It is often seen that women crave certain types of foods during pregnancy across the world. Families and friends of pregnant women across many cultures like Indians for instance may consider it their duty to satiate the food cravings of the woman and the unborn child when someone gets pregnant in their family. But everything craved by pregnant women may not be healthy or edible.
Some women are known to crave unusual non-edible components like chalk, mud, sand, clay, and more. These items are not meant for consumption in the first place. These kinds of weird cravings are defined as an eating disorder called Pica by the health experts who interpret it as signs of nutritional deficiencies in pregnant women as well. The point being, not all cravings are recommended for a healthy pregnancy.
It is vital that mothers-to-be consume a balanced diet during pregnancy to deliver a healthy infant and for the mother to stay healthful as well. Certain nutrients are essential in well-adjusted amounts during pregnancy such as iron, folic acid, calcium, iodine, and protein along with maintaining good levels of vitamins.
Malnutrition and excessive consumption are simply not acceptable!
Inadequate nutrition or malnutrition does not support a healthy pregnancy period. It leads to higher health risks and serious medical conditions among mothers-to-be and the unborn child that they are carrying. Some of the advanced studies suggest that prenatal maternal malnutrition among female children may cause early menopause or premature ovarian failure when they grow up, which may further lead to the rise of various other conditions like cardiovascular issues, osteoporosis, etc.; if the nutritional balance is not achieved through food and menopause supplements.
While malnutrition during pregnancy may need immediate attention, it is also true that too much of anything is not good for health. Hence, a balanced intake of nutrition must be the topmost priority of an expecting mother as certain foods may not be advised for a healthy pregnancy. Consuming excessive carbohydrates, calories, sugar, and processed foods may cause adverse effects like gestational diabetes among women. According to Harvard Health Publishing, it is more common in African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian women compared with Caucasians.
Every diet routine during pregnancy includes planning.
- i) The right amount of calories: While the regular calorie intake of 2000 calories may suffice in the first trimester, it may have to increase by 300 calories in the second and 400 calories in the third trimester to maintain a healthy pregnancy period.
- ii) A healthy and balanced meal plan: A well-balanced meal includes fair amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It may comprise an assortment of vegetables, legumes, cereals, bread, leafy greens, fruits, dairy products (preferably low or free of fat), whole grains, cooked non-vegetarian foods, poultry, meats and seafood, etc.
iii) Fresh and cooked food consumption: It is best to eat hot foods that are cooked well especially for non-vegetarian dishes. Salads that contain thoroughly cleaned vegetables and fruits and freshly cooked foods are packed with nutrients and can be eaten then and there. But it may be good to stay away from pre-packed, processed, and raw foods.
- iv) Choice of healthy snacks: Snacks that are low on saturated fats, sugars, and sodium. Some of the healthy options include boiled carrot/cucumber sticks with hummus, baked whole-grain crackers and bread, fruits, dried fruits like almonds, berries, cashew, raisins and trail mixes, etc.
- v) Prenatal supplements: Supplements comprising of B Vitamins that are rich in folic acid along with iron and iodine. This helps largely in the development of the foetus.
- vi) Foods and beverages to avoid. Say, “No!”: Ensure to consume cooked foods and stay away from raw or undercooked meat, poultry and seafood including eggs. It may be best to not eat mould-softened cheeses, unpasteurised milk, juices and edibles, cold-cured and deli meats like smoked meat, poultry and seafood, sprouts, seafood that contain high mercury content like shellfish and king mackerel, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, energy drinks, sodas, sugary drinks, unwashed fruits and vegetables, pre-made non-vegetarian and some veg salads, refined and processed foods that are low in nutrients.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle-based choice that one makes for oneself. It is a habit that was mostly formed during their childhood. Balanced nutrition is not the need-of-the-hour only during pregnancy or menopause, but for all the phases of one’s life. Eating habits do not develop overnight. Overeating or undereating may bear adverse effects that could lead to serious health conditions. Hence, to develop a balanced eating habit, it may be advisable to have a plan and take notes if necessary. Tracking your eating habits can help to provide your body with the balanced nutrition it needs to stay fit and healthy.