"How many almonds can I eat in a day? And can I still eat idlis? It's fermented..."
The questions are typical of pregnancy forums. Even more typical are the answers, ranging from "Eat precisely 3 skinned almonds a day, and only in the morning, well before 11am" to "Avoid idlis in the night time as the baby will get gas in your stomach."
I love the confidence with which people state these 'facts.' But it's scary to see people our age dispensing age old myths as gospel truths. You can practically develop a book of folklore from the average pregnancy forum. If I wrote the book, I'd call it 'You're Eating For Two Now.' That's the generic line I hear used most often, and the one that frustrates me the most. Yes, you're definitely eating for two. That means eating more responsibly, not just 'more' (or conveniently, double). As for cravings - do you give in to every food whim you have when you're not pregnant? Or to every craving your child has when its outside you? What on earth changes just because you're pregnant? Believe me, we don't magically become immune to diabetes and cholesterol issues. Indulging every craving has real world consequences - not just for us, but also for our children.
Personally, the thought that IF something were to go wrong I'd wonder if I could have prevented it is enough to scare me into doing things 'right.' Exercise-wise, the rules are easy enough. Half an hour of walking, with yoga thrown in. Food-wise, argh. The average pregnant person will go through days when they want to eat everything in sight, and others when nothing is remotely appetizing. I haven't had any cravings - or at least none that I can honestly attribute to pregnancy. What I've had instead is the opposite. When I'm cooking, I can't tell if something's salted. Other times, rotis taste sweet. And more often than not, nothing tastes of anything. The only way to stay healthy through all this is to get a firm set of food guidelines, and stick to them. It took me a while to get that disciplined, but I'm glad I got there.
I'm putting down the food guidelines that I've compiled, in the hope that it helps anyone else who's going a bit crazy with all the conflicting advice. I'm fairly confident about this set, which was agreed on by several sources whom I trust. That said, this applies to my specific pregnancy, with no BP/sugar concerns + no prior history of health problems + no other problems during the pregnancy. You should definitely tailor any dietary advice to your particular history.
For a normal BMI, this is between 11 & 16 kgs. Consuming 150 extra calories in the 1st trimester, and 250-350 extra in the 2nd and 3rd should get you there - balanced out with half an hour to an hour's worth of exercise. I found that putting on weight gradually like this really helped with my overall happiness. I wasn't suddenly carting around a huge load, so although I'm 10kgs heavier now, I haven't had any back pain. I was looking through pics of me at 1mo, 3mo, 5mo, 6mo, 7mo, and 8mo pregnant... the difference is so gradual!
* The daily dietary requirement through pregnancy is:
- 200-240 grams of complex carbs. Rice, wheats, and millets account for 60% of your energy requirements
- 1 gram of protein for every kg of body weight + 5 grams, 7 grams & 23 grams for each trimester. This will be ridiculously hard to manage on a vegetarian diet, especially if you don't eat eggs. Protein counting is haaaard. But I can tell you for a fact that when I eat more carbs, then I put on weight, but the baby doesn't grow as fast. On the other hand, when I do high-protein low-carb, my scans show the baby putting on weight more rapidly.
- 400 grams of vegetables. Brinjals & green vegetables are good sources of vitamin A, protein, and iron, despite the myths about them being off limits
- 300 grams of fruits. Bananas, papayas and oranges are great sources of vitamin A & C, and iron. Any stories about avoiding these because they induce cold are just that - stories. That said, only eat them when in season and do NOT eat raw papayas.
- 450ml of dairy, which goes up to 600ml for the last trimester. Cow milk's an allergy risk, so toned skimmed milk is suggested.
- 200-300 grams of legumes
- 8-12 glasses of water, which goes up to at least 3 liters in the last trimester
* The daily dietary requirement through lactation is:
- 600 extra calories for the first six months, 520 extra for the next six
- 250-300 grams of complex carbs
- 1 gram of protein for every kg of body weight + 19 grams for the first six months, + 13 grams for the next six
- 500 grams of vegetables
- 300 grams of fruits
- 450ml of dairy
- 300-400 grams of legumes
- 200mg of DHA: flaxseeds, walnuts and eggs provide this naturally
- 30mg of visible fat, in the form of oil or ghee
- 10-12 glasses of water a day
* Other dietary requirements
Through both pregnancy as well as lactation, you'll need a steady intake of calcium, iron, folic acid, iodine, and vitamins A & D. I don't want to commit to specific mg's/mcg's here because I think doctors would know best. That said, a couple of rules of thumb for their intake:
- If you're trying to absorb iron, don't consume anything with calcium for at least 1.5 hours before/after. Each prevents the proper absorption of the other.
- Following your dose of iron (natural or through medication) with vitamin C (again, natural or otherwise) aids absorption.
In the interest of full disclosure, eating like this does get super boring, even when you're eating different fruits & vegetables each week, and playing around with the recipes. Eating/drinking every two hours when your stomach's being compressed by a baby is, frankly, exhausting. Ah well. I do indulge myself at one or two meals a week; I just work out a bit harder that day. And in another year or so, I'll be eating for one again. You won't believe how excited I am at that thought! (Uhm, my taste buds will come back by then though, right? Right??)
PS: I was editing this post before publishing it, and I realized those pictures above make it look like I don't have a bump at all. So here's another, where you can actually see the baby.