Eating right is crucial for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
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If you think the next nine months are an excuse to give in to all those cravings or “eat for two”, think again. Women mistakenly believe they need to eat more as the foetus grows larger, but they usually slow down as this happens and expend fewer calories, says Dr Veronica Ventura, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at the American International Clinic.
Hormonal fluctuations will occur within your body, and your respiratory, kidney, urinary as well as reproductive functions will alter significantly. A good diet can help you be more physically prepared to cope with all the changes in your body, says Dr Tan Thiam Chye, consultant at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. He recommends opting for “nutrient-dense” foods with a high ratio of nutrients to calories, and an extra 300 calories a day throughout your pregnancy.
Eating right while you’re expecting is also recommended as excess kilos can lead to gestational diabetes and other conditions, which might harm you or your unborn baby. Here are the best foods to eat during each trimester of your pregnancy.
BEST FOODS TO EAT DURING THE FIRST TRIMESTER
1. PROTEIN Eat meat, poultry, fish, milk, and eggs are high in protein to assist in muscle building and repair, and also contain vitamin B12, which is essential for blood formation. If you are a vegan, Dr Tan suggests taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
High-mercury fish, like swordfish, kind mackerel, albacore tuna (commonly found in canned white tuna) can harm your unborn baby, so watch your consumption. See www.americanpregnancy.org for a list of more fishes to avoid.
2. DHA This omega-3 fatty acid helps in a baby’s brain and eye development. Safe sources include salmon, sardines, herring, halibut, and omega-3 fortified eggs. Or ask your doctor for a suitable DHA supplement, says Dr Tan.
3. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES Choose whole grains, nuts and seeds over refined or processed carbohydrates such as white bread and rice. They give you sustained energy and keep you feeling full for longer.
BEST FOODS TO EAT DURING THE SECOND TRIMESTER
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1. CALCIUM This mineral supports your baby’s development; without enough, the growing baby may draw calcium from your bones. It is best eaten in the form of leafy greens like bok choy, bean curd and ikan bilis as well as low-fat cheese, milk and yogurt. Dr Ventura advises against calcium tablets, which can upset the gastrointestinal tract.
2. VITAMIN D Foods containing this nutrient – such as fortified milk, margarine, salmon, and sardines – can assist with calcium absorption, says Dr Tan.
3. OTHER MINERALS Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds contain magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc for bone and nerve health as well as tissue growth, says Diana Joy Ostroff, naturopathic physician from the Center for Natural Healing in Hawaii.
BEST FOODS TO EAT DURING THE THIRD TRIMESTER
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1. B VITAMINS To reduce stress, go for rich sources such as brown rice, broccoli, eggs, chickpeas, and baked potatoes with the skin on, says Diana.
2. VITAMIN K Foods with vitamin K can help prevent blood clots during delivery, says Diana. Think beans, dark leafy greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and prunes.
3. IRON Build your blood with foods high in this mineral – heme sources (red meat, liver, chicken and fish) and non-heme sources (egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruits, and nuts). According to Dr Tan, heme iron is better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron.