Dieting in pregnancy
Should a pregnant woman diet? How safe would it be?
Dieting is defined as the kinds of food that a person habitually eats. It is also special course of food which a person restricts themselves to either to lose weight or for health reasons
Many people often associate ‘Diet’ with the second definition, considering both definitions however, a pregnant woman can be on a diet.
A pregnant woman should be on a prenatal diet, but the goal cannot be to lose weight, rather to optimally nourish her body so that her fetus thrives, while she gains weight at a slow and steady rate.
Weight gain is normal in pregnancy and for a singleton, it is recommended that a woman gain anything between 12 to 15kg (25 to 35lbs).
Intentional weight loss is not usually advised in pregnancy, in a few cases though, a doctor may advise the pregnant woman to lose weight, if the excess weight puts the pregnancy and the woman at risk.
For example, if a woman is morbidly obese, various issues that make for a poor quality of life and complications in the labour and delivery process may arise and weight loss, usually via dieting is a safer option.
But diet restriction must be under the supervision of a competent professional, although calorie intake is restricted, nutrient and minerals intake must not be compromised.
The diet is optimized to ensure that a woman loses weight while getting the required prenatal nutrients from her foods and supplements.
It is not advised for a woman to go on a restrictive diet and ‘cut out carbs’ by herself, instead engage a prenatal nutritionist so that the dieting is safe during pregnancy.
Dieting may also be prescribed because of a medical condition known as Gestational Diabetes.
If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with diabetes, she must be on a restrictive diet, one which helps maintain the blood glucose levels at normal ranges.
Carbohydrates intake must be manipulated in such a way, that spikes and dips in blood sugar levels are avoided or kept at a minimal.
Eliminating or even restricting carbohydrates in a Nigerian diet is quite tricky and so a competent prenatal nutritionist must be engaged.
Diabetes when not adequately managed in pregnancy can lead to all sorts of maternal and fetal complications including death, so restrictive diet could also be a safer option.
On a general note, fruits and vegetables should be a staple when it comes to prenatal diet, with at least 5 portions daily included.
While this may seem quite hard, but one apple, a plate of salad (which is about 2 portions of vegetables), a smoothie (two fruit portions), and potato porridge cooked with a lot of green leafy vegetables gives a woman her ‘5-a-day’ or more.
Fruits and vegetables are highly advised because they are high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants helps to build the body’s immunity which is often compromised during pregnancy, to fight allergies and infections better.
Some recommended fruits include watermelon, oranges, beetroot and apples which are both affordable but also easily accessible. Green leafy vegetables should also be consumed daily, either alone, in a porridge (yam, plantain or potato), or smoothie.
Salads can be consumed with staple grains such as rice and pasta, it is more filling and keep you from consuming more carbs and gaining unnecessary weight.
For example, one cup of rice and 2 cups of salad will fill you up with about half the calories that 3 cups of rice would have provided.
A prenatal diet should also be rich in iron to prevent anemia which usually leads to low energy levels and tiredness.
A pregnant woman should work out regularly and ensure her daily diet includes milk and dairy products which is rich in calcium for stronger bones.
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