Pregnancy Diet 101: Weight Gain and Morning Sickness
A good diet is important at all times, but a healthy diet during pregnancy is an absolute must. It’s not about “eating for two”; it’s about making sure you and your baby get all of the nutrients you need. What you eat affects a myriad of aspects of your pregnancy, but this article will focus on two fundamentals: weight gain and morning sickness.
Weight gain is a natural – and extremely important – part of pregnancy. Not only does your body need to channel nutrients to the fetus to help it develop, it also must amp up your own stores of energy to get you through a physically taxing nine months. If you’re of average weight, you’ll need to gain roughly 11-16 kilograms during your pregnancy. If you’re under- or overweight, or pregnant with twins or triplets, you’ll need to gain slightly more or less, in consultation with your doctor.
But how you gain the kilos is just as important as how many. Tradition and hormones might combine to encourage indulgence, but a pregnancy diet of nutritious, balanced meals are the only way to ensure your weight gain follows a healthy course.
The average woman’s daily pregnancy diet should include:
- 180-210 grams of cereal (about 6-7 30-gram servings of rice, wheat, corn, barley, or millet);
- 200 grams of leafy vegetables (2 servings of coriander, moringa or drumstick leaves, methi, spinach, cabbage, or mint leaves);
- 100 grams of a root vegetable (1 serving of aloo, gaajar, yam, beetroot, turnip, or radish);
- 100 grams of another vegetable, a different one each day (1 serving of brinjal, bhindi, gobhi, drumsticks, capsicum, tomatoes, or jack fruit);
- 300-400 grams of various fruits preferably have a variety in a day (3 servings of mango, guava, pineapple, tamarind, litchi, watermelon, apple, fresh dates, figs, sweet lime, or custard apple);
- 300-400 ml of cow’s milk and milk products;
- 60-100 grams of pulses, eggs, fish, or chicken;
- 20 grams of nuts or dried fruit;
- 3-4 teaspoons of fats and oil;
- 2-3 tsp of jaggery, sugar or honey.
This may seem like a tall order, at first glance. But don’t worry! In all likelihood, if you have no underlying health conditions and follow a fairly healthy diet already, you can continue eating normally – just maybe swap that afternoon vada pav for some dried fruit.
A couple of additional dos and don’ts:
- Do not consume alcohol. Alcohol can severely impair the development of the fetus, causing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which can delay your child’s speech and language skills, cause learning disabilities, and result in abnormal features, among other side effects.
- Do not try to lose weight. Even if you were overweight beforehand, your pregnancy is not the time to try to restrict weight gain by limiting the amount you eat. It can harm both you and your baby.
- Do moderate your caffeine intake. While there’s no need to cut out your tea or coffee breaks completely, try to keep it to only one cup per day. This restraint should also be used with other foods high in caffeine, such as chocolate.
- Do moderate your indulgences. This might seem counterintuitive – after all, isn’t indulging about throwing moderation out the window? But walking the line between healthy and hedonistic is important during pregnancy. Avoid foods that are high in anything – high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar. And while you shouldn’t precisely ignore any strange cravings (see my article on food cravings and aversions here), on a day-to-day basis, stick with healthy fare.
- Do listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat; if you’re thirsty, drink. The basic facts of life don’t change when you’re pregnant.
As your body undergoes rapid changes to support your fetus, you’ll likely feel under the weather. Maybe you feel lethargic, or develop acidity. Maybe you’ll burp excessively, feel nauseous, or actually vomit. It all falls under the euphemism “morning sickness” – a bit of a misnomer, as it can affect women at any time of the day throughout their pregnancy, though it generally subsides after the first trimester.
While your pregnancy diet won’t cause morning sickness, it can help alleviate it—and enable you to still get the nutrients you need, even if you can’t keep them down.
- To settle the stomach: Sip on cold milk, nimbu pani or mint water, flavored with jaggery or rock salt, rather than sugar or table salt. If you’re actually vomiting, it’s easy to become dehydrated, and you’ll need to make sure you’re drinking enough liquid. Milk and jaggery water also carry the bonus of being good sources of calcium, protein, and vitamins (milk) and iron (jaggery), all essential nutrients for your baby’s development. However, avoid drinking liquid with food – try consuming it between meals.
- After an episode: Eat a small portion of dry chapati with fruit or munch on saunf (anise/fennel seeds).
- Generally: Consume small, frequent meals and avoid fried or fatty foods and excessive seasoning.
And again, listen to your body. There’s no sure way to avoid morning sickness and no single way to alleviate it. But by trying the above and paying attention to what works for you, you can weather it.