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Ensuring a Healthy Pregnancy - Tips on Diet, Exercise And Lifestyle Changes

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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Foods During Pregnancy
The mothers body is set up to nurture, grow, shelter and protect the fetus, even at the cost of denying her nutrients. There are tremendous benefits to your unborn baby if you eat healthy during your pregnancy and gain just the right amount of weight. If you are active, it not only helps during labor, but also alleviates conditions such as gestational diabetes, edema, etc.

`Eat for two' is the most common advice you are likely to hear now.

Does that mean, Eating twice the quantity  of foods during pregnancy?

During pregnancy you need only slightly more calories (to be precise, 300 calories more daily; that too in the last 2 trimesters only) than usual for yourself and for your growing baby.

What are the necessary nutrients one should get from foods during pregnancy?
Overall calories, proteins, folic acid, Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Vitamins A, D and C and Essential Fatty acids (especially omega-3) make up the essential nutrients during pregnancy

What is the recommended dietary intake of foods during pregnancy?

Foods during pregnancy should include three meals and three nutritious snacks per day - these are recommended to maintain energy levels. Always choose nutrient rich foods rather than junk foods which only provide empty fat/sugar calories, and usually excessive amounts of sodium.

How many calories should I eat daily?
The number of calories consumed depends entirely on your weight when you became pregnant and your activity factor.
Nutrition tool: Calories burned / exercise calculator  (Registration required)

How much weight should I gain?
That depends entirely on whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese at the time of conception.

Ideal weight gain:
It depends on your weight before you become pregnant. If you were of normal weight at conception you should gain between 11.25 and 15.75 kg throughout pregnancy; if you were underweight, you are advised to gain a bit more - as much as 18 kg. However, if you were overweight, it is recommended that you gain no more than 6.75 kg during pregnancy. For obese women, the weight guidelines are even stricter - just 4.95 to 9 kg.

Get to know the important foods during pregnancy. It's important to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
You should gain about 1 to 2 kg during your first three months of pregnancy and 0.5 kg a week for the remainder of your pregnancy (If you are expecting twins you should gain 15 to 20 kg during your pregnancy. This would be an average of 750 g per week after the usual weight gain in the first three months)

If you don't gain enough weight by eating healthy foods during pregnancy, it can put your baby at risk of being born prematurely or underweight. On the other hand excessive weight gain can increase the risk of your having problems such as backaches, varicose veins as well as make it difficult to lose weight once the baby is born.

Women should aim for a weight gain related to their pre-pregnancy BMI:
  • If your BMI was less than 19.8, you should ideally gain around 12.5 to 18 kg.
  • If your BMI was between 19.8 and 23, you can gain around 11.5 to 16 kg.
  • If your BMI was above 23.5, your ideal weight gain should be only 7 to 11.5kg.
  • If you are under 20 years of age, you should aim for a weight gain at the top end of the range for someone with your pre-pregnancy BMI
Problems you may face:
If you have morning sickness from foods during pregnancy:
Try some of the following suggestions to ease your discomfort from foods during pregnancy:
  • Eat some dried crackers or toast first thing in the morning.
  • Avoid strong food odors by eating food cold or at room temperature and using good ventilation while cooking.
  • Avoid fragrances that might trigger nausea, such as perfumes, air fresheners & household cleaners.
  • Drink a cup of ginger tea prepared by using fresh ginger.               
If you have heartburn & indigestion from foods during pregnancy:
  • Eat small low fat meals and snacks, such as fruits, crackers, low fat yogurts, vegetable sticks slowly and frequently.
  • Drink fluids between meals.
  • Avoid foods that may irritate the stomach such as caffeine, mint, citrus fruits, spicy foods, high fat foods & tomato products.
  • Take a walk after meals.
  • Avoid eating or drinking for two hours before lying down.
If you develop gestational diabetes: It is because your blood sugar levels have become elevated during pregnancy.

The disorder occurs in about 4% of all pregnancies. It is usually diagnosed during the second and third trimester of pregnancy when the body may be resistant to the hormone Insulin, which is what, enables body cells to take up glucose from the blood. Insulin resistance occurs because hormones produced by the placenta have an anti-insulin effect
Symptoms can include excessive thirst, passing large amounts of urine and fatigue but often there are no symptoms.
In about 90% of the cases blood glucose levels return to normal after delivery, but these women remain at increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.
You must immediately regulate what you eat, in what quantity and at what intervals.  You can log on to to first Assess if and by how much your diet needs help.


  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. Brisk walking is a safe, economical and beneficial option. Certain yogic asanas can help you relax.
  • Limit the consumption of caffeinated beverages and aerated drinks. Artificial sweeteners may have to be restricted and even avoided, in some cases.
  • Keep yourself well-hydrated.
  • Never self-medicate.
  • Stay happy and enjoy this beautiful phase.
How many servings should I eat from each food group?  (What is a serving size?)
  • Cereals: 6-9 servings/day. Opt for foods with whole grains that provide you fiber, iron, B vitamins, various minerals and protein.
  • Proteins: 3 servings/day. Choose from lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, egg, nuts, lentils, pulses, peanut butter etc
  • Dairy: 3 or more servings/day. Take your pick from low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, calcium fortified foods, buttermilk etc
  • Fruits & veggies: Total of 6-7 servings per day. Include fruits rich in Vitamin C (the citrus fruits) and green leafy veggies daily. If you are tired of fresh fruits, you can resort to dried fruits and 100%, no-sugar-added fruit juices. But remember fresh fruits give you fiber, which may not be available in adequate amounts from the dried fruits and juices.

When you're pregnant, it's also important to avoid food-borne illnesses, such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis, which can be life-threatening to an unborn baby and may cause birth defects or miscarriage.

Foods to avoid during pregnancy include:
  • Soft, unpasteurized cheeses (often advertised as "fresh") such as feta, Camembert, and blue cheese unpasteurized milk, juices, and apple cider
  • Raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse and tiramisu
  • Raw or undercooked meats, fish, or shellfish processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats (these should be well-cooked)
  • Fish that are high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish
  • If you've eaten these foods at some point during your pregnancy, try not to worry too much about it now; just avoid them for the remainder of the pregnancy. If you're really concerned, talk to your doctor about it.


It's best to moderate your alcohol and caffeine consumption during pregnancy. A high intake of caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy. Excessive alcohol can lead to your baby being born with fetal alcohol syndrome and learning difficulties.

Pregnant women should reduce their intake of caffeine from all sources, coffee, tea, coca & cola drinks to 300 mg per day. More than this amount may interfere with your baby's growth and development and increase the risk of low birth weight.

This is a beautiful time in a young family's life. There is no reason why a couple cannot lead an otherwise normal life. Try to stay relaxed and not stress over daily ups and downs. By keeping yourself in a happy mood you will not only be giving your baby the best possible environment to grow  in but will enable these nine months to go by faster as you prepare to become parents.

By. Kanchan SaggI &
Padmashri Shanmugaraj

These pregnancy series by are a guiding template on how to eat healthy when expecting a baby.

Related article: Pregnancy Series - Part 1 - Nutrition during pre-pregnancy
Could Folate Help Prevent A Broken Heart!

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User Comments

09 May, 2012 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Many of you may be working during your pregnancy and this isn't always easy. So you need to understand how to battle symptoms and stay healthy while getting the job done. Here are a few general tips for pregnant working women

• Handling nausea and vomiting also called as pregnancy queasiness and "morning" sickness, but can actually hit at any time. To ease nausea at work:
• Avoid nausea triggers, Snack often (Crackers and other bland foods) and Drink plenty of fluids (Keep a water bottle at your desk)
• Prevent getting fatigued, Eat foods rich in iron and protein, Take short, frequent breaks, Cut back on activities esp those that tire you
• Keep up your fitness routine esp if you sit at a desk all day. Take a walk after work or join a prenatal fitness class.
• Keep stress under control, dress and work in comfortable surroundings, take proper precautions while at work
• Go to bed early 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

04 October, 2010 | Roopa Ramdas | Reply

Roopa Ramdas This article is very informative. The question about papaya has always bothered me and never once got a logical answer. Thanks for the article and post.

29 May, 2010 | Sangeetha Narayana Swamy | Reply

Sangeetha Narayana Swamy Dear Saumya,

A lot of advise on what food to eat, and what not to eat during pregnancy can be heard from aunts, granny, mother and mother-in-law. One food that everybody would mention and caution you about not eating is papaya.

The unripe papaya contains high concentrations of latex. The main constituents of papaya latex's are papain and chymopapain, that are teratogenic (abnormalities of physiological development) and abortifacient, which can induce abortion. The papain acts like prostaglandin and oxytocin that induces labor and also increases the uterine contractions. Therefore the raw papaya has a adverse effect on the mother's health and the baby. The latex also cause edema and hemorrhagic placentas, this can result in severe pregnancy complications.

The concentration of latex reduces as the papaya ripens and the completely ripe papaya has nil latex. The ripened papaya is a rich source of anti-oxidant nutrients such as beta carotene, Vitamin A and C, B Vitamins, Folic acid and pantothenic acid.

Pregnant women should avoid unripe papaya and it is perfectly safe for them to eat ripened papaya because of it's excellent nutritional value.

Please feel free to contact us for more information.

Best Regards,
Sangeetha Narayana Swamy,
Senior Dietitian,

29 May, 2010 | Saumya | Reply

Saumya Hi,
I would like to know whether papaya should also be avoided during pregnancy?

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Tags: Anemia, Children's Health, Eat Healthy, Folic Acid, Food Fads, General health, Gestational Diabetes, Healthy Foods, Nutrition, Nutritional Myths, Pregnancy / Lactation, Women's Health


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