Pregnancy and nutrition

Women during pregnancy are particularly in need of a healthy and balanced diet to ensure proper fetal development and the reduction of complications during pregnancy. The idea that a pregnant woman should eat for two is not true and excesses should generally be avoided.

During  the first quarter of the pregnancy the woman should avoid any increase in calorie intake and under normal circumstances  to expect a  weight gain of 1-2 kilos. Over the next 6 months the expectant mother should increase her calorie intake by 200-300 more than her usual consumption and an average increase of 4-5 kilos per quarter should normally be expected.

The basis of nutrition during pregnancy should be wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, cereals, pasta, rice, oatmeal and breakfast cereals. Wholegrain carbohydrates provide energy, vitamins and fiber necessary in aiding constipation, which occurs in many women during pregnancy.

Essential for normal development of the fetus are of course fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. The fruit can be eaten as a snack in between meals while salads and vegetables should always accompany the main dish. It is recommended to consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, eg 2-3 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit. Apart from fruit and vegetables the consumption of legumes/pulses is also recommended but those that cause bloating and indigestion should be avoided. A good complement to legumes/pulses is orange juice or tomatoes because of their high content of vitamin C which increases the absorption of iron found in the pulses.

An important vitamin during pregnancy is folic acid which is essential for the neurological development of the fetus. In addition to supplements of folic acid, the expectant mother should consume green leafy vegetables such as spinach or greens. Oranges, almonds, walnuts, sesame and pulses are also a rich source of this vitamin. Almonds and nuts should always be unsalted and consumed in small quantities due to their high content in calories.

Meat, poultry and seafood are necessary during pregnancy because they provide protein needed for normal fetal development while red meat is also a rich source of iron. According to surveys the frequent consumption of fish during pregnancy lowers the chances of postpartum depression.

Finally, both the fetus and the expectant mother are in need of calcium consumption therefore three servings of dairy produce is recommended on a daily basis. One dairy serving equals one cup milk, one small yogurt or one slice cheese.

What should be avoided during pregnancy:
• Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, blue cheese and all dairy products made from unpasteurized milk.
• Raw seafood, poultry and meat that are not cooked thoroughly and soft-boiled eggs.
• Vegetables and fruit that are not washed thoroughly.
• Honey whose packaging has been unsealed for several months.
• Excessive consumption of liver. Liver’s high source of vitamin A can be harmful to the fetus.
• Alcoholic beverages and caffeine should be consumed in very limited quantities.

Yiannis Kerimis

Clinical Dietitian