Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also leads to increased nutritional needs. The right kinds of foods can provide you and your growing baby with key nutrients for staying healthy. When it comes to eating right during pregnancy, the Indian diet offers a variety of nutritious and appetizing options.
In this post, we’ll look at the best Indian foods to eat during pregnancy, as well as things to avoid.
Recommended Food Groups for a Healthy Pregnancy Diet
Here are some of the top food groups that should be part of your daily pregnancy diet:
Whole grains like wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, and ragi are great sources of complex carbohydrates. They also provide fiber, B vitamins, iron and magnesium. Try to include whole grain rotis, daliya or broken wheat porridge, poha and upma in your meals.
Lentils, beans and peas are excellent plant-based proteins. They also contain key nutrients like iron, folate and fiber. Some healthy pulses to eat during pregnancy include masoor dal, moong dal, chana dal, rajma, chickpeas and black beans.
Milk, curd and paneer supply calcium, vitamin D and protein. Opt for low-fat or non-fat dairy products. You can have a cup of milk with breakfast or snack on yogurt with fruit.
Fruits like banana, orange, guava, chickoo and amla offer vital vitamins, minerals, fiber and water. Banana and chickoo are especially great to fulfill cravings for something sweet. Have a fruit salad, smoothie or chaat everyday.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, peas, broccoli and pumpkin provide ample vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Try to eat cooked veggie dishes like palak paneer, aloo gobhi and veggie curries daily.
Protein is essential for your baby’s growth and your increased blood volume. Good protein sources include eggs, lean meat, chicken and fish. Have an omelet for breakfast or grilled fish for dinner 2-3 times a week.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds supply healthy fats, protein and vital nutrients. They make a great snack between meals. Limit portions to a small handful.
Top Indian Foods to Include in Your Pregnancy Diet
Along with the food groups above, here are some specific Indian foods that are highly recommended during pregnancy:
Iron prevents anemia and helps in blood cell formation. Some iron-rich Indian foods are:
- Chicken and meat
- Salmon and fish
- Dried fruits like raisins and prunes
Have palak paneer made of iron-rich spinach regularly. You can also drink a glass of orange juice along with iron-rich foods to aid absorption.
Calcium is required for your baby’s bone development. Some calcium-rich Indian foods include:
- Milk and curd
- Cheese like mozzarella
- Small fish like sardines with bones
- Sesame seeds
Drink 2-3 cups of milk daily. You can also include curd, paneer and cheese in your meals and snacks.
Folate prevents neural tube defects in babies. Some Indian foods containing folate are:
- Green peas
- Lentils and beans
- Spinach, broccoli
- Oranges and strawberries
Have a lentil dish like dal makhani or chana masala daily. Snack on chickpeas or toss spinach into your sabzi.
Protein builds your baby’s organs and tissues. Some healthy protein sources are:
- Split legumes
- Milk and curd
- Chicken and meat
Include protein-rich foods in all your meals. Have an egg for breakfast or a chicken curry for dinner.
Foods with Healthy Fats
Essential fatty acids aid your baby’s brain and nervous system development. Healthy fats in Indian cuisine come from:
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Seeds like flax, pumpkin and sesame
- Oily fish like salmon and mackerel
Use ghee for cooking. Have a handful of mixed nuts or seeds daily. Opt for salmon or mackerel twice a week.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies provide ample vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for you and your baby. Some pregnancy-safe options are:
- Bottle gourd
Have 2-3 servings of different fruits and cooked veggies daily. You can make fruit chaat, smoothies or add veggies to dals and curries.
Indian Foods to Avoid or Limit During Pregnancy
While most Indian foods are safe to eat, here are some items to avoid or limit when pregnant:
Caffeine: Limit coffee and black tea to 1 small cup per day. Avoid energy drinks completely.
Alcohol: Avoid completely during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Raw sprouts: May contain Salmonella or E. coli bacteria. Cook sprouts thoroughly before eating.
Unpasteurized foods: Only have pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt and juices.
Processed and junk foods: Limit salty, sugary and oily snacks and fast foods.
Papaya: Unripe or semi-ripe papaya contains latex that can trigger uterine contractions. Avoid it to be safe.
Pineapple: Contains bromelain enzymes that may soften the cervix and trigger early labor. Eat in moderation.
Sesame seeds: More than 2-3 tsp may be unsafe during pregnancy. Limit portions.
Aloe vera: Oral consumption in pregnancy may cause diarrhea or uterine contractions. Avoid ingesting it.
When in doubt, check with your doctor about any questionable foods. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Sample Indian Meal Plan for a Healthy Pregnancy Diet
Here is a sample daily meal plan featuring pregnancy-safe Indian foods:
- 2 egg vegetable omelet with 1-2 slices whole wheat toast
- Poha or upma with peanuts and sev
- Paratha stuffed with paneer
- Daliya made with milk, nuts and fruit
- Fruit and yogurt smoothie
- A bowl of yogurt with fruit
- Roasted chickpeas chaat
- Fruit salad
- Nuts and dried fruits
- Cheese slice with whole wheat bread
Try these lunch ideas:
- Jeera rice with rajma curry and boondi raita
- Roti with mixed vegetable curry and dal
- Khichdi with a vegetable fry and curd
- Veggie pulao with paneer curry and salad
Some snack options are:
- Baked samosa with tamarind chutney
- Grilled paneer tikka
- Sprouts chaat with pomegranate
- Fruit smoothie or lassi
- Nuts and seeds trail mix
Dinner ideas include:
- Palak dal with missi roti
- Veggie pulao with raita and papad
- Tandoori chicken with salad and roasted veggies
- Fish curry with rice and vegetable stir fry
Other Diet Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
Here are some additional diet tips to remember during pregnancy:
Drink at least 8-12 glasses of water and fluids daily. Stay well hydrated.
Take your iron, calcium and folic acid supplements as prescribed by your doctor.
Avoid overeating. Follow a schedule of small, frequent meals.
Handle food safely. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Reheat cooked food thoroughly.
Give in to occasional pregnancy cravings but choose healthy versions.
Listen to your body. Avoid any foods that trigger nausea or heartburn.
Get some sun for absorbing vitamin D or take supplements.
Try prenatal yoga and light exercise to aid digestion and balance nutrition intake.
What you eat during pregnancy directly impacts your health and your baby’s growth. Planning your meals with pregnancy-safe Indian foods ensures you get optimum nutrition. Emphasize more on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy. Stay adequately hydrated and be active. Avoid processed junk foods. If you have any concerns, do consult your doctor for personalized advice. Eating healthy the Indian way will help you stay fit and feel your best during pregnancy!