If you’re trying to conceive or are already pregnant, maintaining a healthy diet will be vital as you carry your baby to term. People who are pregnant for the first time can confidently satisfy their prenatal nutrition requirements by keeping their diet simple and easy to follow. Keep reading to learn valuable nutrition tips for your first pregnancy, how much you should eat during each trimester, and what vitamins are most important for your growing baby.
A prenatal vitamin is recommended for pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant and should be a staple in your prenatal nutrition plan.
Your energy requirements increase in your second and third trimesters, and you can satisfy them by including extra snacks or a full meal in your daily intake.
If possible, recruit friends and family to prepare frozen meals you can reheat after the baby arrives to keep your cooking simple.
Congratulations on growing your family
Being pregnant and bringing a new member into your family is a unique and exciting experience. While your baby grows, your body will undergo massive physical changes, and maintaining excellent nutrition practices can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
The top priorities for pregnant women are:
- Eat enough energy for your and your growing baby.
- Stay on top of your vitamin and nutrient needs by making healthy diet choices and taking a prenatal supplement.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Avoid harmful substances that could hurt your baby, such as alcohol and smoking.
- Stay healthy through other activities such as completing regular bloodwork, being physically active, and managing stress.
Prenatal refers to the the period of time when you’re pregnant. Your body will endure several changes as your baby grows, and your energy needs will increase during the second and third trimesters to keep up with the changes.
Specific vitamins and minerals will also have higher daily requirements, and it’s recommended to satisfy your needs by choosing food sources as often as possible. This can be difficult if you have morning sickness and are constantly nauseated. If your appetite is affected, it can be helpful to spread your meals by having smaller portions more frequently throughout the day, avoiding odorous foods, and choosing cold foods as they tend to be better tolerated.
Key vitamins and minerals
Nutrient requirements, including vitamins and minerals, are vital for a healthy pregnancy. These include:
- Vitamin D
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
These nutrients are found in whole, unprocessed foods such as beans, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lean protein sources. It is also recommended that you include a prenatal vitamin in your pregnancy care plan, and you should continue to take the supplement after delivery and during breastfeeding (if you choose to breastfeed).
Most people's energy needs (calories) don’t increase during their first trimester. To optimize your diet, stay consistent with your daily prenatal vitamins and eat balanced meals rich in vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
While pregnant, you must avoid alcohol and other harmful substances, such as tobacco and marijuana. To stay hydrated, opt for water most often and unsweetened teas.
If you are pregnant with one fetus, your energy needs will increase by approximately 350 calories daily during the second trimester (if you're carrying twins, your energy needs will double). In most cases, you can satisfy this requirement by adding 1-2 snacks to your daily menu. Popular nutrient-dense snack options include:
- Fresh apple slices with two tablespoons of nut butter
- Egg on a whole-grain English muffin
- Whole-grain crackers with tuna salad
- Fresh vegetable sticks with guacamole
- Plain Greek yogurt topped with nuts and berries
Most people start to “show” their baby bump at 16–20 weeks of pregnancy, which falls in the second trimester. This is a special time for you, so enjoy these moments with your growing baby and celebrate every milestone.
In the final trimester, your energy needs will increase again, and you’ll need approximately 450 calories daily. This is the equivalent of two large snacks or one extra meal. Choose a time to eat that aligns with your schedule and appetite, and add protein and fiber-rich foods to balance the meal.
Food safety tips
While pregnant, you and your baby are susceptible to food-borne illnesses. This is because your immune system is diminished, and your baby hasn’t fully developed. The CDC nutrition guidelines suggest avoiding eating high-risk foods, such as:
- Raw fish
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Unpasteurized juice and cheese
- Unheated deli meats or patés
- Premade deli salads such as potato salad or creamy coleslaw
- Raw dough
Before baby arrives
Before you deliver, try to recruit friends and family to help you batch-cook meals that can be frozen. You won’t have to worry about cooking dinners in the future because you can reheat home-cooked meals and spend quality time with your newest family member.
After you give birth, you’ll need to stay consistent with your medical checkups to ensure a healthy recovery. Nutritionally, your energy requirements may change if you choose to breastfeed. Women who breastfeed will notice an increase in appetite to be able to produce milk for their babies. This is normal, and if you feel hungry, you should eat.
Enjoy this time
Adding a new family member to your life is exciting, and the nine months of pregnancy can fly by. If you have any concerns about your nutrition or diet, contact your doctor or a dietitian specializing in prenatal health. Together, you’ll build an eating pattern that nourishes your baby and helps you feel energized.