Indian Food Plan for Pregnant Women

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

Medically Reviewed By
Trishita Nalvath (Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian)
View more Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian Our Panel of Experts

Without a doubt, pregnancy is an exciting time for a woman. 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 nutrients the child growing inside her requires.

The Best Indian Food Sources for Pregnant Women

A healthy Indian mea

Indian cuisine is rich with 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 for both, the mommy-to-be and the baby growing inside her.

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 among 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 content in the latter is a catalyst in iron absorption.

While meat is consumed in a lot of Indian households, we also have a large population of people who are vegetarians or do not consume certain types of meat. Thus, it is important to identify Indian protein-rich foods that can be consumed by a woman during pregnancy. Other important nutrients required during this crucial phase include fats and vitamins which are as important for the growing baby as they are for the mother-to-be. Here is a list of the essential foods required during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman holding a plate of fruits and vegetables

  • Dairy Products

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 women who are expecting need to consume plenty of pulses and lentils to ensure that they meet the necessary protein intake.

  • Dry Fruits and Nuts

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

  • Meat and Fish

Considered 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 source of protein. While mutton is a good source of iron, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are known to reduce the risks of allergies in the baby and also increase the baby’s cognitive development.

  • Fresh Fruits

A common issue most pregnant women face is constipation, and optimising fibre intake is the best way to battle this problem. Fresh seasonal fruits and greens are the perfect choices to combat constipation and they 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, another essential nutrient.

  • Vegetables

Green, leafy vegetables are recommended during pregnancy as they are a major source of many nutrients. Spinach is a rich source of iron and the all-important folic acid or Vitamin B, an essential nutrient especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. 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 the list as well.

  • Liquids

Fresh juices are loaded with minerals and vitamins necessary for pregnant women. It’s important to keep drinking water and stay hydrated. Drinking water infused with fruits is not just a great way to stay hydrated, but the taste of the water will also be quite refreshing. 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 required by a pregnant woman and is best suited for consumption. Pregnant ladies should avoid having excess butter as they contain a high quantity of saturated fats. Ghee is a good alternative.

What to Consider While Following an Indian Diet During Pregnancy

Indian or not, a diet needs to tick 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 them with all the nutrients they need without stressing their digestive systems. The meals need to be spread out, as opposed to the usual 3-meals-a-day routine. Large gaps in between meals should be avoided. 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.

An Indian Diet Plan for a Healthy Pregnancy

Here’s what the ideal Indian diet plan for a mother-to-be would look like.

Pre-Breakfast Snacks – Around 7 AM

A pre-breakfast snack is crucial for pregnant mothers. It is especially useful in preventing morning sickness. The snack should be light and energetic and should prepare the body for the rest of the day. Usually, a glass of milk or a milkshake is recommended for this snack. This is because milk is an important source of calcium, which is crucial for the development of the baby.

Almond milk is a traditional favourite along with dry fruits. Almonds are a good source of protein, healthy fats, iron and Vitamin E and almond milk is a great option for those with an allergy or intolerance to dairy products.

A glass of apple or tomato juice is also a healthy option. Tomato juice, in particular, helps in purifying the 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 the perfect breakfast foods for pregnant women. Poha contains a good amount of iron and carbs, and rava upma contains minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium (along with being a low-fat energy source). Parathas with fillings are heavy and energy-filled options but they’ll need to be prepared using lesser oil than usual.

Other healthy and convenient options include whole wheat bread, which provides a lot of fibre along with essential nutrients, and oats, which are a valuable source of iron. Sandwiches with veggies (which are rich sources of iron and vitamins) are a convenient breakfast food. Fruits are another source of vitamins 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 chapatis or parathas with curd are common recommendations for a lunchtime meal during pregnancy. Rice with chicken curry and raita is another good option for lunch. Chicken is a great source of lean protein and niacin (vitamin B-3).

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

Evening Snacks

Simple, light snacks can be had anytime in-between lunch and dinner. Pre-dinner evening snacks are very important for pregnant ladies. Some of the popular 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 a part of dinner along with rice or dry rotis, which provide the body with necessary carbs. Khichdi, curd, parathas and curries are also a good source of nutrition. Yoghurt and buttermilk aid digestion.

It’s best to end the day with a glass of milk and a couple of dates before sleeping. Milk has melatonin which helps in ensuring proper sleep and dates have properties that stimulate uterine contractions.

Indian Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Indian cuisine consists of many 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, an infection that affects the intestinal tract and 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 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 of pregnancy and prior to conception as well. A deficiency of Vitamin B during pregnancy leads to neural tube defects in the baby.
  • Vitamin D is the main facilitator of calcium absorption. A deficiency may lead to complications with the skeletal system and affect the bone health of both, the mother and the child.
  • Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C is another important nutrient that must be part of a woman’s pregnancy diet. Vitamin C helps in absorbing iron, an important mineral required for expecting mothers. A deficiency can hamper the growth and development of the foetus’ brain.

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 great sources of Vitamin D. Taking regular walks outside while the weather is pleasantly sunny is 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, the 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 the mother-to-be will require supplements to compensate for the deficit. The biggest deficiencies that can occur while following Indian diets are those of 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 the risks of neural tube defects.
  • 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 complementary 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 Yourself Healthy

Here are some more pointers for pregnant women to ensure the health of both themselves and their babies growing inside them. 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.

  • Quit smoking.

Smoking can cause your baby to be born prematurely and underweight, and put him at the risk of many other serious complications, including SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

  • Stay away from alcohol.

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

  • Avoid aerated drinks.

Aerated drinks contain no nutrients and have too much sugar which poses more harm to the baby than good.

  • Avoid excessive eating.

Eating for two doesn’t refer to the amount of food, but rather the quality and balance. Becoming overweight by gaining more than what is expected during pregnancy can cause preterm births and gestational diabetes. Ideally, the average woman requires not more than 300 additional other than the RDA  and healthy calories per day when she’s pregnant. An increase of 11 to 15 kgs while pregnant is considered healthy in the case of a woman who was of average weight before pregnancy.

  • Avoid cold cuts of meat.

Completely avoid uncooked meat like sushi, as they may contain parasites such as tapeworm. Uncooked meat may also contain traces of the salmonella bacteria which can cause food poisoning.

  • Consume caffeinated beverages in moderation.

Tea and coffee should be consumed in moderation. Certain studies attribute higher risks of miscarriage to excess caffeine consumption. Decaffeinated or herbal teas are good for women to have when they’re pregnant.

  • Choose your fish wisely.

Shrimp and canned light tuna are very good seafood options as they are low in mercury. Omega-3 fatty acids are always beneficial, so make sure to pop in some fish liver oil capsules daily. A dosage of 300 mg per day is recommended.

  • Focus on protein-rich foods.

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

  • Stay away from weight-loss plans.

Avoid modern weight-loss diets like low-carb plans during your pregnancy. Stick to tried-and-tested methods of nutrition, and always consult an expert if you’re trying out something new. Ideally, a pregnant woman shouldn’t be looking to lose weight unless specifically instructed by her doctor.

  • Ensure high standards of hygiene.

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

  • Indulge occasionally.

Save your favourite junk food for a special occasion. Foods that are loaded with sugar or have a high salt content are 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 benefits you by reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis in the long run.

A pregnant woman eating a healthy snack

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

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