Your Complete Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition

Your Complete Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition

As you go through your pregnancy, you've got a dining partner who says, “I'll have what she's having” every time you take a bite. So it's more important than ever to think before you eat. We’ve got some tips for healthy nutrition during each trimester of your pregnancy and other ways to stay fit.

What is the Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy?

What you eat while you’re pregnant affects not only your health but the health of your growing baby. Nutrition becomes more important than it ever has been, and your needs for both calories and nutrients will change as your baby grows.

First Trimester Nutrition Tips

While your doctor is sure to have advice on first trimester nutrition during your first prenatal visit, here are a few additional tips to help you get started toward making good nutritional choices during your first trimester.

How Much Weight Should You Gain In the First Trimester?

Doctors recommend that the average woman gain between two and five pounds total during the first trimester, so most women don't need to add extra calories at this point. Try to get the most out of what you eat by choosing foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meats or meat alternatives, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. And go easy on the fatty foods—they might taste good, but they’re nutritionally weak and may trigger morning sickness.

Stock Up On Healthy Pregnancy Snacks

If you're napping a lot or queasy from morning sickness, you may not feel like eating normal-sized meals. But mini-meals and snacks may fit the bill. Try to keep something in your stomach, like crackers or frozen fruit pops. And don't forget to stay hydrated by sipping water between meals.

Which Nutrients are Important in the First Trimester?

You'll want to get proper levels of everything from vitamin A to zinc, for your sake and your baby's. The Food Pyramid can help you learn what you need and how to balance your diet every day. Also, ask your doctor about a prenatal vitamin supplement.

Why Is Folic Acid So Important in the First Trimester?

Folic acid is so important for a healthy baby that doctors recommend taking a supplement with at least 400 mcg per day before you even conceive. That's because it can help protect against birth defects. It also promotes healthy cell division and nourishes your baby's developing nervous system. So be sure you're getting your share. Vegetables during pregnancy provide important nutrients, especially folate (the natural form of folic acid), which nourishes your baby’s nervous system development. In your first trimester, aim for 2½ cups of colorful veggies per day.

Watch your Vitamin A intake

You need some, but too much can be toxic. The Institute of Medicine recommends you get no more than 3000 mcg of vitamin A per day.

Second Trimester Nutrition Tips

Whether you spent the first three months of your pregnancy glowing or feeling less than spectacular, your second trimester brings new needs for you and your growing baby.

Moving into your second trimester means new and exciting changes. And, only one more trimester before you meet your new baby! Follow our tips on second trimester nutrition along with the guidelines to healthy pregnancy weight gain, and you'll be better prepared to get all the vitamins you need during your pregnancy.

How Much Weight Should You gain in the Second Trimester?

During your second trimester, you should gain around a half to one pound a week, which means you’ll need to add an extra 300 to 350 calories above your daily diet. If you plan out your meals and recipes in advance, you can be sure you get all the nutrients you need.

Focus on Folate-Rich Veggies

Vegetables provide important second trimester nutrition, especially folate (the natural form of folic acid). In your second and third trimesters, aim for three cups of vegetables each day. Here’s a guide to how that might look on the plate once prepared:

  • 1 cup cooked spinach
  • 2 cups raw kale (for a salad)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots and red peppers (for a snack)
  • 1 cup of vegetable juice

The Importance of Vitamin C & Iron

Vitamin C is important in creating collagen for your baby’s developing tissues—including those cute little cheeks. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, which is the primary transporter of oxygen in red blood cells. Supplemental iron is best absorbed with vitamin C–rich foods like orange juice. Your baby is already storing iron for a rainy day.

How to Stay Hydrated during pregnancy?

Water helps your body carry nutrients to your cells, remove waste, and help avoid dehydration and fatigue. The general rule is nine cups total beverages per day including water. When you're pregnant, you might need more like 10 cups a day, so drink up! A good second trimester tip, and general health tip, is if your urine is a clear yellow color, you’ve had enough fluids.

Exercise Safely

At this point in your pregnancy, you're probably feeling better and can still move around easily—enjoy your pre-waddling days! Now’s a great time to take advantage of the benefits of exercise. It can help keep you healthy and help you avoid gaining too much weight. Ask your doctor about which prenatal exercises are safest for you.

Third Trimester Nutrition Tips

Maintaining healthy nutrition during your final stretch of pregnancy is important for your growing baby—and your ever-changing body! Here are tips to cross the finish line feeling strong.

How Much Weight Should You Gain in the Third Trimester?

You may gain between 10 and 18 pounds this trimester, which is about one pound per week. As you and the baby get bigger, you may not feel like eating three regular meals. You’ve likely already been snacking, but if you haven’t, consider healthy snacks or mini meals throughout the day to keep yourself and your baby fed.

Eat your nutrients: calcium, protein, vitamin B6 and omega-3s

Your baby's growing bones need more calcium, and growing muscles and tissues need protein. Your baby also needs omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. Plus, you need more vitamin B6 in your diet to help metabolize extra protein.

Eating well now can also help your body recover and repair itself after you give birth. So fill your plate with lean meats, legumes, soybeans, fish, and broccoli, as well as other healthy foods during your third trimester. These nutrients will help you produce the breast milk your baby needs after birth.

Keep Staying Hydrated

It may feel like you're spending your life in the restroom these days. At this stage of pregnancy, your baby is large enough to be pressing rather steadily on your bladder, making those trips to the bathroom much more urgent, no matter the time of day or night!

But that doesn't make proper hydration any less important. In fact, it can even help reduce or prevent constipation. So keep on downing those 10 cups of healthy liquid beverages a day.

Maintain Your Exercise Routine

Even a little exercise during pregnancy can help you stay fit for birth and beyond. So don't give up now, even if getting physical is the last thing you want to be doing. Do what you can, and what your doctor says is OK.

What Shouldn’t I Eat During My Pregnancy?

There are a number of foods that should be avoided while pregnant. Steer clear of these items when you plan your menus or reach for a snack:

  • Raw, undercooked, or smoked meats, fish, and deli items
  • Fish high in mercury or other metals or chemicals
  • Unpasteurized milk products
  • Unpasteurized juices
  • Fruits or vegetables that haven’t been washed thoroughly
  • Raw eggs
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

The key to pregnancy nutrition during any trimester is maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated. Now that you're up on how to stay healthy and hydrated, get more information on pregnancy nutrition and making a pregnancy fitness plan.