Pregnancy is the most beautiful phase in a woman's life. It brings about emotional and physiological changes as well as poses extra demands on the body. Good nutrition during pregnancy helps keep the mother and baby healthy.

In this phase the body needs extra nutrition for the developing fetus, pregnant woman herself and the lactation period to follow. These nutritional demands have to be met for a healthy child and mother. The diet before and during pregnancy should be rich in calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Eat a variety of foods from these different food groups each day:

Milk and dairy products: skimmed milk, yogurt/curd, buttermilk (chhaach), cottage cheese (paneer). These foods are high in calcium, protein and Vitamin B-12. Talk to your doctor about what to eat if you are lactose intolerant.

Two to three servings of dairy products is essential for a pregnant woman daily. This can include milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs as well. Milk and eggs are low-cost supplies of calcium and protein. For vegetarians, soy protein, nuts and beans can be good substitute.

Cereals, whole grains, dals, pulses and nuts: these are good sources of protein if you do not eat meat. Vegetarians need about 45 grams of nuts and 2/3 of a cup of legumes for protein each day. One egg, 14 grams of nuts, or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to roughly 28 grams of meat, poultry, or fish.

Vitamins and Minerals:

Vegetables and fruits: these provide vitamins, minerals and fibre. Food items that are rich in vitamins and minerals are essential for the pregnant woman. There is requirement of higher dose of certain vitamins and minerals. If this is not covered through pregnancy diet, they are prescribed dietary supplements. However, increase in servings of fruits and vegetables daily help pregnant women keep fit and it also protects the child from certain typical birth defects also.

Meat, fish and poultry: these provide concentrated proteins.

Fluids: Drink lots of fluids, especially water and fresh fruit juices. Make sure you drink clean boiled or filtered water. Carry your own water when out of the house, or buy bottled water from a reputed brand. Most diseases are caused by waterborne viruses. Go easy on packaged juices as they have a very high sugar content.

Fats and oils: Ghee, butter, coconut milk and oil are high in saturated fats, which are not very healthy. Vanaspati oil is high in trans fats, which are as bad for you as saturated fats. A better source of fat is vegetable oils because these contain more unsaturated fat.

High complex Carbohydrates: Three servings of cereals, whole wheat grains and other high complex carbohydrates are essential for pregnant women.
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