The Maternity Diet

Are you feeding your baby right during Pregnancy?

To begin with, one has to mention that staying fit, lean and healthy by following a tailored nutrition regimen and personalized workout program are basic prerequisite conditions to improve both quality and quantity of life for any health conscious individual.

For our beloved ladies/mothers to be/ future breast-feeding mothers, all the above-mentioned becomes even more crucial. A solid foundation of nutrition and training obtained before and maintained during pregnancy of the mother makes bringing a fitter son or daughter to planet earth a higher probability thing, when compared to sedentary non health conscious mothers.

In the following few lines personal trainer and nutrition consultant Dr. Alhussein El-Shennawy will outline what and how much to eat to ensure optimum health for both the mother and the future child.

As a start, one has to state that pregnant women should have a balanced, nutrient dense eating program and increase their calorie intake to meet the needs of the developing fetus and their changing bodies. Eating a range of wholesome and nutritious foods during pregnancy is one of the most important things that women can do to ensure the normal development and growth of the fetus, which can help in preventing prematurity and low birth weight. For the mother, a balanced nutrition program helps to prevent anemia, strengthens immunity, and diminish chances of poor healing, while ensuring an ideal body composition.

First, the good news: On the one hand, pregnant women get a permission to indulgearound 300 extra calories a day. On the other hand, the bad news however is that this is not a carte blanche to satisfy the sweet tooth in a shocking mind-boggling manner.

If the mother in question opts for sweets or junk/fast food over more nutrition dense food items, the baby may take the vitamins and minerals it needs from the mother’s reservoir.Consequently, the health of the mother of could be compromised, impaired and deteriorated.

Instead extra calories should be consumed by choosing healthy nutrient-dense low-fat food items that pack a solid nutritional profile and not empty calories.

There are however special cases, which are more prone to various deficiencies and where working with a nutritionist is of outmost importance.

One of these examples is present if the mother is a vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or following a special nutrition regimen for any other reason. Vegetarians, in particular, need to make a special effort to ingest all of the essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins in order for their babies to develop normally.

As a matter of fact, excellent balanced nutrition during pregnancy depends on eating a variety of wholesome foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. It is important for pregnant women to drink plenty of fluids and have an adequate intake of the following nutrients:

  • Protein: for proper development of the fetus and placenta
  • Calcium: for healthy development of the fetus
  • Iron: for the developing blood supply of the fetus and to prevent anemia in the mother
  • Folic acid: to reduce the risk of spina bifida, anencephaly, and related birth defects

It is recommended that women who wish to become pregnant to take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid and other essential vitamins and minerals, including iron. Folic acid is needed for the development of a healthy fetus. It plays an important part in the development of the fetus’ spinal cord and brain. It must be mentioned here, that folic acid deficiency can cause severe birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects.

The following are some guidelines on what to eat and in which quantity to ensure the delivery of essential health, growth and immunity boosting nutrients in ample amounts to both the mother and growing fetus.

a)      Bread, Cereal, Rice, And Pasta: 9-11 Servings A Day

These foods provide carbohydrates,acting as energizers for the body of the mother and for the baby’s growth. Whole-grain and fortified products are rich in folic acid and iron, too.

  One serving equals: 1 slice bread, 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta, or 1 English muffin.

b)     Vegetables: 4-5 Servings A Day

Vegetables are a good source of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, folic acid, iron, and magnesium. One should try to get at least two of the daily servings from green, leafy vegetables. One serving equals: 1 cup leafy, green vegetables; 1 cup cooked or chopped raw leafy vegetables; 3/4 cup vegetable juice; or 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables..

c)      Fruit: 3-4 Servings A Day

Fruit packs plenty of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Each color represents the dominance of a very specific antioxidant. Therefore a mother has to choose fresh fruits and juices, which retain more of their nutritional value than frozen or canned varieties, and stock up on vitamin C-rich foods (such as citrus fruits, melons, and berries).

A whole intact fruit is always better than the fiber-less counterpart, which is less filling and therefore ineffective in stopping hunger attacks efficiently, as it causes an instable blood sugar level.

One serving equals: 1 medium whole fruit (such as a banana, apple, or orange); 1/2 cup chopped, frozen, cooked, or canned fruit; or 3/4 cup fruit juice.

d)     Milk, Yogurt, And Cheese: 3 Servings A Day

Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus (to keep calories and cholesterol in check, though, mothers should opt for low-fat dairy products). One serving equals: 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 oz. natural cheese, or 2 oz. processed cheese.

e)      Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, And Nuts: 3 Servings A Day

Foods from this group are excellent sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc. One serving equals: 2-3 oz. cooked meat, poultry, or fish; 1/2 cup cooked beans; 1 egg; or 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Whenever possible, one should choose lean cuts and low-fat yet ingredient preserving cooking methods.

f)       Fats, Oils, And Sweets: Use Sparingly

Since items belonging to this group are mainly made of “empty” calories with little or no nutritional value, mothers should go easy on butter, margarine, salad dressing, cooking oil, and desserts. This does not however mean to completely cut fats and oils completely out of the nutrition program. They provide long-term energy for growth and hormones and are essential brain development.

Our female chocolate fans out there should note the following:

Chocolate is comprised mainly of sugar and fat. While pregnant women should consume more calories than women who are not pregnant, controlling where the calories come from is important for healthy weight gain and to minimize the post-deliver weight loss dilemma. If the mother suffers from gestational diabetes or has a history of gestational diabetes, it is best to skip the chocolate all together, along with other simple carbohydrates.

If there are no health concerns, then indulging dark chocolate in moderate and calculated amounts every now and then, while at the same time reducing caffeine intake from other sources, shall pose no risks for both the mother and the child. 

Dr. Alhussein El-Shennawy Nutrition Consultant and Personal Trainer Head coach of “The Egyptian Warriors”

For more information and appointments, kindly call 012 71711103

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