The common phrase “eating for two” during pregnancy has led many women to believe that they should be consuming double the amount of food they normally would. However, this age-old myth can actually be harmful to both the mother and the baby. According to the health experts, during the first trimester of pregnancy, women do not require any additional calories. In the second trimester, they only require an additional 300 calories per day, which is equivalent to a small snack. In the third trimester, women require an additional 450–500 calories per day, which usually come from nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Overeating during pregnancy may have several negative health effects.
WHY IS OVEREATING DURING PREGNANCY UNHEALTHY?
Overeating during pregnancy can lead to numerous unintended health problems. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby. One such side effect of excess weight gain is the risk of developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia. Women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy are at higher risk of having a difficult labor and delivery, including prolonged labor and the need for a cesarean delivery. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can also lead to the baby growing too large, a condition known as macrosomia. This can increase the risk of delivery complications, including shoulder dystocia, which can cause nerve damage to the baby.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCED MEALS: TIPS FOR MEETING NUTRITIONAL NEEDS DURING PREGNANCY
It is important for pregnant women to focus on balanced meals and nutrient-dense foods that provide the necessary vitamins and minerals for a healthy pregnancy. This includes foods high in iron, calcium, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is necessary to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. This will ensure that you get all the nutrients you and your baby need. It is also necessary to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. This helps to meet your nutritional needs and prevent nausea and heartburn.
MANAGING SPECIAL DIETS DURING PREGNANCY: VEGETARIAN, VEGAN, AND GLUTEN-FREE OPTIONS
Managing special diets during pregnancy, such as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free, requires careful attention to ensure that the mother and the growing baby get all the necessary nutrients. For instance, a vegetarian diet should include dairy products and eggs that provide all the necessary nutrients for a healthy pregnancy, including protein, iron, and calcium. Vegetarian sources of protein include beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds. Iron-rich vegetarian foods include dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals. Replacing normal cooking oil with wood pressed coconut oil is also a great alternative for pregnant women. You can use the oil to saute vegetables or replace other oils in cooking.
A vegan diet that excludes all animal products requires careful planning to ensure that the mother and baby get all the necessary nutrients. Vegan sources of protein include tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, and nuts. Iron-rich vegan foods include dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals. Organic coconut sugar is a natural sweetener that can be used as a safe sugar substitute during pregnancy. It contains small amounts of minerals and antioxidants.
A gluten-free diet requires careful attention to ensure that the mother and baby get all the necessary nutrients. Gluten-free sources of protein include lean meats, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Pure cow ghee such as Gir cow ghee and A2 desi ghee has also proven to be very beneficial for pregnant women who are looking for a gluten-free diet. Iron-rich gluten-free foods include dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified cereals. Calcium-fortified foods and supplements can provide the necessary calcium.
It’s important for women with special diets during pregnancy to work with a healthcare provider and a registered dietitian to ensure that they get all the necessary nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Regular monitoring of nutrient levels may be recommended to ensure that nutrient needs are being met.
In summary, pregnant women should not fall for the myth of “eating for two.” Instead, they should focus on consuming a balanced and nutrient-dense diet, and only consume the recommended additional calories as their pregnancy progresses.