Diet for Healthy Mum-To-be


Commander's of Penmai
Feb 27, 2011
What you eat, and how much you eat, can affect your ability to conceive a child --both positively and negatively. Here are some of the most important food-related ways you can boost your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

Improve your diet three months to a year before you conceive

For both men and women, foods and fertility are linked. If you both stick to a balanced diet, you can boost your chances of conceiving and of having a healthy baby. Read on for specific advice for you. The man in your life can also find out more about nutrition tips for a healthy dad-to-be.

Reach your ideal body weight

You may choose to shed some weight (or gain a little if you're underweight) while you're attempting to get pregnant. It's a good idea to be as close as possible to your recommended weight when trying for a baby as being overweight or underweight can reduce your chances of conceiving. But consult your doctor before you embark on any diet or exercise plan.

If you are overweight, a sensible eating plan could include lower fat and higher fibre foods, but don't forget to exercise. You are more likely to get pregnant if you join a group, which includes exercise and advice on your diet than seeking advice on diet alone. Extreme weight loss from crash dieting can deplete your body's nutritional stores, which isn't a good way to start a pregnancy. (Read more about how your weight affects your fertility.)

Follow a healthy eating plan

Healthy eating means eating a balanced diet and avoiding foods high in fat and sugar, such as cakes, biscuits, sweets. Your food needs to be an ideal mix of cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Aim for at least five portions for fruit and vegetables a day. You should eat a variety of foods from each of these food groups, while trying to conceive:

Cereals: Whole wheat, rice, unpolished jowar, bajra, nachni (ragi), bulgur wheat (dalia), whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, etc.

Pulses: Moong dal, toovar (arhar) dal, sprouted moong, lobhia beans, kabuli chana (chickpea), rajma, etc.

Vegetables: Leafy vegetables: Spinach (palak) , fenugreek leaves (methi) , lettuce, radish leaves (moolie) Others: carrots, beetroot, cucumber, french beans, cluster beans gavarfali.

Fruits and nuts: Pineapple, sweet lime, orange, guava etc. Dried fruits like almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts etc.

Dairy Products Milk, curd, cheese and paneer

You can also get the essential vitamins and minerals from the following foods:

• Carbohydrates from foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.

• Proteins from foods such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs and pulses, beans and lentils.

• Fish, at least twice a week, including some oily fish, but don't have more than two portions of oily fish a week. This includes fresh tuna (not canned tuna, which does not count as oily fish), sardines and trout.

• Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contain calcium.

• Iron rich foods, such as pulses, dried fruit, bread, green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals, to build up your resources of iron in preparation for pregnancy.

• Try to include soya and buckwheat (kootu), which are plant foods that offer all essential amino acids.

• If you are a vegetarian, ensure that your diet is not deficient in Vitamin B12 and protein.

• It helps your body to absorb iron if you have some food or drink containing vitamin C, such as fruit or vegetables, or a glass of fruit juice with any iron-rich meals. Try nibbling some Amla Indian gooseberry. It is a rich source of Vitamin C and iron.

Take a vitamin supplement

While you can meet almost all your nutritional needs through a balanced diet, some experts believe that even the healthiest eaters could do with some extra help.

Remember that a supplement is a safeguard, not a substitute for a sound diet. And since over-the-counter supplements may contain large doses of vitamins and minerals that could be harmful to a developing baby, it's sensible to switch to a pill formulated for pregnant women even before you conceive. Alternatively, choose a supplement that contains about 100 per cent of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) so that it does not contain mega doses of vitamins or minerals. Talk with your doctor about the right supplement and its correct dosage for you.

Get lots of folic acid

Everyone could do with more folic acid, not just women -- this B vitamin has been linked to a lower incidence of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes. It also reduces a baby's risk of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida (a serious congenital condition, which occurs when the tube around the central nervous system fails to close completely).

The average Indian diet is deficient in folates. Women who are trying to conceive (or who might become pregnant) are advised to increase their folic acid intake by taking a supplement of 0.4 milligrams (mg) daily -- also written as 400 micrograms (mcg). You should take this from the time you stop using contraception until the 12th week of pregnancy. Make sure that the supplement you use does not contain vitamin A or fish liver oil (see below, "What else to avoid").

It is recommended that any woman who has had a child with a neural tube defect should take a much higher dose -- 5mg a day. If you or your husband or an immediate relative has a neural tube defect you should also take 5mg of folic acid a day. This higher dose is also recommended if you are taking anti-epileptic drugs, have coeliac disease (gluten intolerance) or sickle cell disease.

In addition, it's wise to eat folate-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables for example, spinach, mustard greens (sarson), fenugreek (methi) or kale, citrus fruits, nuts, whole grains, brown rice, fortified breads and cereals.

Raise the folic acid levels in your body by eating:
• Potatoes eaten with their skin
• Vegetables like cluster beans, spinach, peas, broccoli, beetroot and lady finger
• Cereals and pulses
• Soyabean and its products, e.g. tofu and soya chunks
• Nuts (almonds, cashewnuts and walnuts)

Think ahead about caffeine

There is no consistent evidence to link caffeinated beverages (tea, coffee and colas) to fertility problems. However, it is advisable to cut down on coffee. Having more than 300 mg of caffeine per day has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. As part of your preparation for pregnancy you could start to wean yourself from caffeine in chocolate, cocoa, fizzy drinks and coffee so that you are used to a lower intake before you become pregnant. Substitute these with plenty of water, coconut water, skimmed milk, fresh fruit juices, nimbu paani etc.

Check how much you are consuming now - 300mg of caffeine is roughly equivalent to:
• 3 mugs of instant coffee (100mg each)
• 4 cups of instant coffee (75mg each)
• 3 cups of brewed coffee (100mg each)
• 6 cups of tea (50mg each)
• 8 cans of cola (up to 40mg each)
• 4 cans of "energy" drink (up to 80mg each)
• 8 (50g) bars of plain chocolate (up to 50mg each). The caffeine content of milk chocolate is about half that of plain chocolate.

What else to avoid

It is prudent for women who are trying to conceive to avoid the following as well:

• Too much vitamin A. This means you should avoid eating liver and liver products avoid taking supplements containing vitamin A or fish liver oil. You need some vitamin A, but if you have too much during pregnancy, this could harm your baby.

• Avoid sea food and fish containing mercury, such as shark, swordfish and marlin. Also, don't eat more than two tuna steaks a week (weighing about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or four medium-size cans of tuna a week (with a drained weight of about 140g per can). High levels of mercury can harm an unborn baby's developing nervous system.

• Peanuts and peanut products, if your baby is at high-risk of developing an allergy to peanuts due to family history. If you, the baby's father, brothers or sisters have certain conditions such as hayfever, asthma and/or eczema then your baby may be at higher risk. You may wish to avoid eating peanuts and peanut products when you're trying to get pregnant.

• Be vigilant about raw eggs and mayonnaise. Avoid unpastuerised milk and milk products.

• Always wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating them.

Your doctor can give you more information on the dos and don'ts when trying to conceive -- it's a good opportunity to make sure you are in tip-top physical condition for pregnancy too.

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