ABCs of pregnancy and nutrition

Fritzie Rodriguez
Pregnancy is a crucial period. A pregnant woman must make sure she receives her and their baby's nutritional needs.

ABCs of Pregnancy & Nutrition. Learn the vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy pregnancy. Graphics by Mara Mercado/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – All great things are never rushed; the same goes for bringing new life into the world.

In the 9 long months of pregnancy, a woman must make sure that her and her baby’s nutritional needs are properly met. Otherwise, the mother might put herself and her baby’s health at risk. 

These nutrients enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones, and essentials substances needed for proper growth and development.

ABCs of essential nutrients during pregnancy

The World Health Organization says (WHO) that the causes of malnutrition  are directly related to “inadequate dietary intake” but also indirectly linked to other factors such as food insecurity, the environment, and the lack of access to maternal and child care services.

Another problem among pregnant women is the lack of awareness regarding their required nutrient intake, the proper amounts and types of food, and the consequences of not meeting their nutritional needs.

Milagrina Jacinto, president of the Department of Health (DOH) League of Registered Nutritionist-Dietitians Inc., and Laarni de Luna, nutritionist-dietitian from the Quirino Memorial Medical Center, remind pregnant women to look after what they eat.

Follow these ABCs in selecting healthy foods rich in the following vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin A

Essential for the health of the epithelial tissues, including the skin and the membranes that line glandless ducts.

Simple foods rich in Vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy vegetables, squash, lettuce, cantaloupe, pumpkins, and spinach.

Vitamin A deficiency may lead to visual impairment, night blindness, dry skin and hair, and low resistance to infections.


Vitamin C

An extra 10mg/day is recommended to maintain a good immune system, and for the integrity of fetal membranes and tissue structure.

Oranges, papaya, strawberry, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, melon, and cabbage are good sources of Vitamin C.


An additional allowance of 800 mg is recommended to promote adequate mineralization of fetal skeleton and deciduous teeth of the fetus.

Milk is not the only source of calcium, dark green vegetables (i.e., broccoli, spinach) are also good sources, as we as dried beans and peas, dried dilis, cheese, and yoghurt.

Caloric intake

Should be increased by an average of 300 kcal/day to achieve appropriate weight gain.

Recommended food plan for women in their first trimester of pregnancy is 1,800 kcal. For pregnant women in their 2nd and 3 rd trimester, recommended food plan is 1,800 kcal plus 300 kcal.



A level of 8 grams/day of protein in excess of the Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) for the non-pregnant state is advised to provide the amino acids needed for fetal and placental growth, and for the expansion of blood volume.

Protein builds muscles, tissues, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies for both the mother and the baby. As pregnancy progresses, the more protein is needed.

It is best to consult a nutritionist-dietitian to receive an individual dietary advice based on one’s condition.

Protein sources for pregnant women include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes (i.e., monggo), dried beans and peas.

Examples per meal, to be combined with rice, vegetables and fruits: 1 pc fried egg with ½ pc daing na bisugo, 1pc galunggong paksiw, 1 slice breaded pork, ½ cup toasted dilis, 2 paksiw na bangus.



An additional allowance of 50mg/day is recommended so as not to compromise the development of the fetus.

Iodine helps in the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system.

Serious iodine deficiency during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, cognitive abnormalities, and mental retardation.

WHO recognizes iodized salt as a “simple, universally effective, and cheap” weapon against iodine deficiency disorders.

Foods rich in iodine include eggs, dairy products, vegetables, and seafoods,


The RNI for iron during pregnancy is 27 mg for the 1st trimester, 34 mg for the 2nd trimester, and 38 mg for the 3rd trimester, for the expansion of maternal blood volume and for the synthesis of fetal and placental tissues.

Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy means that the mother does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to her and her baby’s tissues. It is associated with low birth weight, preterm delivery, and infant mortality.

Good sources are lean red meat, poultry, liver, fruits, vegetables (i.e. malunggay), legumes, and whole grain breads.



Additional energy is required during pregnancy for the growth and maintenance of the fetus, placenta, and maternal tissues.

Pregnant women are advised to get enough sleep and rest, to maintain physical fitness through simple physical activities like walking, to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, and to avoid stress.



Folic Acid (Folate)

Folic acid is a B vitamin (Vtimain B9). A daily supplement of 400 mcg should be provided to protect the fetus and to maintain maternal stores.

Folic acid is mostly found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, grains, and orange.

Folic acid helps in preventing a type of anemia and birth effects such as cleft lip and palate, and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.




Thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin

These are important during pregnancy, particularly in reference to energy intake and carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism.


Recommended food plan for women in their first trimester of pregnancy is 1,800 kcal. For pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimester, recommended food plan is 1,800 kcal plus 300 kcal.


Examples per meal, to be combined with rice, fish, meat or substitutes: 1 cup Monggo gisado with malunggay, 1 cup Pinakbet.


An additional 5mg of zinc is recommended for normal fetal growth and development.

Maternal zinc deficiency affects infant development and may lead to poor birth outcomes.

Sources include fortified cereals, red meat, certain shellfish, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.


Making the right food choices is an important task for all pregnant women. It is hard to remain ignorant, especially when another life is dependent on your own wellbeing.

Healthy living does not require lavish spending; all it takes is a bit of research, creativity, and resourcefulness. –

Proper care and the right diet make for a healthy and happy baby. Fill your pantry with the healthiest fruits and vegetables by using the best deals on food and groceries here.

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