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What to eat while pregnant

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Added 24th September 2020 01:01 PM

A woman’s nutritional status prior and during pregnancy influences the baby’s and her own health.

What to eat while pregnant

Expectant mothers should eat fatty and sugary foods sparingly

A woman’s nutritional status prior and during pregnancy influences the baby’s and her own health.


Good nutrition is important for the health and reproductive performance of an expectant mother, as well as for the survival and development of their baby.

A woman's nutritional status prior and during pregnancy influences the baby's and her own health.

Godfrey Babughirana, the project manager, Maternal and Newborn Child Health Project, says although nausea and vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy can hinder expectant mothers from ensuring good nutrition, he encourages mothers to have balanced diet in required amounts.

Peter Rukundo, a lecturer and researcher department of human nutrition and home economics, Kyambogo University, says appropriate diet refers to a variety of foods in the right amounts to meet the daily nutritional requirements.

"During pregnancy, the demands for the mother and growing foetus increase. To meet the demands a mother is expected to add 20% extra intake to her usual intake," Rukundo says.

According to Babughira, a pregnant woman should have at least one food from each of the following food group; energy giving, body building, protective food and water.

"A mother should increase her meal times by at least three more which can be incorporated into the meal time as health snacks and portion sizes of health food," he advises.

Foods enriched with high fibre such as whole-grain breads, cereals with a hull like millet, brown maize flour, fruits like bananas, pawpaws, ripe mangoes and vegetables like nakati, dodo and cabbage are recommended daily to reduce constipation.

"As the baby grows, the mother tends to develop constipation since it pushes against the digestive system," he explains.

Pregnant mothers should get enough vitamins and minerals in required amounts daily. They should choose at least one good source of vitamin C everyday, such as oranges, cauliflower, green pepper and tomatoes.    

"Vitamin C is useful for repair of tissues, building healthy bones and skin, wound repair and also fights infection for the mother and the baby," says Babughirana.

In regard, mothers are encouraged to attend at least four ante-natal care clinics during pregnancy to enable health workers detect vitamin and mineral deficiency and address it early.

Calcium foods

Eating and drinking dairy products and calcium-rich foods daily is good for the mother.

"The foods like milk, red meat, green leafy vegetables, small fish like mukene are a very good source of calcium,"Babughirana recommends.

Calcium is needed for the growth and development of the baby's bones. The baby draws calcium from the mother's bones, which needs to be in good supply.

Iron foods

Pregnant mothers should eat at least one food containing iron everyday. Iron helps in the manufacture of blood for the baby and mother.

Rukundo says foods like red meat, vegetables, groundnuts and kidney beans, millet and sorghum and orange or lemon juice are a good source of iron.

He, however, recommends taking iron supplements to boast the iron stores.

Folic acid

A good daily intake of folic acid is recommended to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Mothers can get folic acid from eating dark green leafy vegetables, and legumes (beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas).

What not to eat

Rukundo says expectant mothers should eat fatty and sugary foods sparingly. Apart from causing nausea and vomiting, too much intake of fatty or deep-fried foods may lead to excessive weight gain for both the mother and baby, resulting into complications during delivery.

He says eating lots of sugary snacks, processed foods and canned beverages is harmful to both mother and the growing baby.

"Most processed foods and beverages contains sodium, which may cause the rising of the blood pressure a fatal condition known as pre-eclampia," Rukundo cautions.

This story was first published on April 29, 2013

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