Eating for Two: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Pregnancy Nutrition


Pregnancy is an exciting and beautiful journey. As an expectant mother, you want to give your growing baby the very best start in life. One of the most important ways to support your baby’s development is through proper nutrition. The foods you eat provide the essential building blocks for your baby’s growth and can have a profound impact on their health, both now and in the future. 

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about eating well during pregnancy.

The foods you eat are literally the raw materials for building your baby’s body systems and organs. Eating a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy provides your baby with the vital macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) they need for optimal growth and development. 

As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll need extra calories and nutrients to support the demands of your changing body as well as your baby’s needs. Understanding what to eat, when to eat it, and how much can set you up for a healthy, nourished pregnancy.

Eating for Two: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Pregnancy Nutrition

Trimester by Trimester: How Your Nutrition Needs Change 

Your nutritional needs fluctuate throughout pregnancy based on your baby’s growth and development in each trimester. Here’s an overview of how to adapt your diet by trimester:

  1. First Trimester: Focus on getting enough protein, vitamins like folate and iron, and beating morning sickness. Eat small, frequent meals and stay hydrated.
  2. Second Trimester: Add 300-350 extra calories per day. Boost fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, essential fatty acids, and iron. 
  3. Third Trimester: Add 400-500 extra calories per day. Emphasize brain-boosting nutrients like DHA omega-3s, folate, choline, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and eat fiber to ease constipation.

Macronutrients: The Building Blocks of Life

Macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) provide energy for growth and sustenance. Here’s what to know:

  • Protein builds your baby’s organs and tissues. Choose lean meats, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy. 
  • Carbohydrates should come from whole grains, fruits and veggies for energy and fiber. Limit added sugars.
  • Healthy fats support brain development. Get them from oils, nuts, salmon, avocado. Limit saturated fats.

Micronutrients: Big Benefits in Small Packages  

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) don’t provide calories but have important roles. Key ones include:

  • Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in early pregnancy. Take 400 mcg/day.
  • Iron carries oxygen and prevents anemia. Lean meats, spinach, lentils are good sources.
  • Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. Yogurt, milk, kale, broccoli can help you meet needs.
  • Iodine supports thyroid function. Use iodized salt, seafood, eggs, dairy for iodine.
  • Other important ones are magnesium, zinc, choline, vitamin C, and vitamin D. A prenatal vitamin provides nutritional insurance.

Superfoods for a Super Pregnancy

Some foods provide an extra nutritional punch by packing in multiple key nutrients for pregnancy. Top nutrient-dense superfoods include:

  • Salmon: Omega-3s for brain development, plus vitamin D and protein.
  • Eggs: Choline for baby’s brain and folate to prevent defects. 
  • Spinach: Folate, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium and more.
  • Broccoli: Vitamins C, K plus fiber, folate and calcium.
  • Yogurt: Protein, calcium, probiotics for immunity and digestion.
  • Lentils: Folate, iron, potassium, fiber and lean protein.
  • Chia seeds: Fiber, plant-based protein, iron, magnesium and omega-3s. 
  • Berries: Fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants.

Hydration: The Overlooked Nutrient

With all the focus on foods, it’s easy to forget that fluids play a critical role during pregnancy as well. Water supports increased blood volume, aids digestion, prevents constipation, and helps form amniotic fluid.

Aim for at least 10 8-ounce cups (2.5 liters) of total fluids per day from water, milk and unsweetened drinks. Fruits and veggies also contribute hydration. Listen to your thirst cues and drink up!

Meal Planning for Two

Putting nutrition advice into practice requires meal planning and preparation. To make eating well easier, focus on keeping a balanced plate at meals with carbs, protein and veggies. 

Include fruit as snacks along with yogurt, nuts or other protein-rich foods to help keep your energy stable. Do some food prep on weekends to have ready-to-eat options during the week.

Setting yourself up with healthy groceries and meal basics helps take the guesswork out of eating right day-to-day. Use the trimester guides to tailor your meals and snacks to support the stage of pregnancy you’re in. Most importantly, get creative in the kitchen and have fun fueling you and your baby!

The Journey of Nourishing Two Lives

Eating well during pregnancy empowers you to care for both your body and your baby’s as you embark on the journey of motherhood together. 

Approach your diet with intention, focusing on wholesome foods that provide balanced nutrition to support you through each trimester and beyond. Of all the ways you can care for your growing baby, few compare to the gift of health-promoting nutrition.