Pregnancy is a physiological state which sets greater demands towards woman’s organism. Nutrition, the weight before conception and the gained kilograms during it play an important role for its outcome. On the other hand, the insufficient weight gain during this period contributes to the birth of a baby with low weight – below 2.5 kg which is a risk factor for increased morbidity of the newborn.
In the first trimester, 100-150 extra calories are necessary for optimal fetal growth and weight gain during pregnancy, as the food quality is more important than the caloric value – i.e. the protein, vitamin and mineral content in 100 kcal. The daily protein needs are 60 g or 15 g above the usual needs of the non-pregnant woman. Proteins are a key ingredient of the newly formed tissues – the growth of fetus, placenta and uterus depends on their enough intake. High quality proteins – a source of all amino acids, are found in milk, fish, meat and meat products and eggs. Beans, nuts and seeds are also suitable vegetable protein sources.
Omega-3 fatty acids are believed crucial for the neural development of the fetus and the vision. They are found in vegetable and fish oils. Folate intake is recommended (0.4 mg/day) for all women in fertile age in order to lower the frequency of the defects of the neural tube. In many women it is impossible to cover all needs simply with the food, so additional intake of iron (30 mg), zinc (15 mg) and copper (2 mg) is necessary.
Calcium needs are increased right from the beginning when the bone formation begins in the fetus. The best source is milk and dairy products where calcium is presented in an easily digestible form. Yoghurt and other yoghurt-like products have a special impact on health. They belong to the group of the so called “probiotics”. Probiotics are products containing live microorganisms which are beneficial for the health. Lactic acid bacteria suppress the growth of harmful microbes in the gut and reduce the incidence of intestinal disorders, their duration and severity in this way. They also improve digestion, stimulate peristalsis and reduce constipation. This is very important for the pregnant woman, as constipation is a serious problem. The recommended amounts of calcium in pregnancy is 1200mg daily, as only 70% of the calcium taken with food is digested and vitamin D plays an important role in this process. It is good to increase the intake of vitamin C which ensures greater absorption of nonheme iron (different from that in the blood) in the intestines and improves immunity. Rich in vitamin C are peppers, pea, cauliflower, cabbage, parsley, fresh onion and garlic, radishes, turnip, potatoes, beet and from the fruits – rosehips, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, kiwis, melons, strawberries, apples. In the mountain regions the iodine content in the soil and water, and respectively in the food is low. This leads to iodine deficit which possesses a high risk for mental retardation of the newborn, so iodized salt is recommended during pregnancy.
The formulated diet meets the basic requirements for the qualitative composition of the food in the pregnant woman. Breakfasts are well selected, as I would add one citrus fresh every morning for extra dose of vitamins and minerals. The middle course is important in order not to feel extreme hunger before lunch – a handful of mix of raw nuts and dried fruits, four bars dark chocolate, a fruit or a piece of cheese are good choices. Fresh vegetables in the form of salad are good to be present in every lunch meal. The main course could be whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa or other products rich in fibers with cheese, fish or meat as a protein source. The afternoon meal, similarly to the other middle course, should give enough energy so the organism doesn’t feel very hungry at the time of dinner. Dinner is important to be at least two hours before sleep in order not to overload the organism. Selected recipes are suitable and I would add a piece (40g) of cheese or yellow cheese every evening.