Traditionally in India, pregnancy was equated to ‘license to eat for two’ :-). Even now, family and friends regularly enquire about your cravings, and some even offer ghee rich laddoos or snacks for munching. A pregnancy diet which is balanced and rich in proteins is essential for development and growth of the fetus. It also helps you cope with the physiological changes your body undergoes during pregnancy as well as build the foundation for lactation postnatal.
Doctor’s recommendation for diet during pregnancy
When I first consulted my OB/GYN after learning about my pregnancy, she hardly spoke about pregnancy diet. She spent sufficient time to inform about what to expect in the first trimester and list of recommended tests and scans. But she gave me no specific diet plan. She debunked some of the myths like eating more ghee, (“just eat your regular 1-2 teaspoon ghee daily” is what she okayed), avoiding ripe papaya or pineapple or other dietary restrictions. She said a strict no to “eat for two”. She reiterated that in the first trimester there is no additional calorie requirement for the baby. From 2nd trimester, she said, calorie requirement increases with additional proteins for healthy fetal development and growth. Her broad guideline was to eat a balanced and wholesome diet rich in proteins and to drink sufficient water. She prescribed folic acid, calcium and iron supplements.
Diet in the first trimester of pregnancy
I had a tough first trimester, exhibiting all possible symptoms associated with it, except vomiting. Although I had terrible case of nausea, I could still eat well. I continued my pre-pregnancy meals (simple wholesome Marathi food which included daily portions of seasonal vegetables and fruits).
I year before I became pregnant, I had a minor but niggling leg injury. I had been a regular runner and underwent physiotherapy to recover from my injury while continuing my runs. My Physiotherapist, who helped me recover from the injury, was very particular about the intake of protein in my diet as per my requirements (weight, lifestyle and activity levels). Thanks to her, when I was in my first trimester, my intake was already adequate in protein sources.
Diet plan tailored for pregnancy requirements
In my 13th week, I started vomiting regularly (that also ended my 13-year’ vomit free’ streak :-)). I lost a couple of kilos. Since I was puking regularly even in my 2nd trimester, my OB/GYN asked me to consult a dietician who could chalk out a diet plan around my increased calorie requirement and regular vomiting.
The dietician turned out to be a blessing. She was happy with my pre-pregnancy diet and made minor modifications to increase proteins and other nutrients required during pregnancy. She surprisingly asked me to increase intake of lean meat in my diet. I am not a regular meat eater, and I thought it would induce more vomiting, but it did not! Her diet plan was flexible to include things I liked. So based on my weight, my lifestyle, my additional calorie requirement, and an increased protein and other nutrients requirement during pregnancy, she drew out a diet plan. She did not spell out the amount of calorie or protein requirement. The dietician asked me not to bother with the numbers. “Just stick to the diet plan and do not overindulge on your cheat days”.
Around 5th month of pregnancy, I had joined Rolly’s prenatal classes. Rolly also gave us a sample diet chart, and it was similar to the one provided by dietician :-). In addition to protein in the diet, she insisted on including sources of calcium and iron in the meal as well. Both these micronutrients are essential for the development and growth of the fetus as well as for the well-being of the mother-to-be (click here to read more ).
Both dietician and Rolly encouraged drinking sufficient water to maintain hydration.
High protein Pregnancy meal plan
Here is the meal chart prescribed by the dietician:
|4:30 pm||Afternoon snack||
|6:00-6:30 pm||Evening Snack||
You can read more about dietary requirements during pregnancy, especially proteins, as recommended by Indian Council of Medical Research.
I ate seasonal and local fruits. Subji was made with seasonal vegetables and included green leafy veggies (in winter our house is Methi/Palak/Chawli crazy).
Fibre and fluids in pregnancy diet
It is also important to have a diet adequate in fibre to avoid constipation, which is common during pregnancy. My daily dose of fibre came primarily from vegetables and fruits as well as from other sources like whole grains, cereals etc..
Also it is important to drink plenty of fluids, to keep yourself hydrated, during pregnancy. Since I was vomiting even in 2nd trimester, I was told to drink small quantity of water at regular intervals, through the day, to keep myself hydrated. And to gradually increase the intake of water to around 3 litres.
Supplements during pregnancy
My GYN had prescribed Folic acid, iron and calcium supplements during pregnancy. My dietician did not prescribe any supplements. She did ask me to take protein powder with milk if possible, however I never took it 🙂 (protein powder in milk made me nauseous).
Diet plan in the second trimester of pregnancy
I followed the prescribed diet plan through my 2nd and 3rd trimester. Almost every meal had some source of protein in it. I ate three egg-whites and one whole egg daily. I happily ate four bowls of curd daily (since milk can induce vomiting, dietician included curd in my diet). Also, 5-6 days a week I ate 100 gm of either fish or chicken (fish – shallow fried; chicken – mostly soup but homemade Biryani once a week) for dinner.
My fluid intake had reduced in the 2nd trimester as I would feel nauseated after drinking any liquid. So I had to make conscious efforts to sip small quantity water at regular intervals.
Diet plan in the third trimester of pregnancy
I followed the same diet plan through the 3rd trimester as well. Though in the third trimester, as per my hunger pangs, I added one more cup of milk to the daily diet and included slightly more sprouts to my snack time.
My fluid intake had improved in the 3rd trimester. I was drinking sufficient water and other fluids to feel hydrated through the day.
Also, I had acidity through the entire 1st trimester and some part of the 2nd trimester. To reduce acidity, my mom suggested I should take saunf water every day in the morning. That helped to keep my 3rd-trimester acidity free.
Benefits of following a pregnancy diet plan
Thanks to the diet plan (and regular exercise), the baby had a healthy weight gain during gestation. Anu’s birth weight was also excellent. And I think a balanced diet during pregnancy also built the foundation for recovery from childbirth and adequate lactation postnatal.
How I managed to eat a high protein pregnancy diet
Being a vegetarian by choice, I would not have imagined eating so much of lean meat on a weekly basis (100 gm fish or chicken 5-6 times a week) without the support of my non-veg crazy husband. Even though he was super busy with his startup, every Sunday he would go to the local market to buy fresh fish and chicken. He would spend an hour diligently cleaning the raw fish and chicken and storing it in the freezer. By the end of every week, I would crave for simple Khichdi and Kadhi (rich in proteins but a well-deserved break from animal protein).
But honestly, I managed to follow the prescribed diet mainly due to 2 reasons: firstly, it was just a minor modification to my pre-pregnancy diet (the most significant addition was lean meat 5-6 times a week). Secondly, it did not include anything I had to force myself to eat. Also, no calorie or protein intake counting. I never felt stuffed. In fact, my vomiting reduced (stopped entirely in my 6th month of pregnancy) after I started following this diet plan. My cook made sure I had less spicy but tasty subjis (to avoid nausea/vomiting).
Also, in the prenatal class, Rolly would keep a record of our weekly weight gain (300-400 gms per week was the acceptable weight gain). Weekly weight check ensured I followed the diet plan properly. I had just 1 or 2 weeks when my weight gain was above the *acceptable* 300-400 gm per week. My total weight gain through the pregnancy was 8 Kg.