Pregnancy Diet – Foods for Each Trimester
What to focus on in terms of nutrition, supplements, and more
Pregnancy is hard! And eating while pregnant is tricky. From nausea to constipation to heartburn to dehydration that can cause migraines and kidney stones, it does pay off to be focused on eating well. But it’s also important not to be too strict with yourself- becoming a perfectionist while pregnant really makes it hard to enjoy pregnancy itself, which is a season of joy and constant adaptability to change.
It is often better to take a gentle approach to eating during pregnancy, one that is thoughtful of your needs but does not become reason for stress and anxiety. The point is to find the happy balance of eating healthfully and joyfully.
In this blog post we will cover some key concepts to focus on each trimester.
1. Start to aim for 3 balanced meals: ½ plate of veggies, ¼ plate of lean protein, ¼ plate of grains or starches high in fibre. Try eating according to hunger fullness cues, but the plate method is a good generic place to start with portions.
2. Also, have 1-3 snacks in between meals: choose fruit and vegetables, calcium-rich foods like yoghurt and milk (full fat is ok as has been shown to help with conception), high in fibre, low in sugar, dark chocolate is an option here!
Get excited about making meals to support healthy eating. This is one of the most effective ways to eat well: less out of the box and more made with love at home. If you have a partner, get them involved as you will lean on them later on.
Supplement of focus
Perhaps the most important thing before getting pregnant is to start on a folic acid supplement. Adequate folic acid levels support the healthy spine development of a growing baby. It is said that this folic acid is most necessary in the first 3 weeks of pregnancy when many don’t know they are pregnant. You can find adequate folic acid in a prenatal supplement or you can aim for it separately- choosing a supplement that provides 400-600 mg daily.
Start or continue exercise that you enjoy and find maintainable. If you already have little ones, playing with them and chasing them around counts!
1. Tackle nausea: Aim for small frequent meals every two hours. Choose a variety of foods each time to ensure a variety of nutrients. Eating regularly will keep blood sugar leveled and nausea will be more manageable. Marry carbs and proteins to keep blood sugars in check, too.
2. Tackle low energy: Take your prenatal multivitamin, it will help keep good iron stores. Have fruit with some protein before bed to balance blood sugars through the night and get a good night’s sleep.
3. List of foods: Check out this list of foods to avoid and considerations for safe food handling.
You may get too sensitive to cooking smells and may have a hard time finding the energy to cook. Keep healthy meals simple and under 20 min of overall prep and definitely get your partner involved. This is also a good time to ask for help from parents and friends, if they can drop a healthy meal that’s fantastic. It takes a village to care for a child, even before birth!
Try to take your prenatal supplements in times of less nausea, but really if all you can do is keep up with folic acid, that’s great.
Exercise may fall off the wagon, don’t stress about it. Do what you can, your body’s wisdom is key. If there is no energy for exercise, rest and when there is, go for a walk or do something gentle you enjoy.
- The second trimester is lovely! For some not all! But usually, energy improves and nausea settles. So eat healthy. Try to have more fruits and veggies and lean protein as these can become hard in the 1st trimester.
- Follow your pre-pregnancy plan, with a focus on intuitive eating- trying to connect to hunger fullness cues so as to eat what you need and not more. Constipation and heartburn due to overeating-rich foods can be a real struggle in pregnancy.
- Eating during pregnancy does not mean you need to eat for two. Simply add a bit more when you are hungry. Choose healthy options- whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, and protein sources. Don’t forget to drink enough water!
With energy and appetite increasing you may enjoy getting back to the kitchen. Check this link for healthy recipes for pregnancy; they are family friendly too.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends 300 mg of daily DHA omega 3 acids for baby brain and eye development.
Exercise! This is a time you should enjoy moving your changing body. There’s a miracle happening inside! Some activities that are great for pregnancy include swimming, aqua aerobics, barre, pilates, pregnancy yoga, stationary bike, dancing, and walking! Keep the focus on enjoying it.
- Since digestion is slowing down and the baby is growing to full capacity it may be harder to eat, try small frequent meals again.
- As you get closer to the due date, you may find you barely have an appetite. Eat easy-to-digest foods like yogurt, fruit, oatmeal, and toast with peanut butter to keep your energy up for birthing.
You may want to start batch cooking freezable meals for those early postpartum days. Here are some great tips to get you started.
Try a magnesium supplement for aching muscles and good quality sleep. Talk to your care provider if this is right for you.
Exercise when you can. And as you get close to the due date, walk to keep your body ready for birth. But of course, follow the wisdom of your body, sometimes rest is what you need.
Check this blog out for postpartum tips.
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If you’re looking for nutrition support while you’re trying to conceive or pregnant, our team of Registered Dietitians can certainly help through our online and in-person nutrition counselling services. Contact us here to learn more!
Looking for a compassionate, caring, and experienced Dietitian to guide you nutritionally through pregnancy? We can help.
Get connected to a Registered Dietitian on our team that specialized in women’s health. Whether you’re trying to conceive, already pregnant, or are post-partum, a Dietitian on our team can help clear any confusion about nutrition, meals, supplements, etc.
There are many ways to increase your health and wellness through nutrition during pregnancy. Let our Dietitians guide the way and support you as you move through this exciting life-changing time.
Looking to learn more about pregnancy nutrition? Check out these articles:
Daniela O’Brien is known for her contagious smile, warm approachability and collaborative approach to nutrition counselling for individuals and families. Her non-judgemental, calm demeaner mixed with confidence and clear direction is especially helpful when families are struggling with meal planning challenges, picky eating, health issues and complex eating disorders. Daniela specializes in Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating, Weight Concerns, Pre/Post-natal, Infant/Kids/Family Nutrition and offers services in both English and Spanish.