Trying to conceive or already pregnant and looking to learn what nutritious foods are suggested for a growing baby? While you won’t need to live off salads and smoothies, there are some foods containing ingredients that are more beneficial for growth than others. We will talk about what vitamins are essential, where to find them, and I created a sample meal plan to help get you started! Pregnancy doesn’t require a strict diet but we can optimize the foods we eat most of the time and sneak in some cookies or ice cream when baby craves them (I swear it’s the baby and not us!).
*This is not meant to be medical advice, please do proper research and consult your doctor or midwife when looking to change your diet or add in supplements.
When Is Nutrition Most Important In Pregnancy?
Nutrition is very important during all trimesters of pregnancy. What you eat is important even before your baby is born but not to worry, it is never too late to improve your eating habits throughout your pregnancy. Eating well is vital to helping baby grow from start to finish so being mindful of what you’re eating during these nine months will be beneficial for your little one.
What Is the Average Weight Gain During Pregnancy?
Generally speaking, the average amount of weight women gain during pregnancy is 25-30 pounds. That number can vary based on if you are over/under weight before becoming pregnant, how much fluid your body retains, etc. If you are worried about how much weight you are gaining, please know that it is not all going to stay with you once you give birth. Weight gain during pregnancy can be attributed to amniotic fluid, placenta, increased blood volume, breast growth, increased uterus size, baby’s weight, and body fat. If you still have concerns about how much weight you are gaining, try incorporating exercise a few times a week. Studies show that strength training during pregnancy can help mom and baby.
Want to learn more about exercise while pregnant? Check out our post on strength training during pregnancy.
Avg weight gain per trimester:
- 1st trimester: 2-6 lbs, no increase in calories
- 2nd trimester: 1 lb per week, increase caloric intake by 300 calories/day
- 3rd trimester: 1 lb per week, increase caloric intake by 400 calories/day
What Nutrients are Essential While Pregnant?
It is important to make sure you are getting all the vital nutrients needed to help grow your developing baby. Most prenatal vitamins will have all of these vitamins in it but it may not be at the appropriate levels. Knowing what you need and why it’s important can help you be successful in a well rounded diet. I also have a full list of prenatal vitamins I take during pregnancy and why.
Folate– It’s important in the beginning of pregnancy to help develop your baby’s neural tube and prevent spinal defects such as spina bifida. The daily dose is 600 micrograms and can be found in leafy greens, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
Omega 3– Omega 3’s are an excellent source of EPA and DHA which help develop the baby’s brain and retina. The daily dose is 200 mg and can be found in most fish and seafood. It should be in your prenatal and while the guideline is not to eat too much fish for the mercury content, try to work in smaller fish which will have lower concentrations of mercury.
Calcium– Calcium plays the same role in babies as it does for adults- it helps build strong bones and teeth! Not to mention, it will help your bones as well. The daily dose is 1,000-1,200 mg and can be found in dairy products. If you don’t consume dairy try to incorporate beans into your diet.
Choline– Choline is similar to folate and will be beneficial for brain development, spinal defects, and prevents mental illness for mom and baby. The daily dosi is 450 mg and can be found in eggs, beans, cod, and pork chop.
Vitamin B– Vitamin B is crucial to making red blood cells in the body. It is important to get 12400 mcg/day and is found in most meats.
Niacin (B-3)– Niacin is great for mother’s metabolism, helping with nausea, and migraines. It’s also good for baby’s development. The daily dose is 18 mg and found in most meats, avocado, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Riboflavin (B-2)– Riboflavin aids in the production of energy which every mom could use! For baby’s development it’s helpful for baby’s growth, good vision, and healthy skin. Riboflavin is also essential for your baby’s bone, muscle, and nerve development. The daily dose is 1.4milligrams and can be found in dairy products, organ meats and enriched grain products
Thiamin (B-1)– Thiamin helps convert carbohydrates into energy for mom and baby. The daily dose is 1.4milligrams and is found in pork, whole grains, and lentils.
Vitamin A- Helps with growth and health of the body’s tissues and cells, especially postpartum tissue repair. It also helps support your immune system and metabolism. The daily dose is 5,000 IU and is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, milk, and liver.
Biotin– Biotin helps convert food into energy, levels blood sugar, and helps with baby’s growth. Daily dose is 30 mcg and is found in Eggs, legumes, nuts, liver, sweet potatoes, bananas, and broccoli.
|Folate||600 mcg/day||Leafy greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts|
|Omega 3||200 mg/day||Fish|
|Choline||450 mg||Eggs, beans, cod, pork chop|
|Vitamin B||12,400 mcg/day||Most meats|
|Niacin (B-3)||18 mg/day||Most meats, avocado, tomato, sweet potato|
|Riboflavin (B-2)||1.4 mg/day||Dairy, organ meats|
|Thiamin (B-1)||1.4 mg/day||Pork, whole grains, lentils|
|Vitamin A||5,000 IU||Sweet potato, carrot, spinach, milk, liver|
|Biotin||30 mcg/day||Eggs, legumes, nuts, liver, sweet potato, banana, broccoli|
What Foods Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?
Most foods that need to be avoided are due to the possible contamination of bacteria such as listeria, salmonella, and E. coli. It’s a fairly short list and is definitely worth skipping these items to avoid infection or possible miscarriage.
Food/Drink to Avoid:
- Deli meats
- Energy drinks
- Fish high in mercury
- Caffeine more than 200 mg/day
- Raw Eggs
- Unpasteurized cheese/milk
Sample Pregnancy Meal Plan
So now that you know what nutrients are needed during pregnancy, let’s talk about some great meal ideas to optimize nutrition during pregnancy. Below is a 7-day sample meal plan to give you an idea of meals to eat during your pregnancy. This is not meant to be nutritional advice and if you are wanting a specialized meal plan for yourself, I highly recommend you seek out a registered dietician or nutritionist for assistance.
Breakfast: Eggs with mozzarella cheese and spinach, bacon, english muffin with butter or cream cheese
Lunch: Cobb Salad: Mixed greens, grilled chicken, bacon, hard boiled egg, avocado, oil and vinegar dressing
Snack: Greek yogurt with honey, granola, and sliced strawberries
Dinner: Steak with sweet potato and roasted broccoli
Breakfast: Egg omelette with tomato, peppers, and cheddar cheese with fruit
Lunch: Tuna melt with brussel sprouts drizzled in balsamic vinegar
Snack: Banana with nut butter
Dinner: Pork chop with rice and squash
Breakfast: Protein pancakes with banana and maple syrup
Lunch: Ground beef taco with sour cream, guacamole, mexican cheese, and beans
Snack: Smoothie with spinach, chia seeds, milk, banana, strawberries, and blueberries
Dinner: Pasta with meat sauce
Breakfast: Eggs and avocado toast
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich
Snack: Hummus with peppers
Dinner: Salmon with cilantro rice and asparagus
Breakfast: Oatmeal with flax seeds and banana
Lunch: Greek chicken and rice bowl
Snack: Apple with nut butter
Dinner: Cajun chicken with pasta
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, and hash browns
Lunch: Buffalo chicken wrap
Snack: Bell peppers with cream cheese and EBTB seasoning
Dinner: Cilantro steak tacos
Breakfast: Overnight oats with apples and cinnamon
Lunch: Chicken quesadilla with salsa and guacamole
Snack: Dates with nut butter and chocolate chips
Dinner: Steak, mashed potatoes, and carrots
How Can I Optimize My Nutrition During Pregnancy?
Eating well while pregnant can ensure your baby is getting the most out of this crucial growing phase of their life. Thankfully, you can get the nutrients you need and still sneak in that treat! Being mindful of the food you eat can ensure the best development for your baby and nourish your body as well which will be beneficial during the postpartum period. Are there some nutrients you are lacking while pregnant? Did the sample meal plan help you to incorporate better food options? Let me know in the comments below!