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Child birth! One of the biggest marvels of nature. The moment you realize that there’s a beautiful life taking form right inside your body, you start to develop the motherly instinct that wants you to love and take care of the baby even before it is fully formed. So, shouldn’t you be laying a strong foundation to ensure that the ‘apple of your eye’ enters the world with stellar health? To make sure that you return jubilant after every visit to your gynaecologist after being rendered an ‘A+’ report on the health of your baby, you need to put a specialised nutrition plan in place, right from the start of your pregnancy - when your baby is just a speck in your womb.
A healthy pregnancy diet is unconditionally essential at the start of the pregnancy for your baby’s growth and development because the baby’s body is fully formed by the end of the first trimester (1st three months). All the organs and muscles take form and the baby starts moving too.
It is therefore absolutely essential to list down the specific nutrients (with their food sources) that are critical to your growing baby during the first trimester itself. So, here’s the list of the ‘chosen ones’ that are the architects of a super healthy mother-new born duo:
1) Folate or Folic Acid
Folate or Folic Acid (vitamin B9) is an extremely crucial micronutrient as it helps prevent neural tube related birth defects, such as abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord, and premature birth.
How Much? 400-800 mcg per day or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Good Food Sources: Leafy green vegetables like spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce; other vegetables like okra, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, corn, peas, carrots; fruits like orange, papaya, grapes, strawberries, banana, avocado; lentils (dals); dried beans like chickpeas, kidney beans, black-eyed peas; nuts like peanuts, almonds; sunflower seeds.
The developing baby utilizes the Calcium available in the mother’s body to build its bones. Since, the baby gets take all the Calcium it needs, the expecting mother needs to replenish her Calcium stores to keep her bones and teeth healthy. Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. Calcium is also needed for the foetus to conduct nerve impulses, to build strong muscles and a sturdy heart.
How Much? 1,000 milligrams per day or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Good Food Sources: Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, paneer, buttermilk; bony fish like salmon, sardines; soy products like tofu, soy milk; vegetables like broccoli, spinach, bok choy, turnip greens, mustard greens, okra; whole grains like finger millet (ragi), whole wheat; nuts like almonds; dried fruits like dried apricots, raisins, dried plums, dates, dried figs; seeds like sesame seeds, flaxseeds & chia seeds; calcium fortified cereals.
Protein is made of Amino Acids that are the building blocks of the human body. Not only is Protein crucial for the growth of the baby, but mothers-to-be need a High Protein Diet to prevent muscle loss and the ensuing spells of exhaustion.
How Much? 75-100 gms per day or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Good Food Sources: Lean meat like chicken and fish; eggs; dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese (paneer), buttermilk; dried beans and lentils; soy products like tofu, soy milk; nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews; seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds & flaxseeds; peanut butter.
Iron is essential to maintain the expecting mother’s Haemoglobin level against Iron deficiency Anaemia, and to build Iron stores to help her against blood loss during delivery. Iron deficiency can also lead to premature birth or low birth weight.
How Much? 20-30 mg per day or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Good Food Sources: Meats like mutton liver, chicken liver; Fish like halibut, salmon, tuna; eggs; green vegetables like spinach, green beans, parsley; lentils (dals); dried beans like kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas; tofu; whole grains like buckwheat (kuttu), whole wheat, barley (jau), sorghum (jowar), oats; dried fruits like raisins, apricots, prunes; nuts like almond, walnuts, cashew, pistachio, peanuts; seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds; fortified cereals.
5) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is needed by expectant mothers in the first 3 months for developing the baby’s skeletal tissue, bones and teeth.
How Much? 4000 IU per day or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Good Food Sources: Fish like Halibut, Herring, Mackerel, Sardine, Salmon; mushroom (exposed to ultraviolet rays), egg yolks, fortified products like milk, yogurt, orange juice.
6) Vitamin C
This micro-nutrient boosts immunity of the expectant mother. And also helps the body to absorb iron from food sources.
How Much? 85 mg per day or as per your doctor’s prescription. But not to be exceeded beyond 2,000 mg.
Good Food Sources: Vegetables like broccoli, red cabbage, red and green capsicum, tomatoes, cauliflower, pok choy, spinach, sweet potato, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, peas, green beans, pumpkin, onions; fruits like guava, Indian gooseberries (amla), orange, grapefruit, strawberries, avocado, lemon, banana, plums, pomegranate, papaya, kiwi, muskmelon, mango, watermelon, pineapple, apricot; kidney beans; lamb liver.
Iodine is very critical to the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. It is also responsible for averting stunted growth, miscarriages and cases of stillbirth. This nutrient also plays a vital role in controlling the expectant mother’s Thyroid gland.
How Much? 250-1000 mcg per day or as per your doctor’s prescription. But not to be exceeded beyond 1,100 mcg.
Best Food Sources: Fish like Cod, Sardine, Tuna; eggs, milk and milk products like yogurt and cottage cheese.
8) B Vitamins
Especially B2, B6, B9 and B12. These help synthesize Protein for new cells for the embryo, produce red blood cells and boost immunity among their many other functions.
How Much? Each of the above as per your doctor’s prescription.
Best Food Sources: Whole grain cereals; dried beans; vegetables; fruits; seeds; nuts; dried fruits; fish; lentils; soymilk; dairy products; chicken and breast, lamb liver, eggs.
This micronutrient helps prevent complications in the baby’s spinal cord and brain while they’re developing.
How Much? 450 mg or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Best Food Sources: Eggs; chicken breast; seafood; milk; vegetables like spinach, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower; peanut butter; soy products; seeds; nuts.
10) Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is one of the Omega-3 fatty acids that help in the baby’s brain development and the health of its nervous system and eyesight.
How Much? 200 mg or as per your doctor’s prescription.
Best Food Sources: Cooking oils; fish oils; fatty fish like salmon, tuna, catfish; seafood; walnuts; flaxseeds; eggs; soy products.