By M Sowmya Binu

The best gift a soon-to-be-mother can give her growing foetus is to provide a well-balanced diet for its complete and healthy growth. Many pregnant women tend to eat ‘a lot of’ food during pregnancy and are unmindful of the nutritional demands by their body.

The food you eat is the main source of nutrition for your baby, so it’s essential to consume those items that are packed with all essential minerals, vitamins and proteins. A well-balanced diet goes a long way in promoting the growth and development of your baby.

A healthy diet is quintessential throughout the childbearing ages and more so if you are planning your pregnancy.

If you are confused about what to eat and what not to eat during each trimester of pregnancy, check out for the meal plans that will help you to go through various stages of pregnancy without any difficulties.

This well-planned diet is recommended for pregnant women in general. If you are suffering from gestational diabetes or hypertension, consult your doctor to tweak it according to your needs. 

First Trimester: 0-12 Weeks

A diverse nutrient is what you need throughout pregnancy to maintain your health and the growing baby. There are certain specific nutrients that play a crucial role in the first trimester of pregnancy. The most essential nutrients you need to have during the first trimester are folic acid, iron and vitamin B6.

Folic acid

Folic acid functions as a super nutrient in pregnancy, it produces new cells and nucleic acids. It is vital for the growth and development of the child, produces red blood cells and prevents neural tube defects. About 400 mcg of folic acid is recommended daily which can be easily met by including green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, orange juice and taken as a supplement.

Iron

Iron is one of the most essential nutrients throughout pregnancy. Its main function is to make new blood cells and carry oxygen to all the tissues and organs. It is recommended to increase the iron intake to about 27mg, include food sources like lean meat, organ meat, green leafy vegetables, dry fruits and legumes to meet the iron needs.

Vitamin B6

Most pregnant women suffer from morning sickness in the first trimester of pregnancy, which makes them to puke, feeling nauseating and unable to eat. Evidence proves that Vitamin B6 is helpful in easing the issue.

Second Trimester: 12-28 Weeks

Your baby starts to develop its bones and brain from the beginning of second trimester. So, it is vital to increase your intake of calcium, Vitamin D and protein. Your calcium requirement is increased to about 1000mg and is met by taking all dairy products. You would need 15mcg of Vitamin D for the bones to absorb calcium.

Continue having foods rich in iron and folic acids to prevent anemia.

Third Trimester: 28 Weeks - Term

During the last trimester, you need an additional 350 calories a day to meet the increasing growth of the foetus and the baby gains weight considerably. Also, you need to increase your protein intake to about 26g a day to maintain the growth of foetus and maternal tissues. Your protein needs can be easily met by including egg, dairy products, lean meat, and legumes.

Adding rich sources of DHA that include fish, egg, almonds and walnuts helps in the development of the brain and retina of the foetus.

As the pregnancy advances, the iron requirement rises in comparison to the weight of the foetus. So, continue taking your iron-rich foods to meet the demands.

Don’t eat for two but eat healthy. Eating a spectrum of nutritious blend foods improves the health of you and your baby and paves way for an easier labour.

The writer is a Senior Nutritionist, Netmeds.com