Diet for Expectant Mothers Experts
Having a healthy diet is important to a healthy lifestyle at any time, but especially important if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Eating healthy keeps a mother feeling good and gives their baby the essential nutrients they need in the womb.
Pregnant women should aim to always have a balanced diet that is a combination of the five groups of food:
- Vegetables and legumes
- Bread and cereals
- Meat, poultry, fish, and alternatives
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt
In addition, pregnant women should ensure they drink plenty of water daily. Water contains fluoride which helps in the growth of the baby’s teeth and the development of strong enamel.
Pregnant women tend to feel more hungry than usual. However, the idea of eating for two should not mislead them to overfeed even if they are expecting triplets or twins. Focus more on the quality of the food other than the amount.
Healthy eating means adjusting the amounts of the different foods you consume to help you have a diet that is varied instead of doing away completely with your favorite foods. For instance, if you always have a healthy breakfast on a daily basis, you could easily avoid snacking on foods that are high in sugar and fat.
Additionally, there are a number of foods that pregnant mothers should avoid completely since they are not healthy and are a potential risk to the baby. Pregnant women must be very careful with their diet. For those who develop gestational diabetes, a midwife or medical doctor can advise them on the appropriate diet.
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Foods Recommended for Expectant Mothers
Some foods are recommended for expectant mothers. They include;
- Fruits and vegetables – expectant mothers are advised to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals and fiber all of which help in the digestion of foods and in preventing constipation. They should eat a variety of vegetables and fruits every day. They can be fresh, canned, frozen, juiced, or dried. It is important to wash them carefully to avoid contamination. Vegetables should be cooked lightly or eaten raw as long as they are washed thoroughly.
- Carbohydrates/ starchy foods – starchy foods are a source of fiber and vitamins. Starchy foods easily satisfy a person without consuming a lot of calories. Examples of starchy foods are potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, maize, millet, cornmeal, yams, and sweet potatoes. Carbohydrates should form a larger part of every meal. The whole meal carbohydrates should be consumed instead of processed carbohydrates.
- Protein – foods rich in protein help in the growth of the baby. Some of the common sources of protein are meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, beans, and nuts. However, pregnant women should avoid liver and fish high in mercury such as shark and swordfish. Protein should be eaten on a daily.
- Dairy – dairy foods such as cheese, milk, and yogurt are an important source of calcium and other nutrients essential for the baby. If possible, choose dairy that is low in fat.
- Healthy snacks – it is important to snack if you feel hungry between meals. However, avoid snacks high in fat or sugar such as crisps, chocolates, sweets, and biscuits. Instead, pregnant mothers are advised to choose from the following healthy alternatives;
- Fresh fruits
- Milky drinks and unsweetened juices
- Vegetable and bean soups
- Salad vegetables such as cucumber and carrots
- Ready-to-eat figs, apricots, and prunes
- Baked beans on toast or baked potatoes
- Unsweetened breakfast cereals or milk with porridge
- Low-fat yogurt with bread or vegetable sticks
- Sandwiches or pitta bread filled with grilled chicken, cheese, salmon, mashed tuna, or sardines
Key Nutrients Needed by Expectant Mothers
The following nutrients are needed by both the mother and the unborn baby. They include;
- Calcium – calcium helps in the formation of strong teeth and bones in the unborn baby. Common sources of calcium are cheese, yogurt, and milk.
- Iron- iron helps the red blood cells to transport oxygen to the unborn baby. Sources of iron are peas, dried beans, lean red meat, and cereals fortified with iron.
- Vitamin A – vitamin A is essential for eyesight, healthy skin, and growth of bones. Sources of vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy greens.
- Vitamin c -it helps in the absorption of iron and promotes healthy teeth, gums and bones. Common sources are tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, and citrus fruits.
- Vitamin D – it helps in the absorption of calcium which is important for the formation of the baby’s teeth and bones. Sources of vitamin D are fortified milk, fatty fish, and sunlight.
- Vitamin B12 – this helps in the formation of red blood cells and helps in maintaining the nervous system. good sources are meat, fish, milk, poultry, and liver.
- Vitamin B6 – it helps in the formation of red blood cells. Common sources of vitamin B6 are liver, pork, bananas, and whole-grain cereals.
- Folic acid – it is important in the reduction of the risk of defects of the neural tube, it helps in the production of protein and blood. Folate or folic acid be found in liver, orange juice, nuts, legumes, and green leafy vegetables.
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Foods Expectant Mothers Should Limit
Pregnant mothers should reduce their consumption of the following foods;
- Foods high in sugar such as pastries, chocolates, ice-cream, cake, puddings, and soft drinks. Sugar contains only calories and does not offer any other nutritional value.
- Foods high in fat such as oils, spreading fats, cream, and salad dressings. Fat is usually very high in calories and consuming a lot of fatty foods can make one gain weight. Consuming a lot of food with saturated fat increases the cholesterol amounts in the blood which in turn increases the chances of developing conditions like heart disease. Expectant mothers should try to cut down on their consumption of saturated fat. Instead, they are advised to consume food rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Foods containing added salt. Expectant mothers should avoid adding raw salt when eating food. Raw salt can cause high blood pressure.
- Alcohol – there is no level of alcohol consumption that is safe for expectant mothers. Alcohol should be avoided when planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Alcohol can easily harm the unborn baby.
How to Safely Prepare Food for Expectant Mothers
- Fruits, vegetables, and salads should be washed thoroughly to remove all the soil which might contain toxoplasma, a parasite known to cause toxoplasmosis which is a potential threat to the unborn baby.
- Raw foods should be stored separately from ready-to-eat foods. This helps to avoid contamination which can cause food poisoning from meat.
- It is important to wash all utensils, surfaces, and hands after handling raw meat. This helps to avoid infections such as toxoplasmosis, salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter.
- Ready to eat meals especially those that contain poultry should be heated until they are piping hot
- Always use different chopping boards for all raw materials
- Ensure foods such as sausages and eggs are thoroughly cooked.
Foods Expectant Mothers Should Eat When They Don’t feel Good
It is common for expectant mothers to experience morning sickness, constipation, and diarrhea. These conditions can make it difficult for mothers to keep food down and they could even avoid eating altogether.
Some important suggestions include:
- For morning sickness, they could eat cereals and crackers before getting out of bed. They should eat frequent but small meals throughout the day. They can also avoid eating fried, spicy, fatty, and greasy foods.
- For constipation, expectant mothers are advised to eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day also helps. If need be, they can check with their doctor if they can take fiber supplements.
- For heartburn, they should try eating small and frequent meals throughout the day. Drinking milk before eating food can also help. Caffeinated beverages and foods, spicy foods, and citric beverages should be avoided.
- For cases of diarrhea, expectant mothers are advised to eat foods rich in gums and pectin both of which are types of dietary fiber. This helps to increase the absorption of water. Examples of foods rich in fiber are bananas.
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