Nutrition guide: Foods new mothers should add to diet, pregnant women must avoid during pregnancy

Updated on Sep 08, 2022 01:22 PM IST

A woman's body undergoes a lot of changes throughout pregnancy and postpartum as it prepares to accommodate the growth and development of a baby and its delivery hence, it's crucial to monitor nutritional intake for a healthy new mother or pregnant woman

Nutrition guide: Foods new mothers should add to diet, pregnant women must avoid during pregnancy (SHVETS production)
Nutrition guide: Foods new mothers should add to diet, pregnant women must avoid during pregnancy (SHVETS production)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

For many women, pregnancy is a confusing and challenging time but a woman's diet during pregnancy plays a pivotal role in both the mother's and baby's health while proper nutrition is essential for new mothers, particularly for quicker pregnancy labor recovery, breastfeeding and overall health. A woman's body undergoes a lot of changes throughout this phase of life as it prepares to accommodate the growth and development of a baby hence, it's crucial to monitor your nutritional intake for a healthy and smooth pregnancy.

New mothers experience multiple physical and hormonal pregnancy-associated changes in their bodies and their dietary and nutritional requirements may differ compared to others before, during and post-pregnancy. Nutrition requirements may vary across mothers, particularly with the type of delivery as women who undergo a caesarean delivery may require additional nutritional care for both the mother and baby as they recover from surgery and breastfeed while mothers who have normal deliveries require equally proper post-partum nutrition for overall health of the mother and baby.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Mansi Goyal, Nutritionist at Mylo, recommends the following nutrition tips for new mothers and pregnant women:

1. Increase your caloric intake by approximately 350 kcal per day

Considering the eating habits of people nowadays, most pregnant women need to adopt a healthier nutrition meal plan for themselves and their unborn baby. However this does not equate to over-indulgence. Simply consuming an extra 350 calories per day is enough to provide you and your baby proper sustenance. Your calories should ideally originate from a balanced diet of fruits, green leafy vegetables, nuts, protein and whole grains. Sugary and fatty foods should be consumed in moderation. Consult your doctor on exactly what and how much more you should be consuming during pregnancy based on your height, weight and age.

2. Consume plenty of fluids

Ensure that you are consuming enough liquids by drinking several glasses of water in a day, in addition to soups (preferably homemade and not packaged) and juices (natural and not tetra-packed). According to the IOM, pregnant women should drink 2.3 litres (about 10 cups) of liquids per day to provide enough fluid for blood production. Limit consumption of caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea as they are diuretics that lead to dehydration. Caffeine should also be limited during pregnancy as it can increase blood pressure and contract blood vessels in the uterus and placenta, decreasing blood supply to the foetus.

3. Increase consumption of foods most beneficial during pregnancy

Vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, spinach and other leafy greens contain plenty of Vitamin A and Potassium and should be consumed regularly. Fruits like bananas, mangoes and oranges help with Vitamin C intake. Dairy products like milk and yoghurt are also beneficial as they are a good source of calcium and Vitamin D. However, only pasteurised dairy products should be consumed since raw milk and yoghurt may contain harmful pathogens. To get a good amount of iron and essential amino acids, you should increase your protein intake through consuming lentils, beans and white meat like chicken and fish. Fish should be eaten in moderation though as it contains trace amounts of mercury. Do consult your doctor because you might be advised dietary restrictions in case of gestational diabetes or high blood pressure etc.

4. Take a prenatal vitamin supplement

Along with eating the right food, it’s also best to take a prenatal vitamin supplement, especially one that contains folic acid. Speak to your doctor on the kind of supplement you should be consuming. The supplement will help you ensure that you’re meeting intake of essential vitamins and minerals, but keep in mind that a supplement is never a substitute for a balanced diet.

5. Food that you must not consume during pregnancy

Along with avoiding unpasteurised dairy products and caffeine, you should also ensure that the meat and eggs you may consume are cooked at a high temperature and are well done. Avoid fish with high methylmercury levels, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel. Pregnant women should also avoid consuming raw shellfish to avoid food borne illness. Make sure you properly wash any fruits and vegetables you consume to prevent exposure to listeria, toxoplasma and harmful pesticides. Tropical fruits and vegetables like pineapples, papaya and brinjal should be consumed in moderation as they may increase uterine contractions.

It’s important to meet your nutritional needs during pregnancy through increasing your intake of vitamin and mineral-rich foods. By eating right and watching out for harmful foods from the very beginning, you can give your child the greatest possible start in life.

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