Pregnancy Diet Tips: Nutrition is nature’s elixir for any bodily challenge and this is especially true during pregnancy when there is life growing inside you, dependent on you. Growing awareness about planned pregnancies gives us an opportunity to correct any nutritional deficiencies, thus ensuring an optimal start to the pregnancy. Three to six months before pregnancy is what is referred to as the ‘Pre-conceptional’ period.Also Read - Weight Loss Tips: How to Use Fennel Seeds or Saunf in Your Diet For Losing Weight

If you have a pre-existing health issue such as diabetes or hypothyroidism or epilepsy or any other chronic illness, preconception would be the ideal time to make sure they are under control and ensure the medications you are taking for these illnesses are safe during pregnancy. Eating a healthy, varied diet will help you get most of the nutrition you need before and during pregnancy. But certain nutrients need extra supplementation such as: Also Read - Saffron During Pregnancy: 6 Reasons Why You Should Consume Kesar

Taking Folic Acid during pregnancy: This is a vitamin that is important in preventing neural tube defects in the baby. Since the neural tube is the earliest organ to develop, it is recommended to start Folic acid while planning for pregnancy and continue till 12 weeks of pregnancy. This vitamin is present as the Folate form in dark green leafy vegetables and is usually found in fortified bread and cereals. But the dietary sources do not provide adequate intake of Folic acid. Hence the CDC recommendation is to take a Folic acid tablet of 400 mcg per day. Also Read - Kareena Kapoor Discloses Saif Ali Khan's Reaction to Her Reduced Sex-Drive During Pregnancy

Vitamin D during pregnancy: The importance of vitamin D has regained more importance ever since the pandemic enforced restriction of outdoor activities leading to reduced sun exposure. Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, it is produced by the skin on exposure to sunlight. It is naturally found in red meat, eggs, and certain oily fish but not in sufficient quantities.

Levels of vitamin D in your body can be determined by blood tests. A supplement of 10 mcg/day is recommended while planning pregnancy and throughout pregnancy.

Preventing Iron deficiency during pregnancy: The deficiency of this mineral is very common in the South Asian population. There are various iron-rich food which if taken in adequate quantities, can correct the deficiency. These include green leafy vegetables, pomegranate, dates, dried fruits, nuts, red meat, and organ meats. Iron supplements are also available which are prescribed throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Vitamin C during pregnancy: This Vitamin protects the cells and prevents upper respiratory infection along with ensuring adequate iron absorption. It is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and a balanced diet can ensure adequate amounts of vitamin C. Citric fruits, berries, broccoli, and potatoes are rich sources of vitamin C.

Calcium during pregnancy: This mineral is essential for the development of bones, teeth, and muscles. Usually found in dairy sources, it is also present in certain greens like kale and rocket leaves, tofu, and fortified cereals. In India, where calcium deficiency is widely prevalent, calcium supplementation of 500 mg per day is recommended during pregnancy and lactation.

Apart from the above, attention needs to be paid as to what NOT to eat during pregnancy so as to avoid food-borne contamination and disease. This includes soft cheeses, undercooked eggs, cold cuts of meat, and inadequately washed fruits and vegetables. Oily fish such as salmon needs to be restricted to twice a week and tuna intake to 170 gm a week (source: NHS, UK). Shark meat is to be avoided.

Limit caffeine to max 200 mg/day. Green tea, chocolate also contains caffeine. So attention needs to be paid to total caffeine intake. Other multivitamin supplements especially those with vitamin A need to be avoided in pregnancy.

Alcohol and smoking are to be avoided completely during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Stay healthy, stay safe!

— Inputs by Dr Rubina Shanawaz Z, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics & Uro Gynaecology, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Bangalore