Pregnancy
Apr 15, 2021

Importance Of Nutrition, Nutritional Requirements And Guidelines During Pregnancy


What is nutrition? It is often defined as the process of providing the body the right food necessary for health and growth. And in the case of pregnancy, this is further amplified because you are eating for your own health and growth, and that of your baby. 

The importance of nutrition in pregnancy cannot be understated. Expecting mothers need to get optimum nutrition for a happy and healthy pregnancy and birth. Eating well-balanced meals is important to stay energetic during pregnancy. And, a healthy diet helps the mother remain active during and after pregnancy.

importance of nutrition


However, it is important to note that during pregnancy, the immune system is weaker. So, some foods should be avoided or only consumed in little doses, like caffeine and raw, uncooked food. 


What you eat doesn’t just influence your own health - it influences and affects the short-term and long-term health of your baby. This is why a set of foods (nutrition in pregnancy guidelines) are handed out to expecting mothers. 


It is important that you eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet when you are pregnant.

Below, we have given a more detailed overview of what to include - and what not to - so you get a better idea of what the nutritional requirements during pregnancy are. 


Importance Of Nutrition In Pregnancy

A woman who is undernourished before or during pregnancy runs the risk of a complicated and difficult labour. Her baby is likely to have a low birth weight, as well. (Low birth weight is generally defined as less than 2500g). Low birth weight, in turn, puts the newborn at greater risk of: 


1) Slow growth and development 

2) Contracting an infection and of dying. (Studies indicate that the lower the birthweight, the greater the risk of death).

3) Having low body stores of micronutrients that may result in disorders such as anaemia, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies.

4) Developing cardiovascular diseases, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in adulthood.

importance of nutrition


Thus, by eating a balanced and healthy diet, the mother will be able to stay active and well, and produce a healthy baby and breastfeed successfully after delivery.


What Are The Nutritional Needs Of A Pregnant Woman?

Well, as in the case of nutrition at any point in your life, the basic principles of pregnancy nutrition remain the same. 


1) Plenty of vegetables and fruits

2) Meals that incorporate necessary amounts of starchy foods - but choose wholegrain, skin-on varieties of those starches. 

3) Moderate amounts of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, lean meat and other proteins

4) Moderate amounts of dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese (or calcium-enriched dairy alternatives, for those who do not consume dairy for dietary or ethical reasons). 

5) Limited amounts of high-fat, high sugar foods (processed white sugar). 

importance of nutrition


The aim and importance of nutrition in pregnancy is to get you on track to a healthy prenatal lifestyle, which, in addition to a balanced diet, includes appropriate weight gain, regular exercise/physical activity, and appropriate and timely vitamin and mineral supplementation. 


Calories: 

Obviously, studies on the importance of nutrition in pregnancy highlight eating enough extra calories. To maintain a healthy pregnancy, approximately 300 extra calories are needed each day. 


importance of nutrition


These extra calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with sugary sweets and fats kept to a minimum, as mentioned above. Eating such a balanced and fibre-rich diet can help alleviate some side effects of pregnancy, like nausea/morning sickness and constipation.


Fluids/Liquids:

Intake of plenty of fluids is an important aspect of pregnancy nutrition. These fluids can be obtained from drinking plenty of water - 8 glasses a day - in addition to fluids in the form of juices, smoothies, milkshakes and soups. 


It is best to avoid or restrict your intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners during pregnancy - but if you are someone who really craves that morning cuppa, you can talk to your doctor to understand how much is permissible. 


importance of nutrition during pregnancy


Ideally, pregnant women should drink at least one and a half litres of water every day. Drinking lots of water will help you avoid urinary infection. Hydration is especially important during the last trimester, as dehydration can cause contractions that can trigger preterm/premature labor.


It goes without say that all forms of alcohol should be avoided during your pregnancy. 


Folic Acid:

Many practitioners recommend that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (400 mg) of folic every day. Folic acid can be found in a variety of sources, and is very much tied to the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. Folic acid can be obtained from green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, beans, citrus fruits, and fortified breakfast cereals, as well as in nutritional supplements, which you should be able to get over the counter. 


Folic acid is necessary to help prevent the risk of neural tube defects (these are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord). Neural tube defects are dangerous, and can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence and sometimes intellectual disability in later years. 



While it is best consumed throughout your pregnancy, folic acid plays a key role during the first 28 days after conception - this is when most neural tube defects occur. Unfortunately, you may not realise that you are pregnant before 28 days. 


Therefore, if it is a planned pregnancy, your intake of folic acid should begin before conception and continue throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor or medical practitioner can recommend the appropriate amount of folic acid to meet your individual needs.


Protein

Protein promotes growth and is crucial for your baby’s development throughout the gestation period. Guidelines stipulate about 71 grams of protein per day.



International guidelines recommend an increased protein intake overall during pregnancy, but it’s important during the second and third trimesters, to ensure an additional 21 grams needed for maternal and foetal tissues and placenta. 


If you eat a non-vegetarian diet, you can get protein from lean meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Plant-based protein sources include beans and peas, nuts, seeds and soy products. Dairy like cottage cheese is also a good source of protein. 


Calcium

Calcium is the bone-strengthening nutrient. It also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. Guidelines stipulate around 1,000 milligrams a day. Calcium is essential for foetal development. 


Calcium is a critical nutrient to reach peak bone mass in the first few decades of life, and to maintain bone mass in adulthood, as well as to slow the physiological age-related reduction of bone mineral density.

nutrition during pregnancy

Dairy products are the best absorbed sources of calcium. Nondairy/vegan/plant-based sources of calcium include broccoli, kale and sesame seeds. If you eat seafood, sardines are a good option. Many fruit juices and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium, too.


Vitamin D:

Vitamin D promotes bone strength and helps build your baby’s bones and teeth. Guidelines recommend about 600 international units (IU) per day. 


During the first stage of pregnancy, vitamin D helps regulate cytokine metabolism and modulates the immune system, helping contribute to embryo implantation and regulating the secretion of several hormones.



Sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D. Other sources include fatty fish like salmon, and fortified milk and orange juice.


Iron:

Iron contributes to the normal functioning of red blood cells and production of haemoglobin. And, during pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that non-pregnant women need, because your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. Guidelines recommend 27 milligrams per day.


Iron deficiency during pregnancy could lead to fatigue and anaemia, which, if severe, could increase the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight and postpartum depression. 

nutrition during pregnancy



Lean red meat, poultry and fish are good sources of iron, if you eat a non-vegetarian diet. Other options include iron-fortified breakfast cereals and whole grains, pulses, beans and vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables.



Foods To Avoid:

There are several foods which are strictly off-limits during pregnancy. Most of these fall under the highly processed or raw category - these may be difficult to digest and have additives which are not good for your system. 


Avoid eating the following foods during pregnancy:


1) Unpasteurised milk and foods made with unpasteurised milk - this includes most soft cheeses, like feta, cream cheese, Camembert, brie or blue-cheeses.

2) Processed meats like cocktail sausages, hot dogs, salami. (They can be consumed in small amounts if heated well before serving).

3) Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs and meat. 

4) Refrigerated and ready-to-cook kababs, meat pâté and meat spreads.

5) Refrigerated smoked seafood, like smoked salmon.

nutritional requirements during pregnancy


Food Handling Safety Tips During Pregnancy

As we all know, foods can easily spoil if they are not stored or handled properly. These are some general food-safety guidelines to follow during your pregnancy - the wash-clean-cook-chill methodology. 


1) Wash: Washing your ingredients after purchasing them is a must, to get rid of dust, grit and residue. Rinse all raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking.

2) Clean: The hands and utensils handling your food need to be clean, too! So, wash your hands, knives, cutting boards, bowls, salad spinners, countertops, etc after handling and preparing the uncooked foods.

3) Cook: Heat is one of the most effective ways to kill bacteria and make your food easy to digest. Seafood, poultry and red meats should be cooked to a safe internal temperature. You can use a food/meat thermometer to check for doneness. 

4) Chill: Once you are done cleaning or cooking your food, promptly refrigerate all the perishable food.


Postnatal Nutrition

These tips on the importance of nutrition in pregnancy guide you as to what to eat while you are carrying your baby for those nine months. However, good nutrition and a balanced diet must continue even after birth - because this is when your baby relies on you, and only you, for fuel and nutrition. 


Some of the nutrition in pregnancy guidelines need to be followed even after delivery. 


It is important to maintain a balanced diet while breastfeeding, just as you did during pregnancy, by eating a variety of foods. A healthy, mixed diet will help restore the body after giving birth, resulting in higher energy levels and faster recovery. 


Breastfeeding moms have a bigger appetite as they burn calories while feeding the baby. Most breastfeeding mothers need to consume 200-500 more calories per day, as the body needs more energy to produce enough milk for the baby.


The importance of nutrition during pregnancy and after is crucial.

"During the first six months of the baby’s life, breast milk is usually all the baby needs."

It provides the ideal nutrition for babies.




It has everything the baby needs to grow – a perfect combination of vitamins, protein and fat, and even contains antibiotics that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria.


Furthermore, the mother contributes to the taste awareness of the baby through her breastmilk/feeding. This can be seen when babies sometimes seem unwilling to latch on or breastfeed, or feel discomfort or experience gas when the mother eats a special kind of food (spicy foods or dairy for example). 


Eating right while feeding is a must. If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s recommended to take a vitamin B12  in supplement so that the breastmilk contains enough vitamins for the baby. You can talk to your doctor or dietician to outline a meal plan that will keep you full, energised while producing enough milk for the baby. 


Why Is Nutrition Counselling During Pregnancy Important?

A healthy diet during pregnancy is essential for the normal growth and development of the foetus. 

Expecting mothers can obtain this nutrition from a variety of plant-based and animal sources - but even in the information age we live in, the adequacy and extent of accurate information is limited. 


Knowledge is power - and women need information related to nutrition so they can better take care of themselves and their growing baby during their pregnancy. We cannot state the importance of nutrition during pregnancy enough. 


In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of nutrition education and counselling to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women globally.


And while the internet is rife with articles, tips and advice related to nutrition in pregnancy (guidelines), it is always better to consult a doctor or nutritionist to understand what your nutritional requirements during pregnancy are. 


This is where nutrition counselling comes in. It is a guided effort, by experts, to bring you up to speed with the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and give you advice on what to eat, how much, and when. 



Maintaining proper nutrition and a healthy diet during pregnancy is of the utmost importance - it affects the health of both mother and child. Nutritional education and counselling is used across the world to educate women about pregnancy health and to improve their nutritional status during those critical 9 months. 


Pregnant women are encouraged to consult a doctor or nutritionist. Such counselling programs will usually focus on the following: 

1) Outlining a healthy diet by increasing the assortment and amount of foods consumed

2) Promoting adequate weight gain by taking a balanced approach to the intake of protein and energy-giving foods.

3) Promoting, and prescribing, the use of micronutrient supplements, food supplements and fortified foods (like B12).

Studies have shown that women who opt for nutrition counselling stand to benefit from it: they reach optimum levels of gestational weight gain (that is, neither too little nor too much), reduce their risk of anaemia, increase the birth weight of the baby, and lower the risk of premature delivery. 


While counselling and stressing the importance of nutrition during pregnancy is beneficial for all pregnant women, it proves even more effective in communities and populations where women are undernourished. Providing them with nutrition support and food/micronutrient supplements is much needed. In such undernourished populations, nutrition education on how to increase daily energy and protein intake is a must, to reduce the risk of low birth weight neonates.


Therefore, counselling about healthy eating, prenatal exercise and physical activity is highly recommended for expecting mothers. This helps them stay healthy and avoid excessive weight gain during that all-important 9-month period.


Like we’ve mentioned above, the ideal healthy diet during pregnancy will contain adequate energy and enough protein along with vitamins and minerals, obtained through the consumption of a variety of foods. This includes green and orange vegetables, meat, fish, beans, nuts, pasteurised dairy products and fresh fruits.


Pregnancy Nutrition Programs At Nutrition By Lovneet

At NBL, we understand the importance of nutrition in pregnancy. We offer specialised pregnancy and postnatal nutrition programs at Nutrition By Lovneet, taking over all your nutrition needs during this journey. We design the chart according to your specific health, needs, and preferences, and hold your hand throughout, guiding you along the way. 


We start off by assessing your physical health based on your blood reports and medical prescriptions. Based on your underlying medical conditions ( if any) we first design a program to heal and manage those, all while putting you on a meal plan that will nourish your body, provide optimal nutrition and strengthen new life inside you.


1) Custom-designed plans in accordance with your medical routine, filled with foods you enjoy, so that you don’t feel deprived.

2) Diet plans for lactation and postnatal recovery.

3) Followed up with a healthy, gradual postnatal weight loss plan under a closely monitored health program. 

4) You will get access to personal consultations with Ms. Lovneet Batra or from one of our qualified nutritionists trained under her. Our meals are designed to hasten the healing process after birth, all the while strengthening and nourishing both mother and child.

So if you, or anyone you know, is on their motherhood journey, get in touch with us - we’d love to help you or your loved one have a happy, healthy pregnancy. 



FAQs

What is pregnancy nutrition?

Pregnancy nutrition pertains to the food expecting mothers need to consume during their pregnancy journey. They need to get optimum nutrition for a happy and healthy pregnancy and birth. Eating well-balanced meals is important to stay healthy and energetic during pregnancy. And, a healthy diet helps the mother remain active during and after pregnancy.

How does pregnancy nutrition affect the baby?

What you eat doesn’t just influence your own health - it influences and affects the short-term and long-term health of your baby. This is why a set of foods (nutrition in pregnancy guidelines) are prescribed to expecting mothers. 

Why must pregnant women pay special attention to what they eat during pregnancy? 

A woman who is undernourished before or during pregnancy runs the risk of a complicated and difficult labour. Her baby is likely to have a low birth weight, as well. This puts the newborn at risk of slow growth and development, contracting an infection and dying, disorders such as anaemia, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies, and even developing cardiovascular diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes in adulthood.

What should women eat during pregnancy?

1) Plenty of fruits and vegetables 

2) Meals that incorporate necessary amounts of starchy foods - but only wholegrain, skin-on varieties of starches. 

3) Moderate amounts of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, lean meat and other proteins

4) Moderate amounts of dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese (or calcium-enriched dairy alternatives, for those who do not consume dairy for dietary or ethical reasons). 

5) Limited amounts of high-fat, high sugar foods (processed white sugar). 

Why is folic acid important?

Folic acid is necessary to help prevent the risk of neural tube defects (these are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord). Neural tube defects are dangerous, and can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence and sometimes intellectual disability in later years. 

Folic acid can be obtained from green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, beans, citrus fruits, and fortified breakfast cereals, as well as in nutritional supplements, which you should be able to get over the counter. 

What is nutrition counselling?

Nutrition is a guided session, by experts, to impart knowledge about the importance of nutrition during pregnancy. They arm you with advice on what to eat, how much, and when. 

Also Read

10 Dos And Don’ts For Nutrition During Pregnancy
Indian diet during pregnancy
5 Fertility Superfoods for Women


Posts you may like
Follow Us On
Instagram
Follow Us