- Brian Bender, PhD
Pregnancy Diet: Proper Nutrition for Each Trimester
Guest Author Bio: Marie Jones is a freelance writer and a mother of two. A movie fan, nutrition enthusiast, and an avid reader.
Is there anything more exciting than becoming a parent? In our humble opinion, we’d be hard-pressed to find something that thwarts such an experience. But for expecting mothers, pregnancy can mean a lot of sacrifices and a completely altered lifestyle. It can represent a time of great uncertainty; for example, do you know what you need to eat in each trimester? We’re here to give you a quick rundown!
First and foremost - we’d be remiss not saying that quality prenatal nutrition will become one of the most important things you can do for your baby as a mother-to-be; adding to your health as well. Naturally, deciding what to eat can be a pretty confusing experience; especially seeing as you’ve got plenty of other things to decide and worry about. You’ve got the nursery decoration, choosing a baby name, and all that kind of wonderful stuff.
But, once the pregnancy cravings start - what you eat will become of major importance. That’s why good nutrition needs to be one of your priorities too. If you fuel yourself with foods that are dense with nutrients; you’ll be giving your baby the best possible start. Keeping that in mind, though; what should you actually eat? We’ll break it down by each trimester for you.
As you’re undoubtedly already aware of, keeping a balanced diet is something that you’ll need to do during the entirety of your pregnancy. However, specific nutrients still play crucial roles for each trimester - and knowing which are the most important and at what times will allow you to min-max your pregnancy diet!
In the first trimester, for example, basic vitamins like B and C will become crucial for your baby’s health and development. More specifically - folate (vitamin B9) is quite important when it comes to shielding your baby from any neural tube defects. Additionally, while vitamin C is something you want to take in during all pregnancy stages; it will be particularly useful during the first trimester, as it will boost your heavily taxed immune system.
Food and Supplementation
You can find folate in all kinds of vegetables, like lentils, broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens, but also in grass-fed liver and even citrus. When it comes to supplementation, remember that no kind of supplement can replace a diet that’s dense with nutrients. If you’re not consuming food with enough folate, however; it’s advised to take B9 supplements.
During the second trimester, iron becomes a crucial nutrient; that’s when blood volume grows by up to 50%. And iron is what helps transport oxygen all around your body - including to your baby. Also, vitamin C continues to be of vital importance, as it helps with iron absorption in this time of huge blood volume growth.
Food and Supplementation
You can find iron in chickpeas, quinoa, lentils, chicken, lamb, beef, salmon, and egg yolks. Additionally, there is a lot of iron in oysters, but you need to make sure they’re thoroughly cooked. When it comes to vitamin C, apart from citrus you can find it in strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, and bell peppers.
Iron supplementation can be something you need, but that’s not a course of action you want to take on your own. Instead, talk to your physician and health care provider before taking iron supplements. Taking vitamin C supplementation is less serious, though it’s also less effective; real food sources are far better absorbed by your body.
Third Trimester Nutrients
In the third trimester, your baby’s nutritional needs will definitely reach their absolute peak. Here, apart from higher iron levels, you will also require more protein. The combination of the two in adequate amounts will result in proper maintenance of the enlarged blood volume, the development of a healthy placenta, and your baby’s general cellular development.
During the previous trimester, the baby’s movements result in a fluttery, light sensation.
However, in the last trimester - these will be replaced by far sharper and stronger jabs. That’s because your baby’s bone structure is becoming far more developed and dense. With that in mind - calcium becomes a crucial nutrient now.
While calcium is well-known as supremely important for a healthy bone structure, there are two other nutrients that are good for bone health. These are fat-soluble vitamins K2 and D3. Back in the day of more traditional cultures a couple of centuries ago, the average human diet included a far greater amount of K2. That’s because their diets contained far more naturally fermented types of food and organic meats.
Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 will play the lead role during the third trimester for a variety of reasons. These healthy fats are imperative to the proper development of the baby’s brain structure. Plus, women who take in more omega-3 during the third trimester are proven to have a smaller risk of suffering from postpartum depression. Additionally, healthy fats will give your baby some protective packing, and they will contribute to the creation of maternal stores as the body prepares for breastfeeding.
You can find calcium in all kinds of ingredients and products, like kefir, organic yogurt, salmon, sardines, brazil nuts, sesame, almonds, kale, spinach, and broccoli. When it comes to D3, it’s found in sardines, salmon, herring and egg yolks - but from moderate sun exposure as well.
On the other hand, K2 is contained in beef, chicken, grass-fed butter, natto, and sauerkraut. As for Omega-3 fats, the best sources are fatty fish like salmon or mackerel.
As you can see, it’s incredible how much the smallest details in the diet of an expecting mother can affect the baby’s development; both positively and negatively. Seeing as how impactful proper dieting and moderate supplementation can be, mothers should take care to lead a lifestyle that’s as healthy as possible during their pregnancy; for both themselves and the baby.