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Prenatal Nigerian Nutrition: Eat for one, nourish for two



‘Eat for Two…’
This phrase used to be a reality for a good number of pregnant women in the past, but thankfully today more women know that ‘Eating for two’ will only impact on their waist lines and scale weight, and it gets even harder to lose all that extra weight after delivery. Today, more pregnant women are embracing healthier food options and portions.

If there is any time in a woman’s life when she should indeed watch both food quality and quantity, it is when she is expecting. She should eat for one, with an extra 300 calories per day, especially as she approaches the second half and third trimester of her pregnant journey, but she must make food choices that nourish for two.

While I was happy to eat for even more than two with my first pregnancy gaining a whooping 40kg by 41weeks, I was intentional about nourishing for two with my second pregnancy. And even though I gained just 12kg by 41weeks, I was stronger and healthier than ever.
Here are a few Nigerian foods and fruits that not only nourish your pregnant body optimally, but also help you manage weight gain in pregnancy.

1. Beetroot
This wonder fruit not only adds some rich purple color to your smoothies and some flavour to your salads, it is packed with anti-oxidants that help build your immunity too. Some women have been known to snack on it alone, but most prefer it as part of a meal or smoothie. Beetroot scores bonus points for being not just affordable but easily accessible – it’s easily picked up from any Hausa vendor selling vegetables in many parts of the country.

2. Sweet Potatoes
Few foods score high on the Prenatal super foods like sweet potato. Besides getting a pass mark on the calorie content, it is also a rich source of fibre and Vitamin C – even containing more than an orange. Vitamin C is invaluable in pregnancy as it aids absorption of dietary iron. What this means is that while you have iron rich foods like beans, the body doesn’t easily absorb optimally the iron in beans except in the presence of vitamin C. And a pregnant woman needs her iron, to keep strength levels up, and prevent pregnancy-induced anemia, which is highly probable especially from second trimester as the growing fetus places even a greater demand on the mother’s body store of iron.

Rich in fibre means that it fills the woman up, and keeps her full for longer, thereby controlling the urge to endlessly snack or overeat. It is also rich in Vitamin A and since animal sources of Vitamin A must be controlled, this plant source provides a great diet source. Sweet potatoes can be eaten alone and in various ways: boiled, roasted, as a porridge with plenty dark green leafy vegetables like our local efo tete, shoko, Ugu, waterleaf and more; or added to another dish like beans, stir-fry, and pasta to further fortify it. Remember that women who are diabetic must control or even stay away from sweet potatoes.

3. Dark green leafy veggies
Oh, the wonders and super powers of dark green leafy vegetables for every pregnant woman! Very rich in a good number of vitamins (Folate, A, C, K and more), and minerals such as iron and calcium, this super food should be a daily part of a prenatal meal plan. And judging by the green color which represents life and fruitfulness, one can see why pregnant women should embrace their vegetables. They are so versatile that they can be added to just about anything. Every Nigerian soup needs a large portion of green vegetables, and so do our tubers such as yam, potatoes, and even plantain, with which they are made into a porridge, and then an accompaniment to grains like rice, and pasta.

One recipe which every pregnant woman should include in her meal plan is stir fried eggs with green vegetables. This will take eggs as a side dish to a main dish as this fills up the belly without the need to eat any other thing at meal times. Makes for a great breakfast or dinner, when something light is needed.

And a bonus?

Good old water.
Water should be everyone’s best friend, but even more for a pregnant woman. Among the many awesome benefits it provides, it also helps prevent water retention by the body which manifests as swollen extremities like your feet, fingers and even face. Literally, water keeps things moving in the body, plus the more water you drink, the less you have to drink other fizzy and unhealthy drinks
Bonus points for being the cheapest liquid out there, whilst also being the most nourishing. So, go ahead and aim for at least 4litres of water a day.

Remember in pregnancy, we should eat for one, but nourish for two, and the non-exhaustive list above helps you achieve that goal easily.

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