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why do pregnant women need to eat healthy

When you re pregnant, it s important to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need. You don t need to go on a special diet but following these healthy eating guidelines will help ensure you stay well and give your baby the best possible start in life
We re always told to get our five a day and when you re pregnant, it s even more important to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. As well as containing health-boosting vitamins and minerals, they re a good source of fibre which helps improve digestion and can prevent that all-too common pregnancy side effect - constipation. When preparing fresh produce, be sure to wash it well. Fruit, vegetables and salads can come with traces of soil which may contain toxoplasma - a parasite that can harm your unborn baby. Steaming or cooking in a little water will help ensure vegetables retain more of their nutrients. Carbohydrates may have had a bad press, thanks to the popularity of low-carb diets in recent years but starchy foods really are your friend. An important source of vitamins and fibre, they provide energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer - without being high in calories. You should include carbs, such as bread, potatoes, pasta and noodles, with every meal opt for brown varieties over white, processed ones, where possible. Protein is a building block for life itself so it s especially important to get enough during pregnancy. Aim to eat protein at least once a day and vary the sources if possible. For example, eat beans and pulses, dairy, nuts, eggs, fish, poultry and lean meat (avoiding liver). The NHS advises pregnant women to eat two servings of fish a week but steer clear of raw seafood (such as oysters or uncooked sushi). The majority of fish contain traces of methylmercury - a metal believed to be harmful in high doses to the growing brains of fetuses so it s best to limit your consumption to about 12 ounces a week - equivalent to two servings. When preparing eggs, poultry and meat, make sure they are thoroughly cooked through raw and partially cooked eggs and meat should be avoided. You should also avoid p t, including vegetable p t, as it can contain listeria - and steer clear of liver and liver products as they can contain too much vitamin A, which can harm your baby.

Calcium is essential during pregnancy (helping to build strong bones and teeth) and you should aim to eat two to three portions a day. Dairy foods, such as cheese, milk and yoghurt, are great sources of calcium but there are some varieties you need to avoid in pregnancy. Milk and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk and mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie and camembert, should be avoided as they may contain bacteria. You should also steer clear of soft blue-veined cheeses, such as Danish blue, gorgonzola and Roquefort. While you don t want to eat too many fatty foods, the body needs a certain amount of fat just make sure it s the good kind. Cut down on saturated fat, found in meat products, butter, hard cheese, cream, biscuits, cakes and pastries, and choose foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead like oily fish, nuts, seeds and sunflower and olive oils. If you get hungry between meals, say no to crisps, chocolate and biscuits and opt for healthy snacks instead, such as low-fat yoghurt, fresh fruit or crunchy vegetables. It s best to cut out sugary and fizzy drinks try water, low-sugar squashes or herbal tea instead. Although it s best to get the vitamins and minerals you need from food, pregnant women are advised to take supplements to ensure they get everything they need. Choose a multivitamin formed especially for pregnant women (ordinary ones contain too much vitamin A) which should also contain folic acid. If not, you ll need to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day separately During pregnancy, most women need to eat more healthy food to help the baby grow. During pregnancy, a woman needs approximately 300 additional calories each day. These extra calories are needed to reach the recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy (usually 25 to 35 pounds). It is not a good idea to lose weight during pregnancy. Talk to your health professional about how much weight you should gain.

By following a healthy diet and gaining the appropriate amount of weight, you can help prevent high blood pressure and other problems during pregnancy. A pregnant woman also needs additional iron and folic acid. Your health care professional will prescribe a daily prenatal vitamin and or other vitamin and mineral supplements to help meet these additional needs. During your pregnancy, eating a variety of foods is beneficial to meet the needs for you and your baby. The Choose My Plate program reminds you that it is important to include foods from all groups to meet the additional needs. The web site includes many resources for you during pregnancy and breastfeeding and also provides guides for feeding for preschoolers and older children. Everyones calorie needs are different. This chart shows what one serving includes from the choose my plate program. It also lists the minimum number of servings you should eat from each group every day. Your individual needs will be different. A registered dietitian can help you learn how many servings from each food group you should consume on a daily basis. When you are pregnant, your diet has to nourish you and the baby. For this reason, it is important to choose specific foods from each food group that will supply more vitamins and minerals. Use the points below to make the healthiest food choices for you and your baby. Choose bread and cereal products that are fortified with iron. Look at the Nutrition Facts Label to see how much iron is in a food product. These iron-fortified foods, along with your prenatal vitamin, will help meet the increased iron needs of pregnancy. Drink 8-12 cups of water and other beverages a day. Limit your intake of beverages that contain caffeine. Choose at least 1 fruit or vegetable that is a good source of vitamin C. Examples include: Green, leafy vegetables Include foods rich in folic acid (folate) in your diet daily. Examples include: Leafy, dark green vegetables Choose at least 1 fruit or vegetable each day that is a good source of vitamin A. Examples include: Leafy, dark green vegetables Choose foods that are high in fiber.

These will help prevent constipation. Examples include: Cooked beans, peas, and legumes The following foods and beverages are not recommended during pregnancy. To read more about Mercury content in fish and recommendations during pregnancy go to the website. Other Items to Avoid: Vitamin and mineral supplements that are NOT recommended by your physician, nurse, or midwife A pregnant woman and her baby are at a greater risk for food-borne illness. Harmful bacteria that can be present on food can cause pregnancy complications and even death of the baby. Follow these cooking tips to keep your food safe. Wash hands in soapy, warm water before cooking Cook meats, fish, or poultry until well done to prevent the risk of food borne illness Keep all meat, fish, and poultry refrigerated until you are ready to cook it. Defrost all meat, fish, and poultry in the refrigerator and not on the counter. Fresh meat, fish, and poultry must be consumed within 48 hours of being purchased or should be frozen. Heat hot dogs and deli/luncheon meats until steaming hot or do not eat at all. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Store food promptly after eating. Place hot food in shallow containers so that they will cook quickly in the refrigerator. Do not stack containers of warm food in the refrigerator. Use leftovers quickly. Do not store eggs on the refrigerator door. Keep your refrigerator at 35-40 F. If you question the freshness or safety of a food product at all, avoid it. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out. Visit the USDA's website for additional information:. If you have a special diet need, talk with your doctor or registered dietitian about a healthy diet that is right for you and your baby. After your baby is born, eating a healthy diet is still important. A balanced meal plan will allow your body to heal properly. If you choose to breastfeed the baby, the diet you eat will also help nourish your baby. You will need plenty of fluids and approximately 500 additional calories each day during the period of breastfeeding.

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