I had some major food aversions when I was pregnant. The smell of roasting cumin seeds or hot ghee pushed me into a gut churning nausea I had never experienced before. I had so many cravings I couldn’t quench; fresh raspberries, halloumi cheese, strawberry yoghurt. There were many times when I only wanted orange juice and homemade pani puri. I was growing a tiny baby, I needed a healthy diet.
Ayurveda prescribes a lot of ghee with everything, even though there are so many benefits to ghee. I really could not stomach it. Ayurveda also suggest consuming something called Panchamrut. This is a combination of ghee, curd, honey, milk and sugar (representing the five elements) and often offered to God during rituals. I managed to stomach it a couple of times. The scriptures recommend that a during pregnancy, you should listen to your cravings and try (where possible *sigh*) to indulge them, but not to over indulge.
If you are interested in consuming an Ayurvedic diet during pregnancy, I recommend the book below. This book describes the diet the scriptures prescribe for every month of pregnancy. It also contains information on pregnancy yoga and postpartum care. I found it extremely interesting even though I didn’t follow it wholeheartedly.
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My Pregnancy Diet in India
The first thing I knew I had to address, as a vegetarian, was my protein intake. I started to eat a lot of soaked almonds, paneer, chickpeas, beans and my favourite, peanut butter. Did you know that peanut butter is 25% protein (compared to 27% in chicken)? There is a tasty Indian brand I can’t live without, Sundrop. I also tried my hardest to eat daal (lentils), which is something I do not like at all. Daal is an excellent source of protein, so I ate it for my baby who needed protein to grow (and for myself, I was growing in ways I didn’t know I could!).
Spinach is a good source folic acid (helps to prevent birth defects), therefore I’ve never eaten palak paneer so much in my entire life. Cabbage also became my friend, it contains a surprising amount of vitamins and minerals. I tried to have curds (containing calcium, vitamin D and good bacteria) as a side dish as often as I could. So many ‘pregnancy diet’ articles I came across recommended salmon as a source of omega-3. I got my omega-3 by sprinkling grinded flaxseed (jawas) on my food!
Fortified breakfast cereal was a life saver, not only was it a great way to boost my nutritional intake with all the added vitamins, it was so handy to have during my really nauseous episodes (something bland to fill my stomach with). Sweet tea with fresh ginger also helped me combat the nausea. I also drank fresh coconut water almost every day to stay hydrated when I was being sick!
When I discovered I was pregnant, I stopped drinking milk from the wallah (fresh from the local cow). I’ve read so many times that it is really important for pregnant ladies not to consume any milk products which haven’t been pasteurised. ‘Raw’ milk may contain the bacteria listeria, which can put baby in danger. I switched to cartoned milk immediately.
I tried to eat as many different varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables as possible to get the vitamins and minerals we both needed. My grandmother-in-law was very stern when she told me I wasn’t allowed to eat papaya or pineapple. I read that pineapple can cause contracts (I must have drank about five litres of pineapple juice during my 39th week of pregnancy trying to induce labour).
I tried very hard to find a multivitamin suitable during pregnancy, but I couldn’t find any anywhere. The only multivitamins I could find contained high levels of vitamin A (can be harmful in pregnancy). My obstetrician folic acid, iron and calcium supplements and later in my pregnancy, a protein shake designed for pregnancy.
Much of the time, I really wanted to comfort eat and snack, but I tried to be strong. I allowed myself to snack a bit (they did say you should honour your cravings) but I also made sure I was having a variety of food with high nutritional value too.