Healthy Indian Diet During Pregnancy – What To Eat & What To Avoid

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Pregnant woman thinking about nutritious food

Without a doubt, pregnancy is an exciting time. It is also a period when extra care needs to be taken. A healthy diet is an absolute must during this period. A pregnant woman should not just be eating to keep herself healthy and fit, but she also needs to keep in mind the nourishment required by the child growing inside her.

The Best Indian Food Sources for Pregnant Women

A healthy Indian mea

Indian food is a collection of many cuisines. There are unlimited options available for planning a pregnancy diet. Certain common ingredients tend to be predominant, and a diet plan based on these food habits goes a long way in ensuring the right nutrition.

There are some common requirements to address when adopting a pregnancy diet. For example, folic acid is one of the most important requirements for a pregnant lady. Iron deficiency is a common problem amongst Indian women, and during pregnancy, one must ensure that this need is addressed. Raisins, beans, spinach and meat (mutton) are some of the iron-rich food items that are readily available, and an easy way to consume them is to cook them with potatoes (another north Indian staple) or oranges. The vitamin C in the latter is a catalyst in iron absorption.

With a low-meat diet in some Indian households, it is important to identify Indian protein-rich food during pregnancy. Other important nutrients required in this crucial phase include fats and vitamins which are as important for the growing baby as they are for the mother. If you are wondering what Indian food to eat, here is a list of the essential food sources.

A pregnant woman holding a plate of fruits and vegetables

  • Dairy

Milk products are highly recommended during pregnancy. Products like curd are good sources of protein, vitamins and calcium. Cooked pasteurised paneer is a great source of calcium

  • Pulses

Dal is an important source of protein. Vegetarian expecting mothers need to consume more pulses and lentils to keep up with the necessary protein intake

  • Dry Fruits and Nuts

Dry fruits are a great source of protein. Some of the recommended nuts include almonds, pistachios, dates and walnuts.

  • Meat and Fish

Considered as the best source of concentrated proteins, meat and fish should be a part of your diet if you are a non-vegetarian. Egg-whites are another good protein source. While mutton is a good source of iron, omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are known to reduce allergy risks in the baby and increase cognitive development of the child

  • Fresh Fruits

It is important to keep the fibre intake optimal to avoid constipation which is a common complaint during pregnancy. Fresh seasonal fruits and greens are a perfect choice and are easily available. They also provide a lot of essential vitamins and minerals. Watermelon is one of the best fruits to have during pregnancy as it helps in reducing morning sickness and dehydration. Mangoes, oranges and lemons provide vitamin C.

  • Vegetables

Green, leafy vegetables are recommended during pregnancy as a source of many minerals. Spinach is a source of iron and the all-important folic acid or vitamin B, a first trimester essential. Other vegetables like tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C. Peas and broccoli are some of the top vegetables that should be included in a pregnancy diet. Dark green lettuce contains vitamin K, iron, potassium and fibre and should definitely be on your list.

  • Liquids

Fresh juices are loaded with minerals and vitamins necessary for pregnant women. Make sure you are drinking water and keeping yourself hydrated. Infused water (with fruits) is another good choice for hydration. Packaged juices contain a high amount of artificial sweeteners and preservatives, and hence, should be avoided

  • Fats

A certain amount of fats is a must in every pregnant woman’s diet. This high-energy source is important for the growth of the baby and prepares the woman’s body for childbirth. Vegetable oil has the essential unsaturated fats and is best suited for consumption. Pregnant ladies should avoid butter and ghee as they contain a high quantity of saturated fats.

Indian Diet to Consider during Pregnancy

An Indian diet needs to tick the important boxes when it comes to pregnancy. The food sources mentioned above are part of a selection of options that provide crucial nutrients and minerals.

It is paramount that pregnant women follow a plan which provides all the nutrients without stressing the digestive system. The meals need to be spread out, rather than the usual 3- meal routine. Do make sure that there are no large gaps between meals. An Indian diet plan for pregnancy would include a set of dishes and food sources that ensure that the nutrients and extra calories needed for a healthy child and mother are present in the right balance.

Indian Diet Plan for a Healthy Pregnancy

Pre-Breakfast Snacks – Around 7 AM

A pre-breakfast snack is crucial for pregnant mothers. It is especially useful to prevent morning sickness. The snack should be light and energetic as it prepares the body for the rest of the day. Recommendations include a glass of milk or a milkshake. Almond milk is a traditional favourite along with dry fruits. Apple and tomato juice are also a healthy option.

Milk is an important source of calcium, which is crucial for the development of the baby. Almonds provide protein, healthy fats, iron and vitamin E. Apples are a good snack too. Research shows that consumption of apples can protect the baby from asthma in the future. Another recommendation is tomato juice, which helps in purifying blood and acts as a source of iron and vitamin C.

Breakfast – Around 9 AM

Poha and rava-upma are very common Indian breakfast delicacies. They also make for perfect breakfast food for pregnant women. Poha contains a good amount of iron and carbs, and rava upma contains minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium (along with being a low-fat energy source). Parathas with fillings are heavy and energy-filled options but need to be prepared using less oil.

Other equally healthy and convenient options include whole wheat bread which provides a lot of fibre along with essential nutrients and oats which are a valuable iron source. Sandwiches with veggies (rich vitamin and iron sources) are a convenient breakfast food. Fruits are another source of vitamin and fibre.

Mid-morning Snacks – 11 AM to Noon

A comprehensive Indian pregnancy diet chart would include the all-important mid-morning snack too. Soups are suggested for this meal as they are light on the stomach and packed with nutrients. Options include chicken, tomato, spinach, carrots and beetroots-all of these are readily available in an Indian kitchen.

Lunch – 1.30 PM

Dry chapattis or parathas with curd are some of the common lunch recommendations in a pregnancy diet chart. Rice with chicken curry and raita is another good option for lunch.. Chicken is a great source of lean protein and niacin (vitamin B3).

Khichdi is a healthy and light option for lunch just like another Indian favourite, curd rice. The main benefits of rice dishes include instant energy, prevention of urinogenital infections due to the diuretic properties, and a boost to the mother’s immunity. Traditional wheat bread like rotis and parathas are good sources of fibre and carbs.

Evening Snacks – (Keep Snacking between Lunch and Dinner time)

Pre-dinner evening snacks are very important for pregnant ladies. Some of the recommendations include various halwas, idlis, smoothies, roasted peanuts, lightly fried cutlets and dry fruits.

Dinner – 8 PM

Along with lunch, this is another heavy meal in the pregnancy diet chart for women. Dal is a nutritious traditional preparation and should be part of dinner along with rice or dry rotis, which provide the necessary carbs. Khichdi, curd, parathas and curries are also a good source of nutrition. Yogurt and buttermilk aid digestion.

End the day with a glass of milk and a couple of dates before sleeping. Milk has melatonin which helps in ensuring good sleep and dates have properties that stimulate uterine contractions.

Indian Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy

Indian cuisines involve myriad ingredients cooked in different ways. It can be hard to keep track of everything that goes into each dish. However, during pregnancy, some foods should be strictly avoided. The list of what not to eat during pregnancy begins with papaya which has certain compounds harmful for pregnant women. Another Indian kitchen favourite, the aubergine or eggplant is also on the no-no list for pregnant women, as it has menstruation inducing properties. Raw eggs are also to be avoided because of the dangers of salmonella, a bacillus which causes diarrhoea, fever and abdominal cramping.

There are more Indian foods to avoid during early pregnancy. Indian cuisines use sesame seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek (methi) which can cause uterine contractions because of the presence of phytoestrogens. Monosodium Glutamate, commonly known as Ajinomoto and is used in Indo-Chinese dishes, is harmful too.

Vitamins Required during Pregnancy

1) Important Vitamins required during Pregnancy

  • Vitamin B or folic acid is one of the most crucial vitamins for the well-being of a pregnant woman. It is an important requirement during the early stages and pre-conception. Deficiency in Vitamin B during pregnancy leads to neural tube defects in the baby.
  • Vitamin D is the main facilitator of calcium absorption. Deficiency may cause complications with the skeletal system and bones of both the mother and the child.
  • Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C is another important pregnancy-diet nutrient. Vitamin C helps in absorbing iron, an important mineral required for expecting mothers. A deficiency can hamper the brain-growth of the foetus.

2) Food Sources to Get the required Vitamins

  • Foods strong in folic acid or vitamin B include green leafy veggies and liver. Broccoli, lentils, peas, cauliflower and beetroot are important sources of this nutrient.
  • Mushrooms, dairy products and eggs are sources of vitamin D. Regular walks in sunny weather are another great way to soak up some vitamin D.
  • Capsicum, spinach, citrus fruits and peas are a great source of vitamin C.

Is it Important to Add Supplements to the Indian Diet?

Different types of vitamin tablets

During pregnancy, your body goes into an overdrive state and ensures that both the mother and the baby are well-nourished. There can be scenarios where certain deficiencies occur and you need supplements to compensate the deficit. It is important to identify these scenarios before one opts for supplements. The biggest deficiencies that can occur with Indian diets are those  iron and concentrated protein. Vitamin deficiencies are also another common occurrence.

  • Prenatal vitamin supplements should include vitamins B, B12, C and D, along with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and calcium.
  • Specific folic acid (vitamin B) supplements can also be recommended by a medical practitioner to reduce risks of neural tube defect.
  • Probiotics are also recommended to aid digestion.
  • Iron supplements are a common prescription for pregnant women who are anaemic. The increase in blood levels means more iron is needed by the body.
  • Vitamin C is sometimes recommended as a complimentary supplement as it helps in the absorption of iron.

Never self-medicate when it comes to supplements because it might result in imbalances. Always consult a specialist to identify deficiencies and get prescriptions for the required supplements.

Tips to Keep your Baby and you Healthy

Here are some more pointers for pregnant women to ensure the health of both the mother and the child. Add more healthy options to the traditional Indian diet and make sure you avoid certain foods and habits. Remember that every bite counts when you are pregnant since your baby’s nutrition depends on you.

  • No smoking

Smoking can cause your baby to be premature and underweight and put it at a risk of many other serious complications, including SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

  • Stay away from alcohol

Alcohol consumption can cause many defects to the baby, especially with cell development. Remember that the alcohol that courses through a mother’s blood can enter the baby’s system.

  • Avoid Colas

Aerated drinks contain no nutrients and have too much sugar. Avoid colas during pregnancy.

  • Avoid Excessive Eating

Eating for two doesn’t refer to the amount of food, but rather the quality and balance. Becoming overweight and above the regular pregnancy weight can cause preterm births and gestational diabetes.

  • Avoid Cold Cuts

Completely avoid uncooked meats like sushi, as they may contain parasites such as tapeworm. Uncooked meat may also contain salmonella bacteria which carries a risk of food poisoning.

  • Avoid Caffeine

Tea and coffee should be consumed in moderation. Certain studies attribute higher risks of miscarriage to excess caffeine consumption.

  • Choose your Fish

Shrimps and canned light tuna are very good sea food options as they are low in mercury. Omega-3s are good so pop in some fish liver oil capsules daily. A dosage of 300 mg per day is recommended.

  • Focus on Proteins

Soy products like tofu contain good protein and folic acid. While proteins help the baby grow, folic acid keeps birth-defects at bay.

  • Try not to Diet

Avoid modern weight-loss diets like low-carb plans. If you are pregnant, stick to tried and tested methods of nutrition.

  • Ensure Hygiene

Stay away from potential bacteria hazards like soft cheese and leftovers. The fridge should not be set at more than 4 degrees

  • Indulge Occasionally

Save your favourite junk food for a special occasion. Loaded sugar and food with a high salt content is known to create a similar preference in the baby who gets accustomed to it.

  • Increase Calcium Intake

Calcium is essential for the baby’s development in the last two trimesters. It also reduces osteoporosis risks for you in the long run.

A pregnant woman eating a healthy snack

A balanced diet paves the way for a healthy pregnancy and ensures the wellbeing of both the mother and the child. Staying conscious of what you eat not only helps you gain weight prudently but also helps with post-partum weight loss.