Importance of Good Nutrition in Pregnancy

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
pregnant woman eating an apple

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. 

NutrientAmountFound in
Folate600 mcg/dayLeafy greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts
Omega 3200 mg/dayFish
Calcium1,000-2,000 mg/dayDairy
Choline450 mgEggs, beans, cod, pork chop
Vitamin B12,400 mcg/dayMost meats
Niacin (B-3)18 mg/dayMost meats, avocado, tomato, sweet potato
Riboflavin (B-2)1.4 mg/dayDairy, organ meats
Thiamin (B-1)1.4 mg/dayPork, whole grains, lentils
Vitamin A5,000 IUSweet potato, carrot, spinach, milk, liver
Biotin30 mcg/dayEggs, 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
  • Sushi
  • Energy drinks
  • Fish high in mercury
  • Caffeine more than 200 mg/day
  • Alcohol
  • 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. 

Grab an easy printable PDF of this meal plan and a grocery list template!

breakfast for pregnant woman

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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 

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

Breakfast: Eggs and avocado toast

Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich

Snack: Hummus with peppers

Dinner: Salmon with cilantro rice and asparagus

Friday:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with flax seeds and banana

Lunch: Greek chicken and rice bowl

Snack: Apple with nut butter

Dinner: Cajun chicken with pasta

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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!

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