THE IMPORTANCE OF FOOD IN PREGNANCY. By Mariana Abecasis
Pregnancy is a state of grace and a big dream for most women. However, it is a phase in which many doubts and fears also arise, which can sometimes affect well-being and tranquility at this stage of life. One of them is the importance of nutrition during pregnancy.
Among others, food is one of the themes that raises many questions and insecurities. And there are many doubts that arise when we talk about nutrition during pregnancy.
How to adapt food during pregnancy? What are the nutritional needs? Should I eat for 2? Should I increase calorie consumption?
The idea of eating for 2 is totally outdated! A pregnant woman should not eat for two! Yes, you should be responsible and healthy for 2!
A woman's diet during pregnancy is of great importance and deserves special attention since the only source of nutrients for the fetus is the mother's nutritional reserves and food intake. Thus, the mother's nutrition and balance have a direct impact on the future baby.
This dietary balance refers to both deficit and excess, as both extremes have negative consequences.
If in the past we were more frequently faced with pictures of deficits and food shortages, and the recommendations were all more towards increasing and encouraging consumption, nowadays, in modern societies, these pictures are rare and there is a shift to the opposite extreme, in which the greatest concern is related to overweight and obesity and excess food and calories on the part of mothers.
In addition to maternal excess weight having negative consequences for the baby, ironically, these dietary excesses, in most cases, do not even guarantee the amount of essential nutrients and correct nutrition for the fetus. Since today's diet is characterized by an excess of simple sugars, excess of poor quality fats and is based on more processed and industrialized foods, which are rich in calories, but not in good nutrients. Which leads to an excess of calories for the fetus, but does not guarantee all the really important nutrients that it needs.
Thus, much more important than the quantity of what we eat at this stage of life, is the quality of what we eat!
Because although there is still an ingrained idea that a pregnant woman should eat well and not hold back when it comes to food, in reality, caloric needs during pregnancy do not double! Quite the contrary, they suffer only 1 small increase - about 10-15% in relation to the non-pregnant woman's baseline metabolism.
The recommendation for daily intake at this stage is an increase of about 200-300 calories per day during the second and third trimesters, and in the first trimester the pregnant woman's needs do not change, being the same as before pregnancy.
So it is important to realize and demystify that caloric needs are independent of nutritional needs! And that the number of calories does not give us information about the quality of nutrients!
That is, regardless of whether there is an extra need for calories or not, there is an increased need for good quality nutrients at this stage, such as water, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Thus, it appears that more than the caloric intake itself, the nutritional quality of the selected foods is extremely important for adequate nutrition during pregnancy.
So how to adapt the diet?
Put some simple rules into practice, which will make all the difference in the quality of your diet, in controlling your appetite, in stabilizing your hormone and energy levels and in your general well-being!
Practical rules on the importance of nutrition during pregnancy:
– Avoid long periods of fasting. Don't go more than 2.5 hours without eating – eating several times a day, little at a time is key at this stage.
– Always have breakfast! If you weren't in the habit of having this meal, it's time to change that! Breakfast is an essential meal during pregnancy. Helps in controlling blood sugar and shortening overnight fasting. And it even helps to alleviate morning sickness, if you suffer from it!
– Reinforce the diet with vegetables and fresh fruit – the needs for vitamins and minerals are increased at this stage, so there is nothing like reinforcing the diet with vegetables and fruit.
– Start your main meals with a plate of vegetable soup – rich in fiber, water, vitamins and minerals, it is the best helper in appetite control and also favors the functioning of the intestine.
– Include vegetables and salad in your daily meals. It is known that pregnant women should be careful when it comes to eating raw vegetables during pregnancy. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat them! Quite the opposite! Provided that with proper care, these foods can and should be part of the daily diet!
– Have at least one meal of meat, fish or eggs a day. As we have seen, protein needs are increasing, and having at least one meal with a high biological value protein is important to ensure that the new needs are met. Give preference to white meat and fish and be careful to always eat them well cooked.
– Always opt for complex carbohydrates over simple ones. Whole grains, oatmeal, dark bread, sweet potatoes, legumes should be privileged. In addition to being more satiating, they favor even greater control of blood sugar levels.
– Avoid sugar, sweets, sweets and sugary products, at least in your normal day-to-day life! Due to the risk of gestational diabetes and the greater instability of blood sugar levels at this stage, these foods should be the exception and not the rule!
– Avoid juices, nectars and soft drinks, even 100% natural ones! Don't forget that they are also a great source of sugar!
– Dairy products are important! Include milk, yogurt or low-fat cheese in your diet. Due to their richness in calcium, phosphorus and protein of high biological value, these foods can and should be part of the diet. Opt for lean, pasteurized or UHT versions, which are safe at this stage.
– Avoid excess salt and salty snacks. Salt, in addition to being able to alter blood pressure, greatly enhances fluid retention – a situation that is already more frequent in pregnancy.
– Be careful to choose good fats. The need for fats is not increased during pregnancy, however the consumption of good quality fats, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, is. So opting for healthy fats, rich in omegas is essential. Good sources are: olive oil, nuts, linseed and linseed oil, avocado and oily fish.
– Opt for simple cooking methods, avoiding fried foods, sauces, cream and excess fat. At least in normal day-to-day life.
– Stock up on real food and avoid pre-made and industrialized foods.
- Do you feel more appetite? Instead of reinforcing your diet with more caloric and sugary foods, opt instead for more protein and fiber-rich snacks, which have a more satiating and less compulsive effect. Try combining a complex carbohydrate (oatmeal, wholegrain toast, dark bread) with a protein source (boiled eggs, cottage cheese, higher protein yogurts or quark, pasteurized fresh cheese).
- It's fundamental! Don't forget the water! Water requirements are increased during pregnancy and you should drink 2 to 2.5 liters a day.
By putting these rules into practice on a daily basis, the pregnant woman will ensure correct nutrition for the mother and fetus and will probably achieve a balanced weight gain – another topic that raises many fears.
And remember! The goal is to gain healthy habits that accompany you not only during pregnancy, but for the rest of your life.
And if so, you'll see that postpartum won't be a problem! Maintaining a balanced eating style will achieve a better recovery in terms of weight, energy and will favor your well-being in this new phase.
Text by Mariana Abecasis nutritionist
More information: www.marianaabecasisnutricionista.pt or instagram: @mariana-abecasis-nutricionista
leave us your opinion about the importance of nutrition during pregnancy.