Pregnancy marks the beginning of a new chapter in the life of any woman.
During pregnancy, the mother-to-be is responsible for not only her health, but also that of the baby growing inside of her. Healthy eating habits during pregnancy not only prevent excess weight gain, they also ensure that the right mix of nutrients is available to the baby for proper growth and development.
1. 'Eating for two' is a no-no
The phrase 'eating for two' during pregnancy gives out a wrong message. During pregnancy, an additional intake of only about 300 kilocalories per day is required. This is equivalent to 1¼ glasses of milk, or a ladoo.
Poor nutrition or weight problems during pregnancy, on the other hand, can lead to a baby having low birth weight. Also, it has been found that overweight mothers are prone to obesity, heart trouble and diabetes during their later years. Babies born to obese mothers tend to become obese themselves, and perpetuate the cycle of these problems.
2. Necessary nutrients
During pregnancy, the protein intake in a mother-to-be's diet needs to be increased considerably, especially for mothers who are vegetarians. Vegetarian diets do not always allow for as much protein as is required for fetal tissue development.
Iron intake also needs to be pepped up when you are carrying a child, as an iron deficiency may lead to anaemia and fatigue in the mother, and to underweight babies. Usually an iron supplement has to be taken to fulfill the requirement during pregnancy. Raisins, rice flakes, jaggery, organ meat, dates and green leafy vegetables are rich sources of iron.
The body's need for calcium is high during pregnancy, as it is needed for the baby's bone and cartilage development. Consumption of three cups of milk or yoghurt per day would suffice a mother-to-be's daily calcium requirement.
Vitamin intake is also of the utmost importance. Vitamin C helps to enhance iron absorption and acts as an antioxidant that protects the mother's bodily tissues from destruction. Sources of Vitamin C are oranges, lemons,amla and guavas. Vitamin A is essential for the vision, immunity function and growth of the foetus. Sources are meat, eggs, dairy, carrots, beetroots, mangoes, and sweet potatoes.
A daily dose of 400 µgm of folic acid is required to prevent neural tube defects in the baby. A few herbs like ginger,saunf, methi and ajwain are also believed to to improve digestion and reduce nausea/ vomiting during pregnancy.
Watching you eat
Having worked for four years as a dietician in various organisations, Dr Parul Patni was discouraged by everyone in her social circle when she set out to establish her practice. She heard things like, "There can be only one Anjali Mukherjee (a popular dietician based in Mumbai). Every dietician can't run her own practice."
But Patni was not the one to be held back. Her faith wasn't shaken even when she didn't see a single client for the first six months at her clinic in Faridabad.
To woo clients, she paid publicity-focused visits to doctors' clinics in her locality, where she often waited for two hours before meeting the doctor. She even went to schools, which drew some response, though lukewarm. Gradually, clients (not patients as she clarifies) started trickling in.
"We can't have a doctor-patient kind of relationship. Dieticians have to be very informal with clients. It's a continuous and long-term relationship which I forge with them," says Patni, who holds a PG diploma in dietetics from the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa, Delhi.
Normally, a first-time client's visit lasts for 40-45 minutes. In such a meeting, the dietician usually investigates the clients' daily lifestyle and food habits (90% to 95% of whom are female). Patni usually asks questions about the amount of water consumed in a day, number of hours of sleep, food and drink consumption in a day, changes in eating patterns during the weekends, and so on.
"Initially, some may maintain that they stick to a two-chapati-a-day regime. But when they gradually open up, we discover that they don'tount the packets of biscuits they had," she says with a hearty laugh.
When suggesting a diet plan, Patni weighs its practicability, too. "If someone regularly holds official meetings at hotels, I can't ask her to stop eating out. Similarly, I find it futile to ask a sociable client not to drink on weekends. We try to customise a diet keeping in mind individual needs," she explains.
Most of Patni's clients have been with her for years. They make payments on monthly, quarterly or half-yearly basis. They stay in touch either over the phone or over the internet. While speaking about online communication, she reminisces of a London-based 'self-motivated' client who came to meet her while on a holiday in India and sought advice. "Later, he emailed me several times and managed to lose 17 kg in a few months' time," she says. Patni attributes this success to her regular interface (online and offline) with clients, which means giving a personal touch to the relationship.
However, there are times when even such close relationships don't have the desired effect. "At times, we have to ask people to see a counsellor instead of a dietician. This makes them think that I am an inefficient dietician who couldn't resolve their case," says Patni.
What she enjoys most about her job are the timings. A dietician never gets an emergency case and there are no long hours, she says. "Barring a few occasions when I get a phone call at odd hours from a demanding client, I work six hours a day," she says.
Those not interested in running their own practice can work at health clinics, corporates, gyms and hospitals. Research is another emerging area.
Dr Shweta Khandelwal, who works at the Public Health Foundation of India, plunged into research to drive home the point that nutrition is a serious subject.
"There are several career options in dietetics, including teaching, practice, and research. I chose research because my friends, who were studying for their MBBS degrees, used to believe that nutrition graduates are not competent for cutting-edge research, even though the fact is that nutrition is the basis of everyone's life," Khandelwal explains.
What's it about?
A dietician studies diet — food is his/her business… from the time of harvest till it is consumed. He/she has to do a qualitative analysis of the food being consumed, not only till the time of consumption, but even after it is eaten. A dietician should have complete knowledge of not only food and but also about the workings of the human body. He/she should have knowledge of human physiology, varieties of food, nutritional aspects, calories, etc
8 am: Wake up, plan meals for the family, start work
9 am: Leave for office
10 am: Meet patients. Check the records and make modifications patients' diet plans
Noon: Check medical reports. Make next day's diet plans. Compile the reports and give it to the supervisor
4 pm: Day ends. Attend to some patients' calls
Entry level: A fresher with a diploma can get anywhere around Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 a month
Those with a master's degree can expect Rs11,000 to Rs15,000 With experience, there is no limit to the money one can earn
How do i get there?
Take up a home science programme after Class 12 or equivalent. This is offered as BSc (home science) or BA (home science). The next step is to go for a master's degree in home science with specialisation in food science and nutrition. Some agricultural universities, too, offer BHSc and MHSc programmes. Preference is given to candidates with science in Class 12. You should pursue a postgraduate diploma/ master's degree in dietetics
Institutes & urls
BSc/ MSc home science (food and nutrition), Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi
BTech/MTech (food & biochemical engineering), Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Postgraduate diploma in nutrition & dietetics University of Madras, Chennai
PG diploma in dietetics and applied nutrition, University of Mumbai
Pros & cons
Dietetics is now preventive
An academician speaks about career avenues in the field of dietetics
How has the role of dieticians changed?
Earlier, a dietician used to play only a curative role but now it is preventive. People come to pre-empt lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension.
When it comes to prevention, diet is also very important, along with medication.
How is the industry catering to the growing percentage of health-conscious people?
Now, product manufacturing/ marketing companies need the services of nutritionists because they are mandated to label the nutrient composition on the product wrapper.
How popular is dietetics at the college level?
In our college, we offer five specialisations — food and nutrition, human development, fabric and apparel designing, resource management, communication and extension. Among these, food and nutrition is the most sought-after discipline.
The field of dietetics and nutrition has become popular. But when you studied it in the 1960s, it was in a nascent stage. Why did you choose it?
My father was a doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where I met a young female dietician who had completed her higher studies in the United States. She inspired me to become a dietician. Later, I went on to do my PhD from the US.
Career opportunities existing in this area?
Dieticians are required not only in fitness clinics, but also in food processing companies, hospitals, gyms and even non-government organisations working in the area of food and nutrition. Initially, they work for a modest salary but as a chief dietician, one can earn as high as R1 lakh per month.
Dr Kumud Khanna, director, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi
Get on the Juice: Smoothies cotain yoghurt, ice, honey, milk and more In 2003, Tropical Smoothie, the US-based chain of smoothie maker, set shop in India only to close down within a year.
People couldn't fathom why they must pay double the cost for a "milk shake". But puritans will tell you that a smoothie is not a milk shake. "It's so much more," says Sunita Roychowdhury, chief dietician, Rockland Hospitals.
"They can substitute a meal, especially breakfast, as you can customise it to be as healthy as you want," she adds. Nutritionist Dr Parul Patni of Diet Solutions says that smoothies are healthier option as you can control the calorie count by selecting what to use. "They have more fibre than juice, which also helps in keeping hunger at bay," she says.
Rahul Kharbanda, India's only ISSA-certified fitness trainer and owner of the Delhi-based Athena gym swears by smoothies for packing in all the necessary nutrients in easy-to-eat form: and you don't even have to make the effort of chewing.
"A smoothie is a blend and carry beverage. It takes not more than ten minutes to make, doesn't require you to sit and eat and all your necessary carbs, vitamins, minerals and required calories can be had in five large gulps," he says.
Shake it up
Technically, a smoothie is a blended, chilled, sometimes sweetened beverage made from fresh fruit. They are bespoke beverages that can be made to fit any requirement. All you need is a blender. Want to pack muscle? Add whey protein. Better skin? Add blueberries and raspberries - the anti-oxidants help. Want to make it a breakfast? Add some bananas for carbs "And even some oatmeal and nuts," Roychowdhury suggests, adding that it's better to blend at home as you can be sure of the ingredients.
Stick to fresh fruits - not frozen or canned, fresh juice, low-cal yoghurt or fat-free milk or soy milk. Even restaurants have now savvied up, adding low-cal smoothies to the menu. Delhi-based All-American Diner at the India Habitat Centre is a case in point.
The restaurant has stocked smoothies since its beginning, but Rakesh Anand,food & beverage manager at Old World Hospitality, which runs it, says they have of late noticed a surge in demand. "People consider smoothies healthier as the ingredients are natural," Anand says.
At the Diner, a smoothie starts at Rs.125 and goes up to Rs.155. Some restaurants offer add-ins such as soy milk, whey powder, green tea, herbal supplements or nutritional supplements. But many question the nutritive value of such "health" drinks.
"A pre-made smoothie can't be equated to eating real fruit. Unless you are making it at home, you can't be sure of the nutrition you are getting," warns Roychowdhury. Even Kharbanda agrees. "For weight loss, we always recommend eating the whole fruit because it is a lot more satisfying for the appetite." Avoid adding sugar and make do with the natural sugar present in the fruits.