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What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment and development. That’s why, experts recommend that mothers-to-be ensure that they have a variety of healthy foods and beverages to provide the all-important nutrients babies needs for healthy growth in the first nine months of their lives.A pregnant woman needs more calcium, more folic acid, more iron and more protein – in fact more of healthy, nutritious foods – than a woman who is not expecting.

During pregnancy, the objective should be to eat nutritious foods. To maximize prenatal nutrition the following five food groups – fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products – should be integral to a pregnant woman’s daily food intake. Typically, a pregnant woman should fill half her plate with fruits and vegetables; a quarter of it with whole grains; and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein. She should also have a dairy item at every meal. So, here’s a basic check-list of vitamins and minerals that pregnant women should consume.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is critical in helping to prevent birth defects,known as neural tube defects, in the baby’s brain and spine. During pregnancy, women should have at least 600 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Food sources: leafy green vegetables, fortified or enriched cereals, breads and pastas.

Calcium is a mineral needed to build a baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant woman who do not consume enough calcium, will have it drawn from their bones and teeth and given to the baby to meet the extra demands of growth and development.Many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that combines with calcium to develop a baby’s bones and teeth.

Food sources: milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified juices and foods, sardines or other fish with bones, and leafy greens vegetables such as spinach and salads.

Iron: Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day – double the amount needed by women who aren’t pregnant. This is because the mineral is needed to make more blood, to supply the baby with oxygen. Too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anemia, a condition leading to excessive fatigue and increased risk of infections.

Food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal.

Protein, in fact more of it,is needed during pregnancy. Protein can be described as“a builder nutrient,” because it helps to build important organs in the baby, including the brain and heart.

Food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts, tofu.

How much and what foods should a pregnant woman eat?

Fruits and vegetables: Pregnant women should concentrate on fruits and vegetables, particularly during the second and third trimesters. Eat between five and 10 “tennis ball” size servings of veggies and fruits every day. These foods are low in calories and filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Proteins.Pregnant women should include good protein sources at every meal to support the baby’s growth, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, cheese, milk and nuts. Fish is a good source of lean protein, and some fish, such as sardines and mackerels, also contain Omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that’s good for the heart.

Whole grains. Apart from being an important source of energy, these also provide fiber, iron and B-vitamins. At least 50% of a pregnant woman’s carbohydrate intake each day should come from whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta or breads and brown rice.

Dairy: Aim for three to four servings of dairy foods a day –  such as milk, yogurt and cheese – which provide good dietary sources of calcium, protein and vitamin D.

BY By Anitha Arockiasamy, President, IHHC| August 5th, 2017

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