouraged during pregnancy, Chong says it is not necessary to take them if you can obtain all your nutritional needs from a well-balanced diet. Supplements, whether taken during pregnancy or otherwise, provide our bodies with nutrients that are lacking but it is best to obtain nutrients from wholesome food. Experts say supplements are helpful for those who are not eating well or are strict vegetarians. “It is important for pregnant women who are vegetarian to supplement their diet with additional iron, vitamin B12 and calcium as these are mostly found in meats, fish and dairy products,” Dr Siow says. According to him, pregnant women need iron supplements if blood tests show they have low iron stores; iron deficiency can lead to premature births and small babies. Other nutrients that commonly require supplementation are folic acid, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. It is important that pregnant women consult their doctors about their nutritional requirements and only take the recommended dosage of supplements.
Experts discourage expectant mothers from going on special diets as they may deprive the body of certain nutrients. Correia points out that foetal development will be compromised more than maternal health when maternal nutrients fall below optimal levels. Should there be a need to fast, Dr Siow says mothers should only do so if their pregnancy is healthy.