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Today we celebrate mothers who are expecting a baby. The first step to being a good mother is eating well, and although this is the time to indulge in those cravings, remember that you only need to consume an extra 300 calories per day; the optimum weight gain during a pregnancy should range between 25 and 35 pounds.

For a healthy, comfortable and complication-free pregnancy, it is best to keep within this range and eat regular meals that contain all the required nutrients. Insufficient weight gain has a negative impact on the baby’s development as well as the mother’s ability to recover after childbirth.

Here are six important nutrients all mothers-to-be need:

1. Protein: Essential for the development of the mother’s uterus and breast muscles, optimal blood supply and baby’s development.
Sources: Beans, eggs, lentils, meat, milk and yoghurt.

2. Folic acid: Essential for building the baby’s and mother’s protein tissues and preventing birth defects.
Sources: Green vegetables, legumes, liver, nuts and oranges.

3. Calcium: Essential for developing the baby’s bones, teeth, heart, nerves, muscles and blood-clotting abilities. If the baby doesn’t get enough calcium, it will use up the mother’s calcium reserve.
Sources: Dairy products, eggs, fish, legumes and vegetables.

4. Iron: Essential for producing haemoglobin, which provides oxygen to the baby’s developing cells.
Sources: Beans, fish, poultry, organ and red meats, and vegetables.

5. Zinc: Essential for production, repair and optimal function of the baby’s DNA and supporting rapid cell growth in the mother.
Sources: Dairy products, fish, organ and red meats and poultry.

6. Iodine: Essential for developing the baby’s brain and nervous system and regulating the mother’s thyroid.
Sources: Iodised salt and seafood.

Along with these nutrients, essential vitamins and regular exercise are extremely important for expectant mothers. Make sure you see your doctor regularly during and after your pregnancy.

– Dr Samia Khan
The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 13, 2012.