Healthy eating for pregnant women is so important for their babies. A healthy pregnancy really begins in your first trimester when you are developing habits and your baby is starting to form. During the first trimester your baby’s major body systems are formed. This means your baby is in need of the best possible nutrients.
Pregnancy is a time when there is an increased need for nutrition to support the growing foetus and changes occurring in the pregnant woman’s body.
Below are the important tips for Nigerian women to eat healthy in pregnancy to guide you in eating right for you and baby:
- The healthy foods for pregnant women should have basic ‘five food groups’. (Grain, vegetables, fruits, milk and meat, fish.)
- Snack on healthy items often and take small frequent meals.
- Drink plenty of fluids, as this will also help in avoiding and controlling nausea.
- Must take the prescribed supplements daily.
- Take plenty of milk and milk products.
- Increase protein intake in diet. Good sources of protein are non- veg, all pulses, egg, milk and milk products, soya bean.
- Have 2-3 fruits daily. Include colour and citrus fruits like oranges, banana, mango, plums etc.
Include green leafy and all coloured vegetables in your diet.
- Avoid eating raw or partially cooked eggs, vegetables, meats, un-pasteurized milk, soft mould-ripened cheese as they carry the risk of giving salmonella and listeria infections.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Avoid caffeine as much as possible. Don’t take more than 300mg of caffeine in a day.
- Avoid active and passive smoking.
- Avoid eating canned food as it has preservatives which may harm the baby.
- Avoid eating pappaya as it contains enzymes Papain. Research has shown that they act like prostaglandin and oxytocin induces labour or strengthens labour contractions.
- Check with the doctor before taking vitamins and herbal products as some of these can be harmful.
- Eat foods that are rich in folic acid as it is required from the stage of conception to full pregnancy. Folic acid supplements are also recommended. Folic acid increases foetus weight, and reduces congenital abnormalities. Some rich sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
- Do eat food items which are rich in iron content. Iron deficiency leads to anemia. Iron is required for hemoglobin, mental functions and body defense. Green leafy vegetables, dry fruits, legumes, roasted Bengal gram, eggs, meat fish, and poultry are rich sources of iron; also, citrus fruits like oranges, grapes, amla, increase iron absorption. Do note that tea reduces iron absorption, so it should not be taken with meals.
- Apart from this, calcium is also needed for growth and development. Milk, curd, paneer, nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole pulses, and grains.
- Keep a seasonal fruit in your bag at all times and stay away from junk food.
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