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Health tips: Nutrition for pregnant and lactating women

Eating home-cooked balanced thali will not only keep you and your baby healthy, but it will also keep you away from other chronic diseases, said Dr Meghana Pasi

PregnantMotherhood‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌life-changing ‌experience.‌ ‌Pregnancy‌ ‌is‌ ‌undeniably‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌wonderful journey‌ . But pregnancy‌ ‌and‌ ‌lactation‌ ‌are‌ ‌physiologically‌ ‌and‌ ‌nutritionally‌ ‌highly‌ ‌demanding‌ ‌ phases.‌ ‌(Source : Getty Images / Thinkstock)

Motherhood‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌life-changing ‌experience.‌ ‌Pregnancy‌ ‌is‌ ‌undeniably‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌wonderful journey‌ ‌whether‌, ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌a‌ ‌first-time‌ ‌mom-to-be‌ ‌or‌ ‌are‌ ‌pregnant‌ ‌with‌ ‌your‌ ‌second‌ ‌or‌ ‌third‌ ‌child.‌ But pregnancy‌ ‌and‌ ‌lactation‌ ‌are‌ ‌physiologically‌ ‌and‌ ‌nutritionally‌ ‌highly‌ ‌demanding‌ ‌phases.‌ ‌

“During‌ ‌pregnancy‌ ‌‌nutrient‌ ‌requirements‌ ‌are‌ ‌high‌ ‌for‌ ‌‌increased‌ ‌maternal‌ ‌and‌ ‌foetal‌ ‌metabolism,‌ ‌for‌ ‌growth‌ ‌of‌ ‌foetus‌ ‌and‌ ‌placenta,‌ amniotic‌ ‌fluid‌ ‌volume,‌ ‌and‌ ‌adaptations‌ ‌to‌ ‌maternal‌ ‌tissues‌ ‌(uterus,‌ ‌breast,‌ ‌blood‌ ‌volume).‌ ‌‌For‌ ‌optimal‌ ‌weight‌ ‌gain (10-12kg)‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌healthy‌ ‌infant‌ ‌(about‌ ‌3kg)‌ ‌additional‌ ‌calories‌ ‌and‌ ‌nutrients‌ ‌are‌ required.‌ ‌If‌ ‌nutrient‌ ‌requirements‌ ‌are‌ ‌not‌ ‌met‌, ‌it‌ ‌can‌ ‌lead‌ ‌to‌ ‌maternal‌ ‌malnutrition‌ ‌which‌ ‌can‌ ‌eventually‌ ‌lead‌ ‌to‌ ‌pregnancy‌ ‌and‌ ‌delivery‌ ‌complications‌ ‌and‌ ‌low‌ ‌birth‌ ‌ weight‌ ‌infants‌ ‌(<2.5kg),” said Dr Meghana Pasi, nutrition expert, Arogya World My Thali program.

She added that during‌ ‌lactation‌, ‌‌the‌ ‌nutrient‌ ‌demands‌ ‌are‌ ‌higher‌ ‌than‌ ‌pregnancy‌ ‌– as‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌4-6‌ ‌months‌ , the‌ ‌infant’s‌ ‌weight‌ ‌doubles‌ ‌their‌ ‌birth‌ ‌weight‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌milk‌ ‌secreted‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌four months‌ ‌accounts‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌energy‌ ‌equivalent‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌total‌ ‌energy‌ ‌cost‌ ‌of‌ ‌pregnancy.‌ ‌Hence,‌ ‌the‌ ‌mother‌ ‌should‌ ‌be‌ ‌well‌ ‌fed‌ ‌during‌ ‌this‌ ‌phase.‌ ‌ ‌

Follow‌ ‌the‌ ‌key‌ ‌components‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌healthy‌ ‌lifestyle‌ ‌during‌ ‌pregnancy‌ ‌and‌ ‌lactation:‌ ‌

● A‌ ‌balanced‌ ‌diet‌ ‌
● Appropriate‌ ‌and‌ ‌timely‌ ‌vitamin‌ ‌and‌ ‌mineral‌ ‌supplementation‌ ‌
Regular‌ ‌exercise‌

Based‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌Estimated‌ ‌Average‌ ‌Requirements‌ ‌given‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌ICMR-NIN‌ ‌(2020),‌ ‌below‌ ‌table‌ ‌gives‌ ‌the‌ ‌comparison‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌nutrient‌ requirements‌ ‌of‌ ‌adult‌ ‌women‌ ‌vs.‌ ‌pregnant‌ ‌and‌ ‌lactating‌ ‌mothers

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During‌ ‌pregnancy‌ ‌‌nutrient‌ ‌requirements‌ ‌are‌ ‌high‌ ‌and if the required nutrition level is not matched it can lead to complications. (Source : PR Handout)

“By adopting a healthy eating habit, you can meet the increased nutrient demands. Increase the quantity (portion) of different foods as recommended to meet your nutrient requirements (poshan). Eat 5-6 meals: breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, evening snack, dinner, bedtime. Balance your Thali at each meal. The comparison of portion sizes is explained easily in this table,” she told indianexpress.com.

Pregnant women should increase the quantity (portion) of different foods as recommended to meet their nutrient requirements. (Source : PR Handout)

Below are the most essential nutrients to be included in your diets everyday:

Iron

Green leafy vegetables, legumes/beans, dry fruits, nuts/seeds, egg yolk are rich in iron. Include these foods in your meals every day. The bioavailability of iron from vegetarian foods is poor whereas it is good from animal foods. Vitamin C helps in increasing iron absorption. Hence, include fruits like amla, guava, oranges, lemon in your meals. Avoid having tea/coffee before, during, or soon after a meal as they inhibit iron absorption. 

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Folate/Folic Acid

Foods rich in folate are green leafy vegetables, legumes, beans, citrus fruits and nuts. 

Calcium

Good sources of calcium are milk, curd /buttermilk, paneer, low-mercury fish and seafood, green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin D 

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Good sources are fatty fish eg. salmon, fortified milk, eggs, mushrooms.

Proteins

Good sources are lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, soybean, dals/legumes, peas/beans, milk and milk products.

Some more nutrition tips: 

Care besides adopting a healthy balanced diet:

Eating home-cooked balanced thali will not only keep you and your baby healthy, but it will also keep you away from other chronic diseases. 

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First published on: 23-05-2021 at 21:25 IST
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