Indian Food During Pregnancy - A Common Sense Diet Guide
Fitterfly - Team Nutrition
- Posted On May 25, 2019
Don’t eat papaya.
Eat for two.
Add ghee to every meal.
Spicy food can cause labour.
Indian women are bombarded with advice on what to eat and avoid during pregnancy. Do you wonder if these are myths? Are you worried that eating the wrong food can affect the baby’s growth and development? The first tip we have for you is to look up the source of the advice. How credible is the information?
Check with your personal dietitian if you have one or look up sites like the one you are reading now to know whether or not to follow the advice.
Here are some common sense tips for food hygiene and safety that you can follow throughout your pregnancy. We have addressed the common doubts and bits of advice that most pregnant women face and added some tips that will help you make healthy food choices.
Home cooked food
Not everybody who eats out or has street food will fall sick but it does up your risk of catching an infection. The main reason you are asked to refrain from eating out is to prevent such infections from contaminated food or food which is not prepared hygienically. Street food, mainly during the rains, is a big No during pregnancy as it is lying in the open where flies and bird droppings and what not can land on the item.
Even home cooked food is best eaten when freshly prepared. If you can’t eat fresh food, make sure you refrigerate food within two hours of cooking and reheat thoroughly.
Chipped or scratched non-stick cookware
Researchers are looking at long-term health effects of certain types of non-stick coating, which is why you might have read reports related to the safety of non-stick as opposed to cast iron cookware.
If you have to cook in non-stick cookware, always heat the pan with food and not when it is empty. Cook over low or medium flame because most non-stick cookware is not meant for high heat cooking. Also make sure you use cookware which is intact and not scratched or peeling.
FOOD DOs AND DON’Ts
The common sense rule to follow is to avoid foods that can cause infection or indigestion. If you are craving a particular food but are told to avoid eating it because of some myths, remember this: eating most foods in small quantities is not likely to cause any harm.
Don’t eat salad veggies or fruits that have been sitting out in a buffet. It is best to avoid food like sushi, raw eggs, unpasteurised milk, some types of cheese and most uncooked food during the first trimester to prevent infection.
Fresh homemade salad is a better option and you need to wash all vegetables and fruits thoroughly to reduce chances of ingesting chemicals or germs.
This is a great snack if prepared at home using corn kernels and real butter or olive oil. Avoid microwaveable bags of popcorn during pregnancy because of the additives used for packaging and the packaging material itself
Raw fish like sushi and shellfish are best avoided, especially during the first trimester. Some types of seafood are high in mercury and other toxins or heavy metals. It depends on where the fish has been caught and if the water body has industrial waste dumped in it.
Freshwater fish like ravas (salmon) is usually safe, if you trust the source and eat it one or two times a week to meet your Omega 3 needs.
If the meat is well cooked (up to 70°) it is usually safe to eat. In India, most people who avoid non-vegetarian food during pregnancy, do so because they believe it will be difficult to digest. If you are not suffering from any indigestion, you can eat these foods. However, if it is prepared with too much oil or is too spicy, it may cause heartburn. So it is best to eat food prepared with less oil and to go easy on masalas that may cause acid reflux.
Fruits and vegetables
Ripe papaya, pineapple, jackfruit and any other fruit or vegetable is fine in moderate portions. The serving size of fruits depends on your nutrient requirements and your overall health. Eating a big bowl of different fruits at the same time may not be advisable. It is best to follow a diet plan which recommends a single serving of fruits at different times in the day. You may be advised to eat a whole banana, apple or orange for a mid-afternoon snack instead diced fruits in a snack box.
MSG and Chinese Food
There are conflicting opinions on the safety of monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is a food additive. This is because some people are sensitive to MSG and researchers have observed that when it is consumed in higher quantities it may have an adverse effect. But, various studies show that the amount of MSG consumed on an average is not likely to cause any adverse effects.
However, whether you are sensitive to MSG or not, the point is that it is added to highly processed food like instant noodles which you should avoid anyway.
If you are worried about the impact of MSG, then you can either use fresh ingredients to make the food at home or request the restaurant to not add it to your food or choose dishes where MSG is not added.
As MSG is not widely used in Indian food you only need to be concerned about MSG used at a roadside eatery serving Chinese food. Since we don’t recommend street food during pregnancy, it is best to weigh the pros and cons before eating it.
Ghee and oil
The amount of fat during pregnancy depends on your nutritional requirements. You don’t need to eat extra ghee or cut back oil, but follow a balanced diet or specific diet based on your health condition.
There is no evidence to show that ghee or castor oil will make the baby slip out more easily during vaginal birth, so you don’t need to add any extra ghee during your ninth month.
The popular theory that spicy food will cause labour is a myth. The main reason to avoid extra spices is that it may lead to heartburn. If you are not suffering from acidity, then most spices are usually safe in small quantities as used in homemade food.
There is no scientific proof that small quantities of fennel, fenugreek or another herb or spice can induce labour or cause a miscarriage.
Food dyes used to add colour and flavouring agents are not recommended during pregnancy because there is some evidence to suggest that it is not completely safe. Bakery items are usually not recommended as part of PregStar - Fitterfly’s premium pregnancy management program, but if you are baking at home and use any flavours like vanilla essence, we recommend you switch to organic ones rather than processed extracts.
Packaged, tinned, canned foods
Tins and cans contain a liner that contains BPA and as all pregnant women are advised to avoid BPA, most canned foods are a no-no. The other issue with packaged, tinned and canned foods is added sodium and preservatives.
Cheese, milk, paneer and other milk products
Milk is a good source of protein and calcium but it is important to have pasteurised milk and not raw milk. Processed cheese is high in sodium and has many additives like food colours and preservatives. It is better to eat homemade cottage cheese or paneer.
If you are eating artisanal cheese which is not processed make sure it is stored right and cooked properly to prevent any bacterial infection.
Soft cheeses like Brie which you need to eat raw are best avoided, especially during the first trimester.
Nutrition through Diet and Supplements
One of the biggest diet myths is about how much to eat during pregnancy. Eating for two is ok but eating double the quantity is not ok.
Your requirement of folate, iron, calcium and other nutrients is higher during pregnancy. Some of these need to be sourced from the food you eat and for others, you need additional supplementation.
Take care to follow specific instructions for your prenatal vitamins. Don’t take calcium and iron supplements together. Take one in the morning and the other at bedtime. Most calcium supplements are taken after a meal. Try to take your medicines (if any) and supplements at the same time every day.
Do remember, even if you are taking supplements, you still need to eat a balanced diet preferably planned by a dietitian who is an expert in nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.
Getting bombarded with information about what you should and should not do during the nine months of pregnancy can be daunting. From your diet to exercise to prepare for labour, childbirth and life with a newborn can be a lot to take in. At times like this, having guidance from a team of experts who understand you, your health conditions and goals can be really helpful. If you too are looking for a one-stop solution for all your pregnancy needs and queries, check our PregStar - a digital pregnancy management program designed and run by experts.
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