Healthy pregnancy  

A Balanced Diet

- good nutritional diet for pregnancy



A Balanced Diet

Eating healthily is a vital part of body care for men and women, helping with preconception and the demands of pregnancy.
Eating healthily also gives a growing baby a healthier diet too.

General guidelines for healthy eating are:
  • Eat a balanced diet, including food from each of the main food groups every day.
  • Eat five helpings of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Minimize your intake of animal fats and sugars.
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water every day.
  • Have regular meals.
  • Choose natural unprocessed foods wherever possible.
  • The only supplements that all women need to take is folic acid.
More information on each of the main food groups in the Pyramid can be found below.

The idea of the Pyramid is to eat more of the foods on the bottom (grains, vegetables & fruits) and less of those toward the top (meats, dairy products, fats, oils & sweets).

The Food Guide Pyramid
Recommended Daily Servings:

Servings =
see table below
Food Guide Pyramid1 - Fats, Oils & Sugar:
Use Sparingly
2 - Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans,
Eggs & Nuts:
2 Servings
3 - Milk, Yogurt & Cheese:
3 Servings
4 - Fruit:
4 Servings
5 - Vegetable:
5 Servings
6 - Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta:
6+ Servings

Table for Pyramid above
1.Fats, Oils & Sugar: Use Sparingly
2.Two servings a day: A serving = 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish; 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of lean meat.
3.Three servings a day: A serving = 1 cup of milk or yogurt; 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese;
2 ounces of processed cheese.
4.Four servings a day: A serving = 1 medium apple, banana, orange; 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit; a glass of fruit juice.
5.Five servings a day: A serving = 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables; 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw; 3/4 cup of vegetable juice.
6.Six +  servings a day: A serving = 1 slice of bread; 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal;
1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta.

The idea of the Pyramid is to eat more of the foods on the bottom (grains, vegetables & fruits) and less of those toward the top (meats, dairy products, fats, oils & sweets).


The Main Food Groups

Group 6: Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta: These foods are excellent sources of carbohydrate, which gives us energy, and fibre, which helps to keep the digestive tract healthy. They also provide us with B vitamins, some calcium and iron. Eat whole grains wherever possible - for example, wholewheat breakfast cereals without added sugar, wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta. Choose brown or wild rice, which have undergone less processing than white varieties.
Groups 4 and 5: Fruits and Vegetables: Eat five helpings of fruit and vegetables each day. A helping can be a glass of juice, a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana, a small salad or a portion of vegetables. Fruit and vegetables contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, have almost no fat and are a good source of fibre. Eat them raw or lightly cooked to gain their full nutrient value.
Groups 3: Milk, Cheese and Other Dairy Products: Dairy produce such as eggs, cheese, milk and milk products provide calcium, which builds teeth and bones, and some protein. Pregnant women need lots of calcium to build their baby's skeleton. Low-fat dairy products are generally better for you. If you worry about weight gain, reduce your butter intake and avoid cream. Natural yogurt is a healthy option. Women who wish to conceive or are pregnant should avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs and soft cheese such as Brie and Camembert, because of the risk of food poisoning.
Groups 2: Meat, Fish & Alternatives: Beef, lamb, pork and bacon are good sources of protein, which the body needs for vital functions such as cell-repair. They also provide minerals such as iron and zinc, and B vitamins. Opt for lean cuts and trim of visible fat. Grill, roast or microwave meat, so that some of the fat drains off. Add more vegetables than meat to stews and casseroles to give you a healthier dietary balance.

Fish and poultry also provide protein. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines are rich in nutritious fish oils, so try to eat two portions a week. However, avoid eating more than one fresh tuna steak or two medium cans of tuna a week, due to the mercury content (excess mercury can harm a fetus nervous system). Grill, steam microwave or bake fish rather than deep fry it.

Nuts, peas, lentils, soya and pulses also contain protein but unlike meat or fish, they do not contain all the essential amino acids needed for growth. To maximize their nutritional value, serve them with plant foods and whole grains such as wholemeal bread. Some people class pulses as a distinct food group, but nutritionally speaking, they can not be considered as good as meat or fish.
Groups 1: Fats, Oils and Sugar: We need some fat in our diet. There are two main types of fat: saturated, which is solid at room temperature, and unsaturated, most of which remain liquid. Saturated fats, such as butter and lard, can be increased blood cholesterol and with it the risk of heart disease. The two forms of unsaturated fat - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated - are better for you and may decrease cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil and avocado, while polyunsaturated fats include most vegetable oils, fish oil and nuts. As a general rule, pick low-fat dairy products and use olive oil in place of butter.

Sugary foods provide a short term energy boost, but little nutritional value. Eat sparingly, if at all.


Did you Know?

A bowl of cereal for breakfast and a baked potato for lunch could boost your chances of becoming pregnant. According to researchers from the University of Massachusetts, the body reacts well to increased levels of the vitamin B6. Their study found that maternal vitamin B6 status may influence reproductive events through the entire course of pregnancy, from conception through delivery.

Its reproductive benefits are already well known in medical circles, as women who have higher intake of vitamin B6 while pregnant are believed to be less likely to miscarry and can help to alleviate morning sickness. Found in foods like potatoes, fortified cereals, bananas, milk, eggs, and poultry, B6 is also thought to play a crucial role in the development of the placenta.

Improving your nutrition also means choosing wholefoods such as granary bread and brown rice, reducing the amount of sugar you eat, and cutting down on fat.

It should not be necessary to take any special supplements if you eat a balanced diet, other than Folic acid, which is known to help prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects. The Department of Health recommend 0.4mg per day while trying to conceive and for the first 3 months of pregnancy.

  • - Looking for a delicious way to sneak some more folic acid into your diet? Start your day with a tall glass of orange juice or a fresh, juicy orange. Both are excellent sources of folic acid-an important nutrient for any woman who's hoping to conceive.
  • - Are you taking any vitamins? Large doses of certain types of vitamins can be harmful to your developing baby. Switch to a prenatal vitamin before you conceive.
  • - Don't go on a crash diet. Starvation diets, purging, bingeing,
    and yo-yo dieting affect ovulation and consequently your fertility.
Weight loss diets should be attempted BEFORE and NEVER during your pregnancy.

Eating a balanced diet at the time pregnancy happens, helps to give your baby the best possible start in life. Many of us need to take a closer look at what we eat and see where we can improve our eating habits. A good diet is key to a healthy pregnancy. Here are some reasons why what you eat is so vital to you and your developing baby.

A good diet can:
  • Help prevent birth defects: Birth defects such as spina bifida have been found to have links to the mother's diet. Good nutrients are the building blocks of healthy development.

  • Help for easier labor and delivery: When you are on a good diet, your body is healthier and in better shape. Certain nutrients such as protein and zinc have shown to have a direct influence on labor and the health of the uterus. Your baby and placenta are also healthier. This can all work together for better labor and delivery.

  • Protect you and your baby from infection: Vitamins such as C can strengthen you and your baby's immune systems.

  • Lessen your chances of miscarriage: A good diet will enable the placenta to grow properly and better meet the needs of the developing baby. A healthy placenta is also less likely to detach from the uterus before labor which can also cause miscarriage.

  • Make your baby healthier: Diet can positively influence your baby's birth weight and heath after birth.

  • Protect you from anemias: Not having enough iron is usually caused by a poor diet. Low iron is often the cause for fatigue and can lead to other complications.

Why we need fibre
Fibre is an indigestible substance that we get from nuts, cereals, fruit and vegetables. It is not broken down or digested in the body, but is vital for speeding up the passage of waste products through the bowel and removing toxins. Constipation is common during pregnancy, when bowel movements slow down, but plenty of fibre rich food and water will help prevent this.

Drinking enough waterwater
Make sure that you are drinking enough water to maintain and repair all the body's systems, including the reproductive system. To avoid dehydration, which can lead to irritability, headache, tension, swollen ankles and bloated stomach, you need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day - more if you are drinking tea and coffee. This may seem like a lot, but after a few days your body will become accustomed to it.

Weight loss diets should be attempted BEFORE and NEVER during your pregnancy.

Making Healthy Gains

If you are of normal weight, you don't have to eat much more than usual during the first 12 weeks; your fetus's nutritional needs are minimal. After that, spread your weight gain out over your second and third trimesters. While it will fluctuate from week to week, on average you should gain about a pound per week, depending on your starting weight. Adding 300 extra calories a day after the first 12 weeks will do the trick.

If you are starting out on the heavier side, avoid dieting the first trimester and focus on a well-balanced diet. When the second trimester rolls around, aim for the gradual weight gain recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. As was true in your nonpregnant state, a good way to control your weight is by exercising moderately three to five times a week, doing an activity you enjoy.

How much weight will I gain in Pregnancy?

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