When I speak with Geeta Basra on the phone, she seems drawn to the idyllic, content with time away from all the noise. The actor along with her husband, renowned Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh and their daughter Hinaya Heer Plaha cocooned at their Jalandhar, Punjab farmhouse when the lockdown was announced in March 2020. Exactly a year in, Basra announced her pregnancy with a post on social media. The family grew. Basra gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Veer, in July 2021.
What strikes me the most during our conversation is her calm, collected composure. Perhaps second time’s a charm when it comes to pregnancy? Her experience in a pandemic-riddled world, she says, “was a different ride”—one that has left her discovering new facets of herself and filled her with a profound new appreciation for a more mindful food philosophy.“I took extra precautions about my diet”
As with most expecting women, Basra shored up on nutrients you need more of (calcium, iron) and shunned options you need less of (processed foods and sugar). Her pre- and postnatal diet was not just clean eating at its best, but going back to her roots. “During my first pregnancy, I just let myself go. But given the current circumstances, I took extra precautions about my diet this time around. And I noticed a radical difference in my journey just by eating right. It has helped me control my weight. It’s helped me control the mind. It’s also helped with the usual pregnancy-related issues like bloating and hair fall,” she reveals. Basra, already a conscious eater, consulted Mumbai-based celebrity nutritionist Shweta Shah, who charted out a nutrition plan that she says is borrowed from “AI or ancient intelligence”.
Basra’s first trimester was a haze of nausea. “I just couldn’t look at food,” she shares. By the fourth month, she acclimatised to fruits. Eventually, her usual staple diet included waking up to “a chia seeds pudding made with a little sugar and coconut milk. I would follow it up with a fruit. Avocados, eggs and a quinoa toast were a constant for breakfast. For my lunches, I have lived on dal, roti and a generous portion of vegetable every day. I avoided wheat, and instead relied on jowar, oats or nachni roti,” Basra says. Being a vegetarian, Shah suggested her to load up on paneer, yoghurt and veggies for dinner.
“While Geeta avoided wheat, you don’t need to give it up completely. Eat wheat in moderation to keep your weight under control and also avoid bloating, constipation or gas issues that occur with pregnancies. I do, however, strongly recommend emmer wheat, which is commonly known as khapli wheat in India. It only has 10 per cent gluten compared to its regular counterpart, making it the perfect alternative for everyone,” explains Shah. For any pregnant woman who wants to curate her own diet, Shah suggests, “following a three-rule pattern. Consume three servings of everything, whether grains, fruits, vegetables and diary. By following this, you’ll get all nutrients like calcium, folate, and magnesium, you need. But be sure to align your doctor with your diet plan, especially if you have any health concerns,” warns Shah.“You don’t need to completely curb cravings”
Basra says the biggest misunderstanding about pregnancy diets that she’d like to bust is “to eat for two. You just have to eat for yourself and your baby takes your nutrition. This is why it’s important to eat right. That’s not to say you have to completely curb your cravings. There were times when I enjoyed a pizza here, and a rich cold coffee there. But I balanced it out by following these centuries-old practices like including ghee in my diet and eating panjiri laddoo, which is a postpartum healing and lactation food,” Basra insists.
Shah concurs. “There’s a lot of merit to these time-honoured practices. Simple swaps will go a long way. The harmful effects of refined sugar are well-documented. And for pregnant women, it can make you more tired and even develop gestational diabetes. Replace refined sugar with fruits, especially seasonal ones. Or make laddoos at home using jaggery, dates and nuts.” When it comes to cheat meals, Shah’s two cents is, “One cheat meal after 14 meals (like on a Saturday night). And limit eating out to once a month, but don’t go empty stomach. It’s not uncommon for some restaurants to use cheaper alternatives for oils and other ingredients. When eating out, there are three questions you must ask the chef. First, how is a dish cooked? For example, in case of grilled chicken, invariably it’s loaded with butter and then grilled. You can skip that dish then. Second, inquire if the dish includes raw eggs. Tiramisu, salads and even mayonnaise typically contain raw eggs, so completely avoid them. Lastly, confirm that the ingredients are not fermented and not undercooked.”
Basra stayed active with prenatal yoga and a 15-20 minute walk post meals. “My only advice to other women going through the similar journey is: Enjoy your pregnancy, but don’t give into every craving. Be healthy with your body, your diet, your mind. And you don’t need a fancy gym, equipment or plan for that.”Also read:
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