Healthy Indian Food During Pregnancy

Your nutritional needs change when you become pregnant.

The base of your diet -- rich with whole grains, dairy, lean proteins and whole fruits and vegetables -- doesn't change.

The amount of these foods does, and you need to pay special attention to several key nutrients. Indian cuisine -- with its focus on legumes, breads, rice, fruits and vegetables -- can provide the essential nutrients you need during your pregnancy.

Folate and Folic Acid

Folate is a natural form of a B vitamin, while folic acid is the synthetic form found in enriched foods and supplements. Both help prevent neural-tube defects, premature birth and low birth weight. Pregnant women need 800 mcg per day of folate or folic acid.

Cooked spinach, found in Indian dishes such as palak paneer and dal, provides 131 micrograms per 1/2 cup. Beans are another good source of folate and are used in dal and curry recipes. Eat 1/2 cup of cooked beans to get 90 micrograms of folate.


Indian curry chicken.

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You need 1000 milligrams of calcium per day -- 1300 if you are a pregnant teenager -- to encourage strong bones in yourself and your growing baby. Calcium works in several systems of the body to ensure your nervous, muscular and circulatory systems run properly. Get calcium through dairy foods, such as yogurt and milk, and enriched orange juice. Raita, an Indian condiment, is made from yogurt and cucumber, while paneer is an Indian farmer's cheese used in mutter paneer, or peas with cheese, and korma recipes. Six oz. of yogurt provides 258 milligrams of calcium, while 1 ounce of cheese gives you 222 millograms.

Protein and Vitamin D

Many cuisines in India are vegetarian. If you choose to eat vegetarian, you can still have a healthy pregnancy diet. Pay special attention to getting enough protein and vitamin D; both of these nutrients are found in higher levels in meat and fish. To achieve your 600 International Units of vitamin D each day, essential for your baby's bones and teeth, drink milk or fortified juices and add eggs and asparagus to your diet. Consider curry omelets or add asparagus to a curry or your aloo gobi masala.

Tandoori chicken, cooked in a clay oven, is a lean source of protein that provides a third of your 71 grams daily protein requirement. One cup of cheese, as found in paneer dishes, provides 28 grams of protein, while 1/2 cup of cooked lentils, a standard for dal recipes, gives 8.9 grams.


Indian curry chicken.

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During pregnancy, your need for iron doubles as your blood supply grows larger. A lack of iron will cause fatigue and can lead to problems with early delivery and low birth weight. Lean meats, fish, nuts, fruits, iron-fortified breads and cereals provide the 27 milligrams per day you need.

Eat breads made from fortified or whole grains, such as naan and paratha. One cup of beans provides 3.9 milligrams, while 1/2 cup of cooked spinach gives you 3.2 milligrams.

Indian Food Cautions

Your body can be sensitive to certain foods when you are pregnant, although these foods will not harm your baby.

Some women may experience heartburn after eating spicy curries or heavy meals from the tandoori oven.

Additionally, some pickles, preserved in vinegar, do not agree with pregnant women's stomachs.

Some Indian dishes -- including butter chicken, masalas, rogan josh and creamy curries -- use liberal amounts of cream and should be eaten in moderation to avoid gaining too much weight. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a woman who began her pregnancy with a normal body mass index should gain between 25 and 35 pounds total.