Pregnancy menu for beginners
Why should diet during pregnancy somehow be of particular interest to us?
First of all, because we have a situation where two people need energy and nutrients at the same time, one of them very intensely developing and totally dependent on the other.
Medical nutritionist Małgorzata Kucharska, MD:
Although food is one of the most basic activities in a person’s life, it sometimes becomes the subject of heated discussions and great dilemmas. An example of such a situation is pregnancy, which activates the ideas accumulated in the family for generations about what the future mother should and should not eat, and what sex of the child is indicated by the fact that she is craving pickles or meringue pie (or both at the same time). The pressure is considerable, so we often use sources of information that are hardly reliable. Hence, below is a brief overview of the most important nutrition issues in pregnancy.
Why should diet during pregnancy somehow be of particular interest to us? First of all, because we have a situation where two people need energy and nutrients at the same time, one of them very intensely developing and totally dependent on the other). The impact of a mother’s diet on her child’s health is more complex and far-reaching than it seems. On the one hand, improper maternal nutrition during pregnancy negatively affects foetal development and the course of lobar and postpartum, on the other hand, it increases the risk of many chronic diseases in the child (often manifesting themselves only at a later age). During pregnancy, we also build up lactation supplies.
The diet of a pregnant woman in many ways should not differ from that recommended for all healthy adults. It’s no surprise that the diet should, above all, be varied. So can’t we deal with it by living (and eating) as we have been doing so far? Not really, not in every case.
Among the differences between the typical and pregnancy food pyramids, the most commonly discussed issue is the amount of food a pregnant woman can, or even should, afford to eat. Because a woman’s body in this state is focused on its own expansion and development of the baby, the energy and nutrient requirements are greater than for a woman who is not pregnant. According to the World Health Organization, in practice this means an extra (over and above a woman’s normal requirements) 360-475kcal to be obtained from the whole-day diet from the second trimester onwards. It is easy to find information about how a pregnant woman is automatically required to go on a diet of (at least) 2500 kcal. Actually, however, the energy needs of each of us should be assessed individually, as they depend on many factors. This is definitely not the time for weight loss diets, especially since they usually do not provide the right amount of nutrients necessary for the proper development of the baby, as well as the course of pregnancy and childbirth. Although we are often afraid of weight gain, in this state it is inevitable and most desirable. However, it is important to control the rate of gain, especially when we start with a body weight exceeding the normal BMI.
During pregnancy, the pancreas has to work several times harder to deal with the carbohydrates we consume and will be grateful if your daily diet does not lack whole grain products (bread, pasta, groats preferably coarse grain, etc.). Consuming enough whole grain products is also a great way to deal with constipation, which is common during pregnancy. On the other hand, the consumption of sweets, confectionery, sugar, sweetened beverages, which cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, and provide meagre amounts of nutrients needed by the mother and child, should be limited. Chocolate is obviously not a weapon of mass destruction, but 2 cubes a day of dark chocolate is more than enough, especially since it is not a phenomenal source of magnesium.
There is also a growing demand for protein, the source of which should be not only meat, poultry or eggs, but also fish, rarely eaten by Poles. All of these products are a source of complete protein, the most necessary for all processes related to the development of the child in the womb. Protein derived from dairy products also performs well in the same role, but they are not always desirable in the diet (e.g. in the case of allergies or intolerances). At the same time, due to possible infections with bacteria that are dangerous to the foetus, it is not recommended to eat products made of unpasteurized milk (oscypek, blue cheese), raw eggs or raw meat. Then it’s a good idea to keep alternative sources of protein in mind, such as legumes or nuts and seeds.
Fats also play an important role in a pregnant woman’s diet. Their quantity is important (increased demand compared to the period before pregnancy), but also their quality. Most of us get too little omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis, and during pregnancy they play an important role in the development of the baby’s nervous system and reduce the risk of developing it, e.g. type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure or allergies. Hence, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA) has already entered the standard of care for pregnant women, regardless of the presence of dietary sources of these components. In the diet, it is worth adding vegetable oils to dishes, crunching nuts and seeds. The consumption of fish, especially fatty sea fish, is also advisable – preferably twice a week, but it is better to choose herring or salmon than tuna because of the possible contamination with heavy metals.
The issue of vitamins and minerals seems to be easily solved with supplements, and sometimes this is actually an unavoidable solution. However, many essential ingredients can be found in the most promoted (and not necessarily frequently consumed) food group – vegetables and fruits. Vegetables can be used as desired, according to the body’s tolerance. It is difficult to talk about any restrictions here, also as to the form (although fried will not be recommended). Contrary to appearances, adding lettuce and a little parsley or even a tomato every day to the ritual ham sandwich makes a difference. In the case of fruit, the matter is more complicated and sometimes the pregnancy proceeds in such a way that they must be limited in quantity or quality. In general, however, both product groups should make up a large proportion of your daily diet – about 300-400g per day each.
You should also not forget about proper hydration, as the need for fluids is also higher during pregnancy. The book instructions say we need about 2-2.5l per day, but these values can vary depending on many factors, such as the weight of the pregnant woman, her physical activity and the ambient temperature. Are we doomed to water? No, although of course low- and medium-mineralized waters are a good and safe option for everyday use. We can also afford tea (including some herbal), vegetable juices, or fruit juices. Soups, so eagerly recommended during the autumn and winter, are also a source of fluids.
Do you have to definitively and irreversibly give up sweets? This is a commendable attitude and noted on the record due to the aforementioned pancreatic burden, but in practice you don’t have to worry very much about family celebrations with your favourite cake in the lead role. Each time, the limits of sweets consumption are determined by the mother’s health condition and overall eating habits (assessed on the basis of history, measurements and laboratory tests), so the sweet dispensation will look different for each lady. As in the case of all the groups described above, the less processed the better, and industrially produced sweets have many additives that we would not want to consciously give to our children. That’s why you should think about handmade sweets made from natural products.
A proper diet during pregnancy is an extremely important part of supporting your baby’s development, but nutritional preparation for welcoming him or her into the world should begin long before conception. It is also worth taking care of proper supplementation during this period (including folic acid, but also e.g. vitamin D). We follow the „not all things to all people” rule because everybody is different. Learning about its needs and capabilities is easier just before conception, and that’s when it’s best to go to a nutritionist who will show you that nutrition before pregnancy or during pregnancy doesn’t have to be complicated. This gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes and prepare your body for the significant yet, spread in time, effort that is pregnancy.