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Balanced weekly menu for pregnant women

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In general, a good diet is essential for a healthy lifestyle, but it is especially vital for pregnant women or those considering pregnancy. Eating healthy during pregnancy ensures a healthier body to cope with the different changes that occur in the body.

It is important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that both pregnant women and their foetuses need. Thus, for a healthy pregnancy, a diet should include a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Creating a varied menu is vital because optimal nutrition can help a person meet the increased physical demands of pregnancy and support the proper development of the baby-to-be. Are you ready?

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What to eat during pregnancy?

As reported by experts from the Department of Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Medicine, one of the world’s most prestigious health and medical care systems, some of the foods that should be included in a weekly menu for pregnant women for the healthy development of the foetus are:

  • Fruits: Prunes, apricots, oranges, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, mangoes, bananas and red and pink grapefruit (for potassium) are high in vitamins.
  • Vegetables: cooked vegetables, tomatoes and sweet red peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and spinach are highly recommended.
  • Cereals and grains: ready-to-eat or cooked cereals (for folic acid and iron).
  • Protein: Nuts and seeds, beans, peas, lamb, pork or lean beef are among the best choices.
  • Dairy: non-fat or low-fat yoghurt, skim or 1% milk, soy milk (for calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and D).
  • In terms of fish, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (OASH), some options are, for their protein content: herring, sardines, haddock, salmon and trout.

In addition, they include the possibility to include 8 to 12 portions per week of the following fish:

  • Canned or fresh light tuna   
  • Catfish              
  • Cod     
  • Oysters             
  • Shad   
  • Shrimp              
  • Tilapia

Iron and pregnancy

A woman’s body absorbs iron more efficiently, and because her blood volume increases when she is pregnant, she needs to consume more iron to ensure that she and her baby have an adequate supply of oxygen.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine (NIH) reports that a pregnant woman’s body iron requirement should average about 1,000 mg. Since the foetus and placenta lose 350 mg of iron and 250 mg are lost in the blood during childbirth, about 450 mg of iron are required for the large increase in maternal red blood cell mass.

Therefore, a good weekly menu for pregnant women should contain several iron-rich foods. What iron-rich foods can be included to avoid the risk of possible anaemia during pregnancy?

  • Nuts,
  • Spinach,
  • Sardines,
  • Dark chocolate,
  • Lentils,
  • White meats,
  • Eggs
  • Dried fruit
  • Oats enriched with iron,

Foods to include in the diet

In addition to the above, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in a report entitled “Nutrition during Pregnancy”, a good standard weekly menu for pregnant women to avoid gaining weight could contain the following foods:

Breakfast:

If you are a bread lover, you can prepare small sandwiches of sliced bread or pita bread with grated cheese, lean ham, mashed tuna, salmon or sardines for breakfast, lunch or dinner, accompanied by a vegetable salad, such as carrot, celery or cucumber.

Food:

  • One medium baked potato topped with 3/4 cups beans and 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup spinach salad with 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries and 2 tablespoons of light salad dressing
  • Two rye crispbread crackers
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • You can also try eating a single dish such as a mixed salad with corn and 130 grams of baked chicken with lemon.

Afternoon snack:

  • One large apple
  • 1/2 cup baby carrots
  • 3 cups light popcorn (you can include 1 teaspoon of oil)
  • 1 glass of low-fat milk 
  • One small oatmeal biscuit

Dinner

  • 1/2 tomato, sliced, and 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • 1 or 2 grilled salmon fillets
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
  • 1/2 cup green beans, cooked
  • A multigrain roll
  • One orange

Foods to avoid or advisable to avoid

It is also recommended to avoid certain foods because of their bacterial content, which can harm the baby’s health.

  • These include, first and foremost, certain types of fish such as marlin, swordfish and shark.
  • All raw, uncooked or undercooked seafood, such as raw oysters and sushi, should be avoided in any weekly menu for pregnant women.
  • All kinds of juices and unpasteurised milk.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs, poultry or meat.
  • Avoid as much as possible prepared salads such as chicken salad, seafood salad or ham salad.
  • Sausages or cold cuts, smoked seafood and hot dogs, unless heated until steaming hot.All types of raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts.
  • Limit drinks with caffeine and added sugars as much as possible; instead drink tap water or mineral water instead of drinks such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy or sports drinks.
  • If you like coffee and don’t want to do without it, try to choose decaffeinated and sugar-free coffee.
  • Do not drink alcohol or restrict your alcohol intake as much as possible, as no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.
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