A healthy diet is comprised of the right balance of nutritious foods from several main food groups: protein, fruit, vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You should eat foods from these groups in their most natural, unprocessed state to receive the maximum number of nutrients.
Whether you are still at the stage of planning conception or are already pregnant, you need to make sure your diet includes the correct balance of the main food groups. A balanced diet allows your body to store enough of the right nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and feel in peak condition. Eating in a consistent and measured way also helps you to keep your weight within healthy limits, which is a factor for successful conception. Once you become pregnant, the benefit of eating a balanced diet is that you will be supplying your body with the best possible diet for fetal growth and development and providing yourself with enough energy to deal with the pregnancy.
Vegetables: The more vegetables—and the greater the variety—the better. Steaming is the best way to prepare vegetables if you don’t eat them raw.
Fruit: Eat fresh fruit of all colors. Fruit contains fructose, a type of sugar, so a couple of portions a day will give you fiber and vitamins without overloading on sugar.
Healthy proteins: Choose fish, poultry, beans, and nuts; limit red meat and avoid bacon and processed meats. Steam, grill, or bake fish and meat.
Whole grains: Eat a variety of whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice). Limit or avoid refined grains (such as white rice and white bread).
Fresh fruit and vegetables: When it comes to fruit and vegetables, the more colorful the better. Strong color is a sign that they are rich in vitamins and minerals, and high in protective antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals in the body. Eat a wide color range of vegetables and fruit for the maximum benefits.
Don’t forget your vitamins and minerals
It is usually better to get your iron needs from your diet. This is because iron supplements can have the side effect of causing constipation, which pregnant women are already susceptible to. Eating iron-rich, high-fiber foods is good for tackling both constipation and low iron levels. Include more lean red meat, green leafy vegetables, nuts such as peanuts, and dried fruit in your diet. It’s usual during pregnancy to feel more tired than normal, particularly in the first and last trimesters. However, if you are extremely lethargic, pale, and suffering from heart palpitations and/or shortness of breath, you could be anemic. If you are, your doctor will discuss iron supplementation. In addition, consider cutting out caffeine entirely since this can hamper iron absorption.
The most important supplement you need to take is folic acid. Health-care professionals advise a vitamin D supplement (10 mcg daily) to help your body metabolize calcium for the benefit of maintaining your own bones and teeth as well as your baby’s developing bones. The other elements in a multivitamin supplement aren’t strictly essential if you are eating a balanced diet. If you do choose to take a supplement, make sure it is right for pregnancy. Never take a supplement containing vitamin A, since too much can harm your baby.