Pregnancy is an ideal time to rethink a woman’s eating habits. The nutrients it needs for proper development reach the fetus through the placenta, and it is just as important to eat the right foods as it is to avoid those less healthy. This is not the time to diet, but not to eat more than necessary
As Laura González, head of health and nutrition at Nestlé, points out, dietary recommendations for pregnancy and lactation are very similar to those that the general population should follow . The only thing that presents a greater variation are the energy needs, which, like the requirements of some nutrients, are somewhat higher.
“During pregnancy and lactation, energy needs are increased, but you do not need to eat for two or opt for a special or restrictive diet”, underlines the nutritionist.
In fact, it warns that pregnancy and breastfeeding are not times to diet and take fewer calories than the body needs, as it can negatively affect the fetus or the quality of the milk that the baby will take.
The energy requirements rise about 10% during pregnancy, which occurs after the sixth month. This is solved with a slight modification of the rations and, in most cases, pregnant women compensate without realizing it, because, in general, they eat more and reduce their physical activity .
Something similar happens during breastfeeding; appetite is a good indicator of how many calories a nursing woman should take in.
Weight before pregnancy is more important than during
The pregnant woman, as Laura González explains, should not be obsessed with weight . “Your weight before pregnancy is more important than your weight during. In fact, weight gains during pregnancy should be individualized based on the weight before it ”, he highlights.
Thus, in overweight or obese pregnant women , restrictive diets are not recommended, but rather a dietary intervention that redirects their habits towards a healthy diet. In these cases, the weight gain during pregnancy should be less than in women of normal weight.
Later, during breastfeeding, the previous weight is regained by following a healthy eating plan and breastfeeding for at least six months ; being better, if possible, keeping it until the year.
The nutrients a woman needs in pregnancy
Regarding nutrients, the recommendations for the intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, hardly change during pregnancy or during lactation; to follow a varied and healthy diet is enough.
An adequate supply of fiber and water is also convenient , especially in pregnant women, because during this period there is a certain predisposition to constipation. Vitamins and minerals are also very important .
“ Folic acid is a B group vitamin important for the development of the spinal cord and brain of the fetus. A deficiency can cause serious congenital anomalies known as neural tube defects ”, warns the nutritionist.
That is why women who could become pregnant are recommended to take supplements of this vitamin to ensure that they get a sufficient amount.
Then we have calcium , a mineral essential for bone health. In addition, adequate consumption during pregnancy, that is, about 1200 mg daily, reduces the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia.
“If you don’t get enough calcium, the baby will take it from the mother’s bones, which could affect her health later on. With three or four servings of dairy products a day we ensure a significant contribution of this mineral “, advises Laura González.
For its part, iron is essential to maintain hemoglobin levels in the blood. Foods rich in this mineral are red meat, liver and derivatives such as pate and legumes.
Advice from the nutritionist to follow an adequate diet in these stages
- Plan the weekly feeding to guide the purchase.
- Consume foods of vegetable origin such as legumes, nuts, cereals and whole grains such as bread, pasta or rice.
- Ensure, at least, five daily servings of fruits and vegetables , especially green leafy ones such as spinach, cabbage, lettuce or endive, a natural source of folic acid. As for fruits, strawberries, kiwi, orange, papaya or mango are recommended, rich in vitamin C.
- Ensure three servings of low-fat dairy , and avoid consuming cheeses that are not pasteurized and those made with raw milk.
- Choose assorted white fish and small blue fish , such as sardines or mackerel. Large blue fish, such as bluefin or emperor tuna, should be avoided because of their high mercury content.
- Avoid fatty meats and sausages, as well as pastries or sugary drinks.