How to eat right to ensure a healthy mother and baby

Below are some misconceptions about nutrition that pregnant mothers often have during pregnancy:

Eating for two

The concept of eating for two is quite common among many pregnant women. With this way of thinking, pregnant mothers often try to eat lots of delicious and nutritious foods to make the baby big and strong, and think that a big and healthy baby will have fewer illnesses and be easier to raise. However, providing energy in excess of demand for a long time will lead to accumulation of excess energy in the form of fat, pregnant mothers will gain too much weight, leading to the risk of gestational diabetes and babies born heavier than normal. A fetus with too much weight causes both mother and child to face an increased risk of complications during birth. Not only that, children born with “excessive” weight are susceptible to respiratory problems, hypoglycemia, and later in their development are also susceptible to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Supplement calcium as much as possible

Calcium is a very important mineral needed for children’s bone development during fetal and early childhood. During development, the fetus often uses calcium from the mother to create bones for growth, so if the pregnant mother’s calcium needs are not met enough, it will affect the child’s height development and increase the risk of osteoporosis for the mother in the future. However, if pregnant mothers supplement calcium with the notion that “the more calcium the child will have, the stronger the mother’s bones will be,” it will lead to more harm than good for both mother and child. Specifically, excess calcium will make pregnant mothers constipated, anorexia, fatigue, dry mouth, headaches, increased thirst, and risk of kidney stones; Severe cases can cause excessive calcification of the placenta compared to gestational age, which will reduce metabolism between mother and fetus, causing poor fetal development. The fetus with excess calcium may have hypercalcemia, after birth the fontanel will close prematurely, and the jawbone may be deformed.

Fasting during morning sickness

The notion that pregnant mothers with morning sickness should temporarily fast or only drink water to avoid vomiting, causing loss of strength for the mother or even miscarriage, is completely wrong. If energy supply is insufficient for a long time, pregnant mothers are susceptible to chronic energy deficiency and children are at risk of fetal malnutrition. In case of severe morning sickness, pregnant mothers need to seek advice from medical experts to have appropriate nutritional supplementation methods and solutions for this period.

Occasionally drinking a little alcohol, especially light alcohol, is okay

Alcohol (alcoholic drinks in general) is extremely harmful to pregnant women: it increases the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, birth defects and can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (fetal alcohol syndrome). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) – a series of physical and cognitive abnormalities in children due to prenatal alcohol exposure.

Currently, the safe threshold for alcohol consumption during pregnancy has not been determined. Most Medical Associations agree absolutely not to use alcohol during pregnancy, even in small amounts or with light alcohol content, because alcohol easily passes from the mother’s body through the placenta to the fetus. The process of eliminating alcohol from the fetus is only 3-4% of that of the mother. Most of the alcohol excreted by the fetus goes back into the amniotic fluid and continues to be reabsorbed by the fetus through the process of the fetus swallowing amniotic fluid and absorbing it into the amniotic membrane.

Pregnant mothers’ diet during each stage of pregnancy

A pregnant mother’s diet should be consistent with the recommended energy needs during each stage of pregnancy. Before pregnancy, the recommended energy needs range from 1,730-2,050 kcal/day (depending on age and level of physical activity). During pregnancy, energy needs need to increase by 50 kcal/day, 250 kcal/day, 450 kcal/day in the first 3 months, middle 3 months and last 3 months of pregnancy, respectively.

The first 3 months of pregnancy is the stage of forming the organs and organizations of the fetus, so the pregnant mother’s diet needs to prioritize supplementing protein, iron and folic acid or multi-micronutrients.

The second trimester of pregnancy is a period of rapid fetal development, especially the child’s skeleton and height, so mothers need to pay extra attention to supplementing calcium and zinc in addition to iron/folic acid or multivitamins.

The last 3 months of pregnancy is the period when the fetus’ weight growth is fastest, so in addition to maintaining adequate calcium, iron, folic acid or multi-micronutrient supplementation, it is necessary to pay attention to adding protein.), fat (lipid).

What should I eat to keep my child from entering my mother? Principles to remember!!!

For nutrition to “go to the baby and not to the mother”, the principles pregnant mothers need to keep in mind are:

  • Determine the appropriate weight gain level.
  • Monitor weight to achieve target weight gain according to each stage of pregnancy.
  • Any type of food contains many nutrients at the same time. Therefore, at each stage of pregnancy, depending on which nutritional component is in high demand for fetal development, priority should be given to choosing foods with that nutritional component predominating.

Take some measures to help overcome uncontrolled appetite to avoid excessive weight gain. Appropriate weight gain: Depending on nutritional status (body mass index: BMI = kg/m2) before pregnancy. Normally, if before pregnancy, the mother had normal nutritional status (BMI: 18.5-24.9), then during the entire pregnancy she should gain about 10-12 kg.

Target weight gain according to each stage of pregnancy: To achieve the 10-12 kg weight gain mentioned above, pregnant mothers should gain 1 kg, 4-5 kg, 5-6 kg respectively in the first 3 months, the second and last 3 months of pregnancy.

Priority foods to choose for each stage of pregnancy:

  • The first 3 months of pregnancy: Prioritize choosing foods rich in protein such as eggs, milk, meat, and beans. In addition to supplementing adequate nutrition in the diet, pregnant mothers need to take iron and folic acid supplements (usually about 60 mg iron and 400 mcg folic acid per day) or multi-micronutrients.
  • Second trimester of pregnancy: Pay attention to eating foods rich in calcium and zinc such as shrimp, crab, eggs, milk, and seafood. To ensure adequate calcium supply of 1200 mg/day, in addition to the normal diet, it is necessary to supplement 6 units of milk/day (1 unit of milk: 1 piece of cheese 15g or 100 g yogurt or 100 ml liquid milk). Continue supplementing with iron, folic acid or multi-micronutrients.
  • The last 3 months of pregnancy: In addition to enough rice (and other foods), pregnant mothers need to supplement their meals with protein and fat. First of all, you need to pay attention to protein sources from available foods such as eggs, fish, shrimp, crab, meat, beans (soybeans, green beans, …), sesame, and peanuts. These are foods with high protein content and added fat to help increase meal energy and help absorb fat-soluble vitamins well. Continue to supplement 6 units of milk/day, iron, folic acid or multi-micronutrients.

Some measures to assist in avoiding excessive weight gain:

– Eat slowly and chew thoroughly: According to physiology, the human brain needs 10-20 minutes to recognize the feeling of fullness in the stomach. Therefore, when eating too quickly, the brain does not have time to recognize the feeling of fullness, so it can cause pregnant mothers to eat more food than the body really needs.

– Drink enough water: Water plays an extremely important role in the body, especially during pregnancy, the mother’s body needs more water to increase the production of blood and amniotic fluid. In addition, for pregnant mothers who often crave snacks and easily overeat, drinking enough water will help limit the feeling of hunger.

– Divide meals into smaller portions: Dividing meals into smaller portions and spreading them evenly throughout the day helps maintain a feeling of fullness and control hunger. By eating small frequent meals, pregnant mothers will reduce the chance of feeling hungry for too long and will not tend to eat too much at each meal.

– Eat a nutritious breakfast: It can be said that breakfast is especially important for the health of pregnant mothers and fetuses, as it is a source of energy for the body and especially the brain to function better. If pregnant mothers do not eat enough breakfast, skip meals or delay breakfast, the body will always feel tired, lose concentration, react slowly due to lack of blood sugar and then the body will easily fall into a state of depression. Being “too hungry” will cause pregnant mothers to increase their appetite and easily fall into a state of “compensation” eating, losing control over quantity. In addition, there have been many studies showing that there is a relationship between irregular eating (with a high focus on breakfast) and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.

– Maintain the habit of practicing gentle exercises such as walking or yoga, etc. because it will help the mother’s body release stress-reducing hormones, thereby inhibiting the creation of cortisol, a hormone that increases cravings. eat, thereby helping pregnant mothers control their weight better.

Foods to avoid:

Fish with high mercury content: Mercury is a heavy metal that has a detrimental effect on fetal brain development. Therefore, avoid eating fish that may contain high levels of mercury, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, bigeye tuna, etc.

Alcohol and beer: Avoid drinking alcohol and beer completely. Even small amounts of alcohol can harm the fetus.

Caffeine: Caffeine has adverse effects on the heart rate, breathing, and blood flow of the fetus. It is recommended that pregnant mothers limit caffeine consumption to less than 200-300 mg/day. Caffeine is found in many foods and beverages such as coffee, tea, coca-cola, energy drinks, chocolate, etc.

Sugary drinks: Avoid or limit drinks high in sugar, such as soda and sugar- and electrolyte-enhanced drinks commonly consumed during sports.

Some fruits, juices, and vegetables contain high levels of ingredients that are not good for the fetus if used in large amounts or processed improperly:

– Pineapple: Pineapple contains a lot of bromelin, a protein-degrading enzyme, which can soften the cervix leading to premature labor, which can cause miscarriage.

– Green papaya: Green papaya contains a lot of papain, an enzyme that breaks down protein, which can cause uterine contractions, increasing the risk of miscarriage.

– Fresh bamboo shoots: Fresh bamboo shoots have a very high cyanide content. Under the influence of digestive enzymes, cyanide immediately turns into hydrocyanic acid, which is an extremely toxic substance to the body and causes poisoning. Bamboo shoots need to be soaked for enough time and boiled thoroughly before eating to prevent poisoning.

– Malabar spinach: Malabar spinach contains a large amount of papaverin, which causes uterine smooth muscle contractions, making it easy to have a miscarriage. Therefore, pregnant women, especially those with a history of repeated miscarriages, premature births, or in vitro fertilization, should limit eating spinach, especially drinking raw, high-dose spinach juice.

Reduce your intake of spices such as chili, pepper, and garlic.

Reduce salt intake, especially for pregnant mothers with edema, high blood pressure or pregnancy poisoning to avoid complications during birth.

You should not use too much junk food, fast food such as chips, ice cream, candy, cakes, cookies…, only use these foods at low frequency and especially do not use them as substitutes. substitute for the main meal.

Measures to enhance your baby’s nutrition:

In addition to implementing supportive measures to “prioritize nutrients absorbed into the child” mentioned above: eat slowly and chew thoroughly, drink enough water, divide meals into small portions, eat a nutritious breakfast, maintain If you practice gentle exercise habits such as walking or yoga, you can take some measures to increase your baby’s nutrition such as:

Multi-micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women: The first 1,000 days of life from the time the mother becomes pregnant until the child turns 2 years old is the golden time that determines optimal physical and intellectual development. children if they have adequate nutrition. According to the National Institute of Nutrition, taking multi-micronutrient supplements for pregnant women from the beginning of pregnancy until birth is an important short-term solution that can help immediately improve micronutrient deficiency nutrition.

Limit working too much or stress due to stress and anxiety, especially heavy work during pregnancy because it will increase the mother’s body’s need for energy, so it will need to increase the absorption of nutrients from daily food. day, this can easily reduce the amount of nutrition for the fetus if the pregnant mother does not increase appropriate nutritional supplementation.

Specialist level 2 doctor. Nguyen Chi Thanh


1. Electronic information portal of the Ministry of Health – Department of Food Safety, topic “Bamboo shoot poisoning”, accessed April 15, 2024.
2. Electronic information portal of the Ministry of Health, topic “Multi-micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women contributes to improving the quality of the race”, accessed on April 15, 2024.
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