The Ideal Diet of the Pregnant Woman
Diet for the pregnant woman is a very important consideration. Let alone women, even men in our country are quite ignorant about the ideal diet. Since they have much less idea about what is the proper diet, they-together with the so-called ‘seasoned’ ladies-feed the pregnant woman with the wrong diet. The old concept of providing extra vitality to her body by means of the ghee-filled food is total bunkum. It should be the aspiration of every mother-to-be to give birth to a perfectly healthy baby. In order to fulfill this aspiration, it is essential for her to safeguard her own health also since the development of the baby in the womb depends to a larger extent on the diet of the mother. The expectant mother should ensure that her diet is adequate both in quality and quantity to satisfy the nutritional requirement of the baby as well as of her own self.
As hinted earlier for maintenance of health and strength, a woman needs additional quantities of proteins, iron, calcium and the B group vitamins in particular. Thus her requirement exceeds to that of a normal female body. She should take care to include cereals, pulses, leafy vegetables, milk and milk products, as well as seasonal fruits in her everyday diet. Together with it, she must ensure that she is assimilating the nourishment fed to her body. She must see that the quantity of food should be appropriate for the kind of work she is required to do. Those who have to do more physical work require proportionately greater quantities of energy-giving edibles.
In general, the pregnant woman should avoid highly spiced food as much as possible. Besides, she must develop a sort of habit of drinking plenty of water. carrots, radishes, cucumbers, ripe tomatoes and such other sources of vitamins should figure prominently in her daily diet. She should divide her daily intake of food into moderate helpings taken at short intervals rather than stuffing up the stomach in two or three main meals. An increase of 10 to 12 Kg weight during the course of pregnancy is normal, but increase in any one month should amount to no more than one or one and a quarter of a kilogram. In case she puts on weight at a faster rate than this, it may prove hazardous for both the baby and her own self. She must get her weight checked every fortnight in order to check whether the rate of gain in weight continues to remain within the desirable limits.
Anemia is the most common complaint of the pregnant women in India. One of the symptoms of anemia is that even light exertion makes one tired. The lips, tongue and the undersides of the eyelids appear pale. Anemia can create a number of problems at the time of delivery. Hence it is essential that proper precautions are taken the night at the beginning stage of pregnancy. The expectant mother should, therefore, take plenty of wholemeal preparations, sprouted pulses, green leafy vegetables, jaggery, preparations of peanuts and sesame (Moongfali and til products) and such other foods as are containing high proportions of organic iron. She should also take medications having the adequate amount of iron and folic acid, although for the medications part her doctor would be the best judge.
Although it varies according to the size and body built up of the pregnant woman, a normal pregnant woman should have 300 additional calories every day. As we know the body requires calories to burn them and convert them into energy. The body which gets the inadequate quantity of calories is forced to carry on its metabolic activities by consuming proteins. The real function of proteins is maintenance and development of the tissue of the body which would be severely impeded if the lady’s diet lacks in calories. This deficiency is made good by the body by excessive consumption of proteins.
For any woman, normally, a diet supplying 2100 calories per day is considered quite adequate. However, the requirement of a pregnant woman is definitely more. She has to meet the nutritional requirement of not only her own body but that of the child also. Given below is a table to distinguish the various requirements of the three types of women, a normal woman, a pregnant woman and the woman breastfeeding her child. Although the figures given below are devised on the research paper submitted to the Food And Nutrition Board, they might vary from woman to woman. These figures are based on the research conducted on about 1000 normal women of standard built and size, and not suffering from any kind of deficiency like anemia, diabetes etc. The units in which the requirement is tabulated is also given in the chart.
Normal Nutritional Requirement of Woman during Pregnancy
|Ingredient in the Nutrition||Normal Woman’s Requirement||Additional Requirement during Pregnancy||Additional Requirement of the breast-feeding mother|
|Proteins (grammes)||48||+ 30||+ 20|
|Vitamin A (international units)||4000||+ 1000||+ 1200|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||2||+ 0.5||+ 0.5|
|Vitamin B12 (micro-grammes)||3||+ 1||+ 1|
|Folicin (mg)||0.4||+ 0.4||+ 0.2|
|Niacin (mg)||1.1||+ 0.3||+ 0.3|
|Riboflavin K.B.1 (mg)||1.4||+ 0.3||+ 0.3|
|Thiamin K.B.1 (mg)||1.1||+ 0.3||+ 0.3|
(Ascorbic acid) (mg)
|45||+ 15||+ 5|
|Vitamin D (micro-gramme)||7.5||+ 5||+ 5|
|Vitamin E (mg)||10||+ 2||+ 3|
|Calcium (mg)||1200||+ 400||+ 400|
|Phosphorus (mg)||1200||+ 400||+ 400|
|Iodine (micro-grammes)||100||+ 25||+ 50|
|Iron (mg)||18||+ as much as possible||+ 0|
|Magnesium (mg)||300||+ 150||+ 150|
|Zinc (mg)||15||+ 5||+ 5|
|Calories (large calories or kilocalories)||2100||+ 300||+ 500|
Now we shall be discussing these ingredients’ effect on the body of the pregnant woman, one by one.
Proteins are not only important for the development of the baby but also for the lady’s uterus and breast which do grow during pregnancy. The volume of blood in the body of the pregnant woman increases by a large percentage. This is an additional requirement for the enhanced intake of the proteins. The total additional requirements of proteins during the last six months of pregnancy amount to about 1 Kg. Thus about 50 to 60 gms. of proteins must be supplied to the expectant mother every day during this period. The main sources of proteins in the food items are milk products, peanuts, pulses, dry fruits, cheese, meat, fish, eggs etc.
A pregnant woman’s requirement of vitamins also increases. Supplying them with tablets etc. won’t be of much avail as the body loses its capacity to absorb them directly. They are best supplied through the diet. Green leafy vegetables, sprouted pulses, fresh fruits, milk, meat, eggs, fish etc. are good sources to get vitamins from. The diet ought to be a balanced combination of such foods. These food items would not only supply the vitamins but also the proteins and sufficient calories as well.
Iron is what a pregnant requires most. It is due to the increased volume of blood that she requires iron in enhanced quantity. Ordinarily, the expectant mother should get 10 mg of iron over and above the normal supply, but if she has anemia, or if iron is being lost in large quantities through various processes, she may have to take tablets or capsules supplying as much as 200 mg. of iron every day. Of course, no such tablets are required during the first four months, as the requirements of iron during this period are generally rather low. It is better if the additional quantities of iron are taken at night, as the intestines are then able to continue their function properly. Foods containing iron include fenugreek (Methi), mint (Puddeena), Green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, millets, grams, moong (green grams), Urad (black grams) masoor dal (lentils) dried peas and other pulses, soybeans, dates, mangoes, livers of animals and eggs. There are many government hospitals and family planning centers which supply iron tablets with folic acid.
It is also a very vital ingredient for the good health of a pregnant woman. As calcium is an essential constituent of bones, calcium deficiency results in the bones of the baby remaining weak. It is because calcium to the baby needs to be supplied through the mother’s stock of it, and in case it is not available in adequate quantity, her bones, two will get weakened. This deficiency may result in severe complications to both mother’s and the baby’s health. Calcium is easily available in foods like milk and milk products, pulses, cheese, butter, meat, soup, fenugreek (methi), drumstick leaves (horseradish or moringal), beetroots, figs, grapes, watermelon, sesame seeds, Urad (dal) (black grams), millets etc.
The indication of giddiness is the chief symptoms of potassium deficiency in a pregnant woman. It is generally caused by excessive and prolonged vomiting or her taking excessive dosages of diuretic medicines. A balanced diet generally supplies all the potassium that is needed. Fresh fruits, milk garlic, radishes, potatoes, and meat contain potassium in large quantities.
It is generally a very rare deficiency caused by the woman taking large amounts of diuretics which induce frequent urination or when one is required to take foods without salts. All food containing salts supply this element in sufficient quantities. The required amount of sodium in the woman’s diet can be supplied by common salt, milk, beetroots, carrots, radishes, French bean pods, eggs, meat, and fish.
For the teeth of the baby, sodium fluoride is an essential element. Hence a pregnant lady must consume about 2 mg of sodium fluoride every day. Fluorine is otherwise present in common salt, milk carrots, apricots, beets, french bean pods, potatoes, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, banana, dals, eggs, meat and the fishes that are bred in salt-water pounds or found in the sea water.
Iodine prevents the essential elements present in the body from being lost through urine or through the kidneys. That is why the doctors generally recommend having only iodized salt. A deficiency in this element may lead to mental retardation of the child to be born and the allied defects in the baby. Seafood and green leafy vegetables, brinjals, Jammu etc. are good sources of it. A pregnant body needs 25 mg of iodine more than what a normal lady requires.
Loss of appetite is the direct consequence of zinc deficiency in the body. Since the lady may not take as much food as required by her body containing the baby, zinc deficiency creates other problems also, like delay in the healing of cuts and wounds, skin diseases and underdevelopment of the body of the baby. Zinc is normally not as much available through foods as the pregnant lady’s body may require, its deficiency may be made up by appropriate medicines.
(x) Folic Acid:
If this ingredient is found deficient in the diet of a pregnant woman it might cause a steep rise in the blood pressure and inflammation of the internal lining of the uterus. Vomiting can be controlled and the ‘megaloblastic’ type of anemia can be prevented by the administration of folic acid. This would be of special benefit if the twins are developing in the womb. Folic acid is generally not available in foods in quantities required for making up this deficiency. In that case, according to the doctor’s advise the proper medicines containing this ingredient should be administered.
Having known about the ingredients that are essential for a pregnant lady’s health, we shall now be constituting ideal diet for her.
THE IDEAL DIET FOR THE PREGNANT LADY
Fruits, fruit juice, sprouted pulses, lean meats, freshly boiled eggs, cheese, bread or a slice of toast with butter, milk, tea or coffee. She may select a few items from the mentioned list.
Rice, dal (pulse-soup) cooked or raw vegetables, chappatis, bread, milk, fruits, meats, curds, eggs, fish, cheese, chicken, mineral waters etc.
Khichadi, vegetable-broth, bread, milk, fruits, bean meats, egg, fish, cheese, chicken, white meats etc.
She must be cautious to take the above-mentioned items in as much quantity as neither make her feel starved or overfed. She may also take appropriate amounts of milk, dry fruits, fresh fruits, curds or biscuit if she really feels hungry. It may be recalled that it is better to consume less food with greater frequency than to have large amounts with long intervals. Besides, she must be cautious as to not become obese which might create more problems not only for her but also for the child.
During pregnancy, the normal daily intake of food should be following:
About 250 gms. of flour; 100 gms. of dal, 1 kg milk, ghee or oil 50 to 60 gms; sugar 20 gms, fresh fruits 1 or 2, lean meats 20 gms, eggs-4, green vegetables 200-250 gms.
This diet would give her about 2600 to 2800 calories with all the necessary nutrients. Which edible contains what amount of calories is shown in the table below :
1 Teaspoon (small spoon) contains about 5 ml, 5 gms.
1 Tablespoon (large spoon) contains about, 15 ml, 15 gms
1 Cup (large spoon) contains about 150 ml, 150 gms.
In case table below, the unit is per 100 gms. unless indicated otherwise.
Maida (refined wheat flour)
Bajri (pearl millets)
Jowar (sorghum, milo)
Ragi (finger millets)
Sooji (Rava, semolina)
|2. Pulses and Legumes
Chana dal (split Bengal grams)
Bhuna chana (roasted Bengal grams)
Chana flour (Bengal gram flour)
Moong (green grams)
Moong dal (split green grams)
Urad dal (split black grams)
Masoor dal (split lentils)
Tuver (pigeon peas, red grams)
|3. Roots and Tubers :
Aravi (arum, colocasia) tubers
|4. Vegetables, Spices, and Condiments
Karela (bitter gourd)
Dudhi (bottle gourd)
Brinjals (baigan, eggplant)
Papadi (broad bean pods)
Valpapadi (Field bean, hyacinth bean pods)
Gavar (cluster bean pods)
Bhendi (Bhinda, ladies fingers, okra)
Turia (torai, ridge gourd)
Phanasi (French beans)
Aravi (arum colocasia) leaves
Radish (mula, muli)
Amla (myrobalan, Indian gooseberry)
Seetaphal (custard apple, sugar apple)
Jamuns (rose apples)
Mosambi (sweet lime)
|6. Dry Fruits
Almonds 10 to 12 nuts)
Cashewnuts (6 to 8 nuts)
Cashewnuts (100 grammes)
Dried coconut kernel
|7. Milk, Milk Preparations, and Other Sweets
Curds (without cream)
Ghee (clarified butter)
Sown halva (sohan halva)
350 to 500
|8. Animals Foods
One egg (= 50 grammes)
Yolk of egg
White of egg
|9. Sweetening Agents
Gur (jaggery) (1 tablespoonful, 15 grammes)
Sugar (1 teaspoonful, 5 grammes)
Sugar (1 cube)
Unrefined sugar ( 1 tablespoonful, 15 grams)
|10. Fats and Oils
Ghee, fat, any vegetable oil (e.g. groundnut oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil), vegetable ghee (all are similar in calories, composition, differing only in proportions of various fatty acids)
|11. Other Foods, Generally Served as Snacks
Sada Dosa (1)
Masala Dosa (1)
Sambar (1 cup)
Thin watery dal (1 cup)
Small puri (1 plate)
Bhel puri (1 cup)
Papadi (1 plate)
Dhokla (1 cup)
Pakoras (1 plate)
Kachauri (40 grammes)
Potato chips (60 grammes)
Chana (cooked) (30 grammes)
Samosa (70 grammes)
Dahi wada (30 grammes)
Chaat (1 plate)
Sev (1 plate)
Chakri (1 plate)
Chivda (1 plate)
|12. Drinks and Beverages
Apple juice (200 ml)
Coconut water (200 ml)
Cola (1 bottle)
Tea (without sugar, with 1 oz milk) (1 cup)
Coffee (without sugar, with 1 oz milk) (1 cup)
Grape juice (200 ml)
Limca (1 bottle)
Orange juice (200 ml)
Tomato juice (200 ml)
Beer (240 ml)
Brandy (1 peg) (30 ml)
Rum (43 ml)
Whiskey (43 ml)
Sherry (60 ml)
Sweet wine (port) (100 ml)
Horlicks (2 teaspoonfuls)
Ovaltine (2 teaspoonfuls)
Bournvita (2 teaspoonfuls)