What To Eat In First Trimester For Healthy Baby


What to eat in the first trimester of pregnancy is a question asked by many women. You are not alone! Each baby journey is unique, but there are a few staples every woman should include for healthy eating during pregnancy.

What to Eat in the First Trimester

First trimeter diet

Early pregnancy nausea, food aversions and fatigue can make ‘eating for two’ a challenge in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Between the morning sickness and heartburn, eating well may have fallen off your to-do list during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Your body is experiencing a surge in hormones right now, which can lead to nausea. The hormone progesterone in particular can trigger digestive discomfort, including constipation and reflux.

In early pregnancy, many moms-to-be find that they have no desire to eat some of the healthy foods they used to love, such as fresh veggies or lean meats. (Don’t worry — for many pregnant women, appetite comes back in the second trimester.)

For now, don’t sweat it too much if you’re not in the mood to load up a full plate for every meal. Instead, focus on these good-for-you foods in the first trimester to cover your nutritional bases.

How many extra calories do you need during the first trimester?

During the first trimester, your baby’s energy needs — like your baby! — are still quite small. You should aim to eat about 2,000 calories a day in the first trimester, though your practitioner may recommend more depending on your activity level. This number is pretty on par with typical adult nutrition recommendations.

Aim to eat three meals a day, plus one or two snacks. If you’re having trouble with portion sizes, concentrate on quality — making sure that the food you do manage to get down is both nutritious and tastes good to you at that moment. (We get it: Sometimes what you’re craving or what you can stomach changes during pregnancy hour by hour.)

Stick to whatever healthful foods you find comforting and provide solid first trimester nutrition.

What nutrients do you need during the first trimester?

Aim to fill up on essential pregnancy nutrients throughout the next nine months, but in the first trimester, focus in particular on:

Best and Worst Drinks for Pregnant Women

  • Folic acid. This is the most essential micronutrient in terms of first trimester nutrition — and prenatal nutrition in general. That’s because folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 or folate, when it’s in food form) plays a key role in preventing neural tube defects. To get the recommended 600 micrograms per day, take a prenatal vitamin daily and eat oranges, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, kidney beans, nuts, cauliflower and beets.
  • Protein. It’s key for muscle development for both you and your baby, and supports uterine tissue growth. Aim for about 75 grams per day. Good sources include eggs, Greek yogurt and chicken.
  • Calcium. It’s critical for your baby’s developing teeth and bones. Since your growing baby will take calcium from your own stores, too little calcium in your diet can result in brittle bones (osteoporosis) later on. You can generally get the recommended 1,000 milligrams per day through a well-balanced diet including milk, cheese, yogurt and dark leafy greens, but if you’re worried you might be falling short, ask your OB/GYN if you should take a supplement.
  • Iron. Iron is increasingly important as your blood supply ramps up to meet the demands of your growing baby. The goal of 27 milligrams per day can be a challenge to reach through food alone, so make sure you’re getting a solid dose of iron in your prenatal vitamin to reduce risk for pregnancy anemia. Work good sources like beef, chicken, eggs, tofu and spinach into your meal plan too.
  • Vitamin C. C-rich foods like oranges, broccoli and strawberries promote bone and tissue development in your growing baby and boost the absorption of iron. You should aim for 85 milligrams per day.
  • Potassium. It teams up with sodium to help your body maintain proper fluid balance and also regulates blood pressure. Aim to get 2,900 milligrams per day through your prenatal vitamin and foods like bananas, apricots and avocados.
  • DHA. A key omega-3 fatty acid, DHA is found in low-mercury fish like anchovies, herring and sardines. You may be too queasy for seafood these days, so ask your doctor about taking a DHA supplement.

Best foods for the first trimester

Nutrition pros recommend the following foods in particular since they’re rich sources of the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients your body (and your baby’s developing body) needs to thrive.

  • Lean meat. A good source of iron and protein, thoroughly-cooked lean meats like sirloin or chuck steak, pork tenderloin, turkey and chicken offer all of the amino acids that act as the building blocks for cells.
  • Yogurt. The calcium and protein in each cup supports bone structure. Opt for a variety with a short ingredient list and few added sugars.
  • Edamame. These soybean pods are packed with vegetarian protein, plus some calcium, iron and folate.
  • Kale. This dark leafy green offers a combo platter of nutrients, including fiber, calcium, folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K.
  • Bananas. Bland enough to be palatable for queasy stomachs, bananas are among the best dietary sources of potassium.
  • Beans and lentils. Iron, folate, protein and fiber are all hiding inside these small-but-mighty powerhouses.
  • Ginger tea. Ginger products, like ginger tea or ginger chews, may help combat nausea.

What to Eat When You’re Pregnant: First Trimester

Here’s what to expect and how to eat healthy in the early weeks of your pregnancy.

Welcome to the first trimester of pregnancy, complete with morning sickness, exhaustion, breast pain and all the carbs. Before you even see a positive test, your body is already changing. And, even though it’s an exciting time for most expecting moms, the physical symptoms can be a real drag. We break down what is actually going on in your body during those first 13 weeks, which nutrients to load up on, and what to do if you feel sick from sunup to sundown.

What’s Going On in Your Body

Before you even get pregnant, you can (and should) prepare your body to grow a healthy baby. Folic acid is the most important nutrient to have on your radar even before conception. “Folic acid is an important vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects. Women need to take at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily starting at least one month prior to conception and throughout the duration of the pregnancy. Most prenatal vitamins include 400-800 mcg of folic acid, but always look at the label when choosing a vitamin or supplement to be certain,” said Sara Tingle, N.P.-C, a family nurse practitioner in Athens, Georgia.

Folic acid can be obtained through a variety of foods, such as beans, lentils, fortified cereals and dark leafy greens, but you should still take a prenatal vitamin to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts.

Once you see that plus sign, you are already about four weeks pregnant, since pregnancy dating is counted from the first day of your last period. The first trimester includes the first 13 weeks. “Physically, the body is experiencing a surge in pregnancy hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, which can cause feelings of nausea and morning sickness,” said Crystal Karges, M.S., R.D.N., a San Diego-based private practice dietitian and lactation consultant. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is also on the rise. This hormone is the one detected on your at-home pregnancy test, and some believe it is responsible for nausea and frequent urination.

Progesterone slows down muscle movement in the body, which can lead to constipation for some women. You may also experience light bleeding as the embryo implants in the uterus, but it is nothing to worry about unless bleeding is severe, in which case you should contact your doctor. Also, expect very sore breasts. Your body is already ramping up for milk production.

There is a lot going on during these first 13 weeks. In fact, by the end of the first trimester, your baby will weigh one ounce and have arms and legs. Fingernails, toenails and reproductive organs will also start to form. It’s no wonder you are tired.

Important Nutrients

Recipe to Try: Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

Folic acid: Found in beans, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and your prenatal vitamin.

Calcium: Found in dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese) and dark leafy greens.

Iron: Found in meat, poultry, seafood, beans and greens.

Choline: Found in red meat and eggs.

Vitamin B12: Found in meat, poultry, seafood, as well as fortified breads and cereals.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fatty fish, chia seeds, flax seeds and fortifed foods.

Pregnant or not, food is your fuel, and that fuel is extremely important as you grow a human being inside of you. The baby eats what you eat, and the baby needs vitamins and minerals to support growth of its tiny brain and bones. Specifically, “Nutrients needed during the first trimester to support a healthy pregnancy include calcium (about 1,200 mg/day), folate (600-800 mcg/day), and iron (27 mg/day),” said Karges. “These increased nutrient needs can typically be met by eating a diet that offers a wide variety of healthy foods and supplementing with a prenatal vitamin.”

“Because your baby’s nervous system is starting to develop, it is also important to get adequate amounts of choline, B12 and omega-3 fatty acids,” said Ingrid Anderson, R.D.N., founder of Results Dietetics. “Sources of these nutrients include eggs, salmon and walnuts.”

Although your body is hard at work, you do not need any extra calories until the second trimester. However, it is normal to gain 3 to 5 pounds in the first trimester due to increased blood and fluid volume.

When You Can’t Stomach Vegetables

Morning sickness is common for many women during the first trimester. News flash: it doesn’t just happen in the morning. You can feel nauseous at any time of day, and anything can trigger it. Food aversions are also common and can be related to nausea. “Helpful tips for managing nausea include avoiding an empty stomach, eating a smaller amount of food more frequently, eating lower-fat foods, and drinking plenty of fluids,” said Lindsey Janeiro, R.D.N., C.L.C., dietitian and owner of Nutrition to Fit. “Eating foods that are easier for the body to digest can also help with nausea, such as rice, applesauce, fresh fruit, multigrain crackers/bread, clear-based broths and soups, potatoes, yogurt and dry, bland multigrain cereals,” said Karges. Also: “Vitamin B6 has been shown to ease nausea,” according to Anderson. But check with your doctor before adding any supplements.

Many women can’t stand the thought of a fruit or vegetable and just want comfort food during the first trimester. If this sounds like you, “try incorporating some health into the foods you are craving,” said Anderson. “For example: if you are craving french fries, try cutting sweet potatoes into sticks, drizzling oil and sprinkling salt on them and baking them in the oven until they are crispy. Or if ice cream is more your thing, try blending a frozen banana with a small amount of milk to create an ice-cream-like texture and taste.” Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect during pregnancy. When you are feeling good, seize the opportunity to eat your fruits and vegetables. When you aren’t feeling so great, reach for the comfort food.

Overall, “it’s important to eat foods that you can tolerate and that feel good in your body,” Karges said. Do the best you can. “Sometimes that means having a salad with that pizza you’re craving, and sometimes that means simply eating whatever you can keep down,” said Janeiro. If nausea or food aversions persist for a long time and you feel your baby is not getting adequate nutrients, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Foods That Help with Nausea:

• Cold foods: yogurt, smoothies, frozen fruit

• Ginger

• Peppermint

• Lemon

• Bland foods

Your First Trimester Diet

Eating well now and throughout your pregnancy is crucial. Make sure you get off on the right foot.

Colorful fruits and vegetables

If you’ve tried — and failed — in the past to curb your love of take-out pizza and ice cream, perhaps you simply needed the right motivation: nurturing a beautiful, healthy baby. Eating well is especially important now. Your body uses the nutrients and energy provided by the food you eat both to build a healthy baby and to keep your body strong. A healthful diet for pregnancy is one that contains most or all of the essential nutrients your body needs and one that provides the right balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein without too many calories.

To build your healthful pregnancy diet, choose a range of nutrient-packed foods from the following groups:

  • Fruits: 3-4 servings a day. Choose fresh, frozen, canned (in natural juice, not heavy syrup), and dried fruit or 100-percent fruit juice. Include at least one citrus fruit (orange, grapefruit, tangerine) each day because citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Limit fruit juice consumption to no more than 1 cup a day; juice is high in calories compared with whole fruit, and it does not deliver the fiber that whole fruit does. One serving equals one medium piece of fruit such as an apple or orange, or 1/2 of a banana; 1/2 cup of chopped fresh, cooked, or canned fruit; 1/4 cup dried fruit; or 3/4 cup of 100-percent fruit juice.
  • Vegetables: 3-5 servings a day. To get the greatest range of nutrients, think of a rainbow as you fill your plate with vegetables. Choose vegetables that are dark green (broccoli, kale, spinach), orange (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash), yellow (corn, yellow peppers), and red (tomatoes, red peppers). One serving equals 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables such as spinach or lettuce, or 1/2 cup chopped vegetables, cooked or raw.
  • Dairy foods: 3 servings a day. Dairy foods provide the calcium that your baby needs to grow and that you need to keep your bones strong. To get sufficient calcium, drink milk and eat yogurt and cheese. To save on calories and saturated fat, choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk, choose lactose-free milk products, calcium-fortified foods, and beverages such as calcium-fortified soymilk. One serving equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 11/2 ounces of natural cheese such as cheddar or mozzarella, or 2 ounces of processed cheese such as American.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Eat well

Go to Canada’s Food Guide at https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/ to make sure you are eating a variety of foods each day. In your second and third trimesters most women will need to eat more of these healthy foods for healthy weight gain. Talk to your doctor or midwife about what is right for you.

  • Eat at least 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks every day. Eat fresh, whole foods, including:
    • Vegetables and fruits. Be sure to include a variety of colours. Try pears, apples, berries, broccoli, cabbage, and leafy greens.
    • Whole grain foods. Enjoy a variety of whole grains including quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, oatmeal, or brown rice.
    • Protein foods. Try protein foods like eggs, beans, fish, poultry, lean meat, peanut butter, milk, fortified soy beverages, yogurt, and cheese.
    • Healthy fats. Choose foods with healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and corn or olive oil.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Make water your drink of choice. Avoid sodas and other sweetened drinks.
  • Choose foods that have important vitamins for your baby, such as calcium, iron, and folate.
    • Dairy products, tofu, canned fish with bones, almonds, broccoli, dark leafy greens, corn tortillas, and fortified orange juice are good sources of calcium.
    • Beef, poultry, liver, spinach, lentils, dried beans, fortified cereals, and dried fruits are rich in iron.
    • Dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, liver, fortified cereals, orange juice, peanuts, and almonds are good sources of folate.
  • Choose fish that are lower in mercury. These include salmon, rainbow trout, pollock, herring, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, and canned “light” tuna.
  • Avoid foods that could harm your baby.
    • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, chicken, or fish (such as sushi or raw oysters).
    • Do not eat raw eggs or foods that contain raw eggs, such as Caesar dressing.
    • Do not eat raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts.
    • Do not eat soft cheeses and unpasteurized dairy foods, such as Brie, feta, or blue cheese.
    • Limit how much high-mercury fish you eat.
      • Do not eat more than 150 g (5.3 oz) of high-mercury fish in a month. These include fresh or frozen tuna (not canned “light” tuna), shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, and escolar.
      • Do not eat more than 300 g (10.6 oz) of canned (white) albacore tuna each week.
    • Avoid caffeine, or limit your intake to 300 mg or about 2 cups of coffee or tea each day.

Protect yourself and your baby

  • Do not touch kitty litter or cat feces. They can cause an infection that could harm your baby.
  • Avoid things that can make your body too hot and may be harmful to your baby, such as a hot tub or sauna. Or talk with your doctor or midwife before doing anything that raises your body temperature. Your doctor or midwife can tell you if it’s safe.

Cope with morning sickness

  • Sip small amounts of water, juices, or shakes. Try drinking between meals, not with meals.
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals a day. Try dry toast or crackers when you first get up, and eat breakfast a little later.
  • Avoid spicy, greasy, and fatty foods.
  • When you feel sick, open your windows or go for a short walk to get fresh air.
  • Try nausea wristbands. These help some people.
  • Tell your doctor or midwife if you think your prenatal vitamins make you sick.

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