Why Is Nutrition during Pregnancy Important?

Knowing what to eat and when to eat is one of the best things you can do during pregnancy. Good Nutrition helps the mother handle the extra demands of the body as the pregnancy progresses. The goal is to consume a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet, which includes folic acid, iron, calcium, and proteins. These nutrients are vital for the growth of the fetus, prevention of birth abnormalities, and maintenance of the mother's overall well-being.

The Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiencies in Pakistan

The prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies is a cause for concern, as per SOFI over 50% of teenage girls aged 15 to 19 experience anemia, 21% have insufficient iron levels, 49% lack folic acid, 42% suffer from zinc inadequacy, and 40% experience vitamin A deficiency in Pakistan. Therefore, Balanced Eating during pregnancy plays is crucial for the health of the mother and the fetus.

Key Components of Healthy Pregnancy

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends following guidelines:

  • Gaining the right amount of weight
  • Regular physical activity
  • Multivitamin supplementation
  • Avoiding substances (Such as tobacco and other harmful substances)

How much should I eat in Pregnancy?

The most popular myth is "Eating for Two" which is deeply grounded. While it is true that pregnant women indeed need extra nutrition for the growth and development of the fetus doubling the caloric intake may lead to Overweight and Obesity. Factors that might indicate higher energy requirements if it’s an adolescent pregnancy, multiple pregnancies, malabsorption orders, high physical labor, or increased physical activity.

  • First trimester (first 12 weeks): 85 kcal\day.
  • Second trimester (13 to 26 weeks): about 285 kcal\day.
  • Last trimester (after 26 weeks): about 474 kcal\day.

What Minerals and Vitamins do I need during pregnancy?

During gestation one needs Folic acid, Calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin C.

Should I take An Additional Pregnancy Multivitamin?

Vitamins and mineral supplements are often recommended for pregnant women. These typically contain Folic acid, Iron, Zinc, and Calcium which are crucial for the development of the fetus. If you are unsure about taking a prenatal supplement it is best to reach out to your dietitian or your health care provider.

Important Nutrients in Pregnancy

Nutrients (Daily Recommended Amount)

Why you and your baby need it

Best Food Sources

Calcium (1300 mg)

It maintains the bone density of the pregnant women and grow healthy heart and muscles of the fetus. Almonds, Yogurt, Cheese

Iron (27 milligrams)

Iron is necessary to meet the increasing oxygen supply to the fetus. Kidney beans, Chick peas, Spinach

Vitamin A

It is necessary for the visual health. Carrot, Mango, Dried Apricots

Vitamin C

It boost the mother’s immune system and also plays a vital role in the fetus’s physical development. Guava, Orange, Grape fruit

Vitamin D

It is essential for the development of the bones of the fetus. Eggs, Cereal, Fatty Fish

Vitamin B6

It prevents pre-eclampsia (hypertension disorder in pregnancy) and pre-term birth. Spinach, Banana, Beans, Garlic

Vitamin B12

It prevents CNS defects in the fetus. Milk, Yogurt, Red Meat

Folic acid

It is important for the growth of the placenta. Peas, Lentils, Beef liver

Why is Vitamin D necessary and how much should I take?

Vitamin D works with Calcium to help in the development of the bones of the fetus. Vitamin D is also essential for healthy skin and eyesight. The recommended dosage for Vitamin D is 600 I\U per day. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D therefore you may require blood workup to check your vitamin D levels.

Why is Calcium important and what foods contain them?

Calcium is vital for the development of the baby's skeletal, heart, muscles, and nervous system, as it is a crucial element in bones, teeth, and many body processes. The recommendations for calcium vary with certain age brackets. It is 1300 milligrams per day for adolescents 14-18 years old and 1000 milligrams for women aged 19 to 50.

Food rich is Calcium include:

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • chese
  • low-mercury fish and seafood, such as salmon, shrimp, and canned light tuna
  • calcium-set tofu
  • dark green, leafy vegetables

How does Folic acid play such an important role and what are the food sources of Folate?

Folate is crucial for cellular division, DNA synthesis, and the production of red blood cells. Sufficient consumption of folate, typically achieved through the use of supplements or fortified foods, diminishes the likelihood of anemia and facilitates the rapid development of the fetus. It is recommended to take 400 micrograms per day.

Food rich in Folate includes:

  • Liver
  • Nuts
  • Dried beans and Lentils
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and Peanut butter
  • Red meat.
  • Dark green, Leafy vegetables

Why is Iron important during Pregnancy and what are the dietary sources?

One of its main roles is to facilitate the transportation of oxygen by producing hemoglobin in red blood cells. During pregnancy, it is crucial to have an adequate amount of Iron to prevent anemia and guarantee efficient oxygen delivery, as the blood volume grows to support the growing fetus.

Food rich in Iron includes:

  • dark green, leafy vegetables
  • citrus fruits
  • enriched breads or cereals
  • lean beef and poultry
  • eggs

How can I make sure I’m getting enough iron and which foods should I consume?

It is recommended to take 30 milligrams of iron every day. If this is not possible supplements should be added in addition to the dietary intake.

What are Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and how much fish should I eat to meet my requirements?

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are the essential unsaturated fatty acids for the body. They are necessary for the body but can’t make it so it has to be consume through the diet, mainly fatty fishes are the great source of it. Pregnant Women should aim to consume two weekly portions of oily fish and ocean fish. The daily serving of fish is 4-6 ounces. If the intake of fish is not possible then a daily intake of at least 300mg Omega 3- DHA in the form of a supplement should be consumed.

What are B vitamins and what are the food sources?

There are 6 types of B vitamins namely Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, and B9. They are water soluble Vitamins, hence body can’t store them and needs to be consumed on daily basis.

The food sources rich in B Vitamins are:

  • Oats
  • Lentils
  • Spinach
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Oranges
  • Bananas

How much Fluids should I consume during Pregnancy?

The National Library of Medicine recommends an average daily fluid intake of about 2.7 liters (12 cups) of fluids per day, which includes fluids from both beverages and foods. Nevertheless, the specific requirements of each person may differ depending on variables such as physical exertion, weather conditions, and personal well-being.

Water, as an essential constituent, has a vital purpose in sustaining the augmented blood volume, amniotic fluid, and general physiological processes throughout pregnancy. Dehydration may result in issues such as urinary tract infections, constipation, and preterm labor. Furthermore, maintaining sufficient hydration helps to prevent edema, a prevalent discomfort during pregnancy.

Planning Healthy Meals

My plate food planning guide has been recommended by the US Department of Agriculture and is a valuable to tool that can help you to design your own healthy meals according to the dietary recommendations. It can assist you In making informed decisions about portion sizes and food choices at each meal. In addition to this it can also aid in managing total calorie intake.

My Pregnancy Plate

These are the give food groups

  • Grains: include whole wheat roti, oatmeal, barley porridge, white boiled rice, or brown rice.
  • Fruits: All fruits are recommended including dry fruits but avoid using canned fruits with sugar syrup.
  • Vegetables: Eat a variety of vegetables and avoid using raw salads that have been made for a very long time.
  • Protein: Protein sources include, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, peas, and nuts. Avoid using, processed foods such as deli, tuna, and sausages.
  • Dairy: This includes, low-fat milk, cheese, and low-fat yogurt.

Just remember, mindful eating and portion control is necessary for a balanced diet. Small portions of the meal, several times a day can help to control the nausea and stabilize the blood sugar level.

What are Protein Foods?

Protein is essential during pregnancy due to its vital function in the growth and development of the baby, as well as in sustaining the physiological changes in the mother's body.

Foods rich in proteins are:

  • fully cooked fish or seafood
  • liver
  • chicken
  • lean beef
  • lamb
  • nuts

How much Protein should I consume daily?

The recommended dietary allowance of protein during the first trimester is 46g/day and in the second and third trimesters, 71g/day is recommended.

How much weight should I gain during Pregnancy?

According to the Institute of Medical and National Research Council:

Pre-pregnancy Weight

Recommended Weight Gain

(BMI under 18.5)
28 to 40 lbs. (about 13 to 18kg)
Normal weight
(BMI 18.5 TO 24.9)
25 to 35 lbs. (about 11 to 16kg)
Over weight
(BMI 25 or 29.9)
15 to 25 lbs. (about 7 to 11kg)
(BMI 30 or more)
11 to 20 lbs. (about 5 to 9kg)

If I am Overweight will that be a problem during Pregnancy?

If your BMI is over 30, it increases the chances of complications in pregnancy. The possible complications are:

  • Miscarriage
  • Heavy bleeding during labor
  • Gestational diabetics
  • High blood pressure

What If I am Obese and Pregnant?

If you are obese and pregnant, it is essential to maintain the healthy lifestyle which can lower the risks of the complications. It includes

  • Regular Pre-natal checkup
  • Healthy diet
  • Essential Supplements
  • Exercise

Healthy Snack Options in Pregnancy

Choosing nutritious snacks will assist maintain stable blood sugar levels and supply vital nutrients. Healthy snack options include

  • Fruit smoothie
  • Whole grain cereal, bread, Chapatti
  • Handful of nuts
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Dates
  • Boiled chickpeas

Foods to avoid during Pregnancy

  • Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk
  • Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs and meat. Do not eat sushi made with raw fish (cooked sushi is safe).
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Don’t buy or eat premade ham salad, chicken salad, or seafood salad which may contain Listeria.
  • Unbaked (raw) dough batter
  • Fish with high mercury level
  • Herbal supplements
  • Protein supplements
  • High amount of Vitamin A
  • Caffeine in large amount

Hygiene Practice When Preparing Food

  • Before touching any food, wash your hands well with soap and water.
  • To stop the spread of germs, keep ready-to-eat foods away from raw foods.
  • Eggs, meats, and fish should not be eaten raw or barely cooked.
  • Before you eat them, wash fruits and veggies well under running water, even if you plan to peel them.
  • Put leftovers in the fridge right away (within two hours) to stop germs from growing.
  • Make sure to thoroughly reheat leftovers until they hit a safe internal temperature.
  • Check food expiration dates written on it to make sure it stays fresh and safe.

Getting Support for Pregnancy Nutrition right at home with The Food Balance Clinics

With The Food Balance Clinics, you can get personalized help with eating well while you're pregnant, right in the comfort of your own home. The clinics offer personalized help to women who are expecting, with a focus on a healthy, balanced diet that is important for both the mother and the baby's growth. Contact us and receive help at home as it makes it easier for people to get useful nutritional tips, which can help them have a healthy and happy pregnancy.


The journey of pregnancy is undoubtedly full of responsibilities, and transformative experiences. The most important of all is the balanced eating during pregnancy. Commitment to healthy eating doesn’t end with the birth of your child but it’s a new phase and the habits you cultivate in your pregnancy will help in the next phase.


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