For many women, a balanced diet during pregnancy will consist of the three main daily meals. Meals should contain nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, grain products, fresh meats and milk and milk products.
Protein-rich foods have the added advantage of containing iron and B vitamins. Two or three servings of protein foods a day will meet the requirement. Good choices are lean meats, fish, eggs, beans and tofu. Other sources like hot dogs, sausage, spare ribs, and especially bacon are poorer choices as they generally contain a high percentage of fat.
Three to five daily servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit are necessary to supply vitamins, particularly vitamins A and C. Recommended fruits include citrus (oranges, grapefruits) as well as apples, bananas, guavas, mangoes and dried fruit. Vegetables may be dark green – such as broccoli, spinach or a variety of others including carrots, cabbage, or baked white or sweet potato. Pure fruit juice is a wiser alternative over carbonated fruit drinks which contain added sugar and provide little in the way of nutritional value.
Among the grain products, whole grain and whole-wheat are best. 6 to 11 daily servings are recommended. Any of the following counts as a serving:
- one slice of whole grain bread,
- 3/4 cup ready to eat enriched cereal,
- 1/2 cup oatmeal,
- 1/2 cup enriched or brown rice, or
- 1/2 cup spaghetti or other noodles.
Four servings a day of milk and milk products are suggested. These may include:
- one cup of milk,
- yoghurt or cottage cheese,
- two one-inch cubes of cheese,
- one cup pudding or custard,
- 1-1/2 cups soup made with milk, or
- one cup ice milk or ice cream.
Lactose Intolerant Women
For women who can’t digest the sugar in milk or are lactose intolerant, modified milk products are available in the dairy section of most major supermarkets. These include yoghurt-milk in cultured form and low-lactose substitutes. A woman who feels she is not getting enough milk products should talk with her health care provider about other sources of calcium.
Varying Your Diet
Adjustments in diet may be required to deal with some of the common discomforts of pregnancy. If you experience nausea (usually during the first trimester), smaller and more frequent meals may help, along with crackers as snacks and liquids in between – rather than with – meals. Frequent small meals also help to prevent heartburn. Do also avoid greasy or heavily spiced foods and caffeine. For constipation problems, which may occur at any time during pregnancy, but is more common during the latter part, helpful remedies include increased fluid intake, high fiber foods such as whole grains, and naturally laxative foods such as dried fruits (especially prunes and figs), and other fruits and juices, particularly prune juice.