Quality of diet more important than quantity during pregnancy

“Women need more vitamin C and folic acid when they’re pregnant. The recommended daily intake of folic acid doubles during pregnancy because it’s essential for the development of new cells,” said Madam Koay. Folic acid is a vitamin that is found mostly in leafy green vegetables, salmon and orange juice. Studies have shown that pregnant women who consume adequate amounts of folic acid can significantly reduce their babies’ risk of being born with birth defects.

Mothers-to-be need just 300kcal more than non-pregnant women, achieved by eating one extra serving from each of the​ five food groups daily, said Madam Koay Saw Lan, Senior Manager, Food Services, Singapore General Hospital​ (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group. “Quality, rather than the quantit​y, is more important,” she said.

Women with dietary restrictions have to pay particular attention to what they eat. Pregnant or breastfeeding vegetarians need to eat “quality protein and reliable sources of vitamin B12”, said Md​m Koay. She added that it is essential for vegetarians to use a supplement, and add fortified food, dairy products or eggs to their diets to meet the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians who don’t include eggs or dairy products in their diets may want to consult a qualified dietitian.

What foods should you avoid during pregnancy?

It is equally important that women know what to avoid. Alcohol, for instance, should not be consumed by pregnant women as it is associated with major neurological and developmental birth defects, said Mdm Koay, adding that “even moderate drinking during pregnancy can have behavioural or developmental consequences”.​

Caffeine and food high in fat and sugar should also b​​​e avoided, said Mdm Koay. She advised against consuming herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine as insufficient research has been done on their possible effects.

See page previous page to learn about pregnancy and ​traditional asian diets​.

​Ref: V10