Eating for two over the last nine months? It’s time the mother-to-be took a re-look at what’s better for the baby and best for her…
Just a few decades ago, eating healthy meant eating double..and every well meaning lady advised a mother-to-be to eat `well’, meaning eat `large’. But the result was unnecessary weight gain, pounds that are extremely difficult to shed after the baby arrives…and telltale motherhood fat. It is not in the least necessary that a new mother be FAT to be able to make a healthy baby. In fact fat mothers make less than prefect babies, since fat is no longer equated with good health.
Good Food for Good Health
So what does eating `well’ actually mean? Nutritional studies now tell us that though it is not necessary to actually eat for two people, we have to remember that our daily normal diet may not be able to take care of all the nutrition the growing fetus needs. For instance, the iron we are consuming on a daily basis may actually not be absorbed within our body due to deficiency of vitamin C. Besides, a pregnant woman needs more calories than a normal woman. And the best possible reason..the growing baby inside the mother will suck up nutrition from the mother, specially building materials like iron, protein and calcium.
It is then up to the mother to replete the diminished nutrition for her own body system. This may be one of the primary reasons why, by middle age women suffer from osteoporosis-deficiency of calcium- during their childbearing years. So it is important to eat with thought. This holds even though recent researches have shown that the fetus is not exactly a perfect parasite, it is also affected by the lack of nourishment in the mother’s diet. In fact there is a direct relationship between a mother’s weight gain and the development of the fetus.
The fetus needs good nutrition in terms of folic acid in the first trimester, to ensure the development of the basic organs. The third trimester (seventh, eight and ninth months) has the highest nutrition requirement because this is the time the baby grows and the mother grows EXHAUSTED. As a result, the mother’s diet needs to take care of her own nutritional needs as well as the baby’s growth needs. Still, eating for two is not the answer, it is about eating EVEN more sensibly.
Most doctors recommend supplements specially for these last three months – calcium, iron, vitamins and minerals, but nothing can replace the goodness of fresh foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy meats (preferable not red), wholesome milk (for those who can), and the wealth of nutrients and energy in nuts and berries. Keeping the salt and sugar intake under control is very important too.
The table below gives a few thumb rules but these are flexible for individual tastes, preferences and of course, psychological tolerance too.
Your each day’s diet should include :
• About 150 grams (one cup) of meat/fish or one cup of other proteins (like legumes and nuts)
• At least 2 glassfuls of milk (or equivalent 500 grams of low fat yogurt)
(For those with lactose intolerance, fortified soy milk is a good alternative).
(Cheese, if used, about 80 grams of low fat variety or about 100 grams of cottage cheese).
• At least four fruits, two of which should be citrus in nature.
• At least two and a half cup of vegetables
• Eight slices of bread (or one cup of rice or whole wheat pasta)
With these, an expectant mother needs a lot of liquids in terms of fresh juices or even plain water. The juices should not have any additive for sweetening or otherwise.
A very important nutrient is iron, and it can be consumed in the form of nuts, some legumes, red meat and leafy vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and spinach. Bananas are a good source of iron too. Some of these foods have iron in a form that is difficult to absorb in the absence of adequate vitamin C, so it is a good idea to include Vitamin C rich foods in your diet, citrus juices, capsicum and even tomatoes. However, we may take solace from the fact that to some extent, Mother Nature lends a helping hand by making iron absorption in a pregnant woman’s system rise up to twice that of a normal woman’s system (as against 10% in a normal body, a pregnant woman can absorb up to 20% iron from her diet.). So, the fear of iron deficiency may be alleviated to a certain degree. In addition, in the last two months of gestation, the fetus also makes its own stores of iron.
The inclusion of leafy vegetables in the expectant mothers’ diet also takes care of her folate requirement, a very important B group Vitamin responsible for prevention of neural tube defects.
The ideal weight to gain during pregnancy is between 9 and 13 kg. Of course, the weight gain needs to be spread over the three semesters judiciously, the first trimester taking the least while the third trimester seeing the maximum gain of weight in the mother. This is because the baby will be putting on weight in the third trimester. Also, a woman who gains weight within this rage will have fewer problems after the birth, as in losing weight and leading a normal life with her new baby.