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What You Should Eat During Pregnancy for a Healthy Baby

When you're pregnant, you're providing for two. Our panel of obstetricians and gynaecologists compiled a guide on what to eat for a balanced, healthy diet for both you and baby.

Some of us think that getting pregnant is an all access pass to eat as much as we want, since we’re feeding both ourselves and our baby. However, that’s not the case. It is actually much better to just focus on getting a balanced and healthy diet, and also to minimise on your intake of fat and sweets.

How to Achieve a Balanced Diet During Pregnancy

You should consume food rich in proteins; starchy food like rice, bread and potato as well as vegetables and fruits.

You should also take foods that are rich in folic acid such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, beetroot, chickpeas, soybeans, tofu, salmon, orange juice,
avocado and fortified cereals.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

On a daily average, consume:

  • 6 to 11 servings of bread and grain
  • 2-4 servings of fruits
  • 4 or more servings of vegetables
  • 4 servings of dairy products
  • 3 servings of protein – meat, nuts, fish, eggs and poultry.

Recommended Foods During Pregnancy

While you should eat a healthy balanced diet during pregnancy, do make sure this includes some or all of the following recommendations:

  • Increase your intake of fibre 
    Whole grain breads and cereals as this will reduce your risk of getting constipated during pregnancy.
  • Start eating prenatal vitamin supplements
    This could cover for all the dietary deficiencies that you may have, especially folic acid. You need at least 0.4mg of folic acid/day at least three months prior to getting pregnant to reduce the risk of spina bifida in your baby.
  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
    This helps you get all the vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin A, C and folic acid.
  • Increase your iron intake
    The requirement for iron during pregnancy increases as your baby grows.
  • Keep up your intake of water
    Drink at least eight glasses of fluids per day.

Special Diets While Pregnant

If You’re Lactose Intolerant

Source: reversingibs.com

Source: reversingibs.com

If you’re suffering from lactose intolerance – the inability to digest the sugar contained in dairy products – don’t worry as there are other alternatives.

  • Try drinking a small amount of milk at meals as it is probably better tolerated then.
  • Other good sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, broccoli and tofu.
  • Ask your doctor regarding supplementing your diet with calcium tablets.
  • Ask your dietitian regarding lactose reduced products that are enriched with calcium.

If You’re a Vegetarian

As a vegetarian, you should be aware that your diet could probably result in less nutrition during the pregnancy, especially iron.

Increase iron in your diet by eating foods that are rich in iron. These include:

  • Vegetables like black-eye peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, soybean, dry peas, lentil and beans;
  • Fortified cereals and bread
  • Peanuts, pine nuts
  • All berries, apricots, dried fruits including prunes, raisins, apricots

Drinking orange juice with the food rich in iron increases the absorption of iron from your blood stream. You should also ask your doctor to supplement your diet with iron supplements.

Holding Back on the Food While Pregnant

We do not recommend dieting or trying to lose weight during a pregnancy.  Your doctor may ask you to see a dietitian – who would advise you on proper nutrition during pregnancy if you have pre-existing diabetes or had just been diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).

It is totally normal to have food cravings during pregnancy, so as long as you are eating a healthy balanced diet, it is probably okay to eat the occasional sweet. You should avoid saccharin but food sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame-K and sucralose are alright.

However, some women can develop strange food cravings such as dirt, clay, chalk, paint chips or laundry starch. This is called pica and could be associated with iron deficiency anaemia. Do not give in to this type of craving as it is harmful.

What to Avoid While Pregnant

Source: eatinright.com

Source: eatinright.com

There are certain foods that you should avoid during pregnancy:

  • Raw meat
    Raw meat like sushi, seafood or uncooked beef and poultry may be contaminated by unwanted bacteria.
  • Raw egg
    Sometimes you’ll find raw egg in coleslaw, some homemade ice-cream or cream, Caesar dressing, mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauce to avoid contamination with bacteria known as salmonella.
  • Raw shellfish
    Such as oysters, clam and mussels.
  • Unwashed vegetables and fruits
    Make sure you thoroughly clean your vegetables prior to eating it as it may be contaminated by toxoplasmosis.
  • Certain soft and blue vein cheese
    Like feta, brie, stilton, camembert, Roquefort or Gorgonzola. They may contain the harmful bacteria listeriosis. The soft cheeses are safe to eat if they clearly state that they are made from pasteurised milk. You could safely eat hard cheeses such as cheddar, cottage cheese and processed cheeses.
  • Pate (refrigerated pate or meat spread)
    It may contain listeriosis. You could safely eat canned pate or shell-safe pate.
  • Deli meat
    It may be contaminated with listeriosis. If you still want to eat the deli meat, make sure that it is reheated until it is steaming.
  • Fish containing high mercury
    These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, which could affect the baby’s developing brain. Canned tuna should only be eaten in moderation.
  • Smoked seafood
    These may be contaminated by listeriosis. Canned or shell-safe smoked seafood is okay to be eaten.
  • Caffeine
    Avoid caffeine altogether during first trimester and later on try to limit intake to 200mg/day – equal to two mugs of instant coffee or tea, five cans of regular cola and four pieces (50g) of plain bar chocolate.
  • Smoking
    Smoking is not only bad for you but also your developing baby. Stop smoking altogether.
  • Alcohol
    There is no amount of alcohol that could be safely taken during pregnancy. So, avoid alcohol in pregnancy.

If you stick to a healthy, balanced diet, and adhere to the advice given by your doctor, both you and your baby will stay healthy! 

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How do you stay healthy during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

 

Contributed by Dr Helena Lim Yun-Hsuen & Dr Natasha Ain Mohd Nor, obstetricians and gynaecologists

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