Pregnant women should consume about 300 more calories every day (equivalent to a sandwich and a glass of juice) on top of their calorie requirement before pregnancy. A range of 2,000 to 2,200 calories in the first trimester is the basic amount to consume in the first trimester, increased to about 2,300 to 2,500 calories in the second and third trimesters.
Prioritize the quality of food you eat and not the quantity. Pregnant women tend to feel hungry all the time, so it would be wise to choose your snacks carefully. Avoid empty calories such as those found in processed foods because they will only add unwanted and nutrient-free pounds. Dr. Prudence Aquino, OB-gyne at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, recommends following the pyramid guide. “We use that when we recommend a meal plan,” she says. “The meals should be balanced, guided by the patient’s weight gain, blood pressure, and sugar levels.” Here are 10 points to remember about meal planning:
Eat when you’re hungry, but choose nourishing foods.
Eat a variety of food. Base your choices on the food pyramid. Go for lean high-quality protein and complex carbs. Keep fats and sweets to a minimum.
Choose high-fi ber food like wholegrain bread, fruits, veggies, cereals, pasta, and red or brown rice. Make sure you have AT LEAST 20 to 35 g (roughly 4 to 10 tsp) of fi ber in every meal to prevent constipation.
Eat or drink at least 4 servings of dairy products and calcium-rich food. Your goal is to get 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium daily. The best sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yogurt, cream soups, and pudding. Calcium is also found in broccoli, spinach, seafood, dried peas, and beans. Vitamin D is crucial in calcium absorption. So get your fill from the sun and from fortified milk and eggs.
Eat at least 3 servings of iron rich food daily. Your target is 27mg of iron every day. You can get iron from lean beef, poultry, seafood, egg yolk, sardines, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes, spinach, beans, lentils, soybeans, and enriched cereals and breads. Berries and dried fruits like prunes and raisins, as well as oranges, plums, watermelon, and prune juice are also good sources of iron. Liver, though a potent source of iron, doesn’t come highly recommended because of its high retinol content. Retinol is one of the two forms of Vitamin A (the other being betacarotene), and excessive amounts of it have been found to be harmful to babies in the womb.
You need 70mg of vitamin C daily. You can get this from natural sources like oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes and mustard greens.
Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in babies. The folic acid requirement for pregnant women is 0.4mg per day. So eat dark green, leafy vegetables, veal, lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, and chickpeas.
Choose at least one source of vitamin A every other day (excessive intake of this vitamin is associated with fetal malformations). Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Keep easy-to-prepare goodies and handy snacks in your ref and pantry: peanut butter, cheese, fresh whole-grain breads, milk, cereals, fresh and canned fruits, etc. It’s alright to treat yourself to desserts and junk food, but only occasionally.
Avoid fast-food joints. Every time you go out, make sure you carry healthy snacks and drinks with you.
Prudence Aquino-Aquino, M.D., F.P.O.G.S, obstetrician-gynecologist and Vice-Chief of the Menopause Clinic, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Quezon City
What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway (Third Edition, 1997)
Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy by the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (1996)