Oct 2021 1st edition

A healthy diet is vital during pregnancy

Written by Silusapho Nyanda
Pregnant women should avoid diets and must follow a healthy eating plan. This is the advice the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) offers to expectant mothers.

ADSA spokesperson Cathy Day says high protein diets that increase ketone production are not recommended as the foetus has a limited ability to metabolise ketones.

Ketones are substances that your body makes when the cells in your body don't get enough blood sugar. “Energy restriction during pregnancy is not recommended and it is healthier for you to adopt a balanced diet with a good variety,” Day says.

What to eat

A good diet for a pregnant woman must contain two or more different food types. The National Department of Health (NDOH) advises that starchy foods should form part of most meals.

NDOH says fortified maize meal and bread provide extra vitamins and minerals and advises to include whole grains, as they contain fibre which helps with constipation.

The department says protein foods, such as fish or chicken should be eaten daily by an expectant mother.

Fish such as pilchards, sardines and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids important in the development of a child’s brain.

The diet of a pregnant woman should include dark green leafy vegetables, yellow or orange coloured vegetables and fruit. Dry beans, split peas and soya should be consumed regularly and low fat milk or yoghurt should be eaten every day.

Exercising helps baby

Another way of staying healthy during pregnancy is exercise. Exercising while pregnant helps reduce some of the common symptoms associated with being pregnant.

Exercise can help improve one’s mood, helping mothers sleep better and promotes strength, muscle tone and endurance that may be helpful during labour.

Day says women who engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise, most days of the week, have less medical and obstetric complications.

What to avoid when you’re pregnant

An expectant mother should avoid salty, oil-rich foods, and fizzy drinks because of their high sugar content.

 “Smoking tops the list of what shouldn’t be going into a pregnant body. While it is debatable whether drinking a glass of wine is safe, many experts and governments around the world recommend the complete avoidance of alcohol,” says Day.

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