Pregnancy diet: What you should eat during the second trimester

Nutritional needs for a growing mom and baby.

pregnancy-diet

If you are wondering about your pregnancy diet and what foods are best to eat to keep you and your baby healthy, you are not alone.

You're probably welcoming the end of the first trimester with a big sense of relief. The chances of miscarriage go down significantly, and if you were having morning sickness, that should start to ease up at this point. Your energy should return as well, making this the most “comfortable" stage of pregnancy (if that's even possible).

And your little one, whose brain, spinal cord and major organs already started developing, is now looking less like a tadpole and more like an actual baby. But the second trimester, however comfortable it feels, is not the time to skimp on healthy, nutritious foods.

During this time, your baby will go through a major growth spurt, going from 4 to 12 inches long. This means that you will be hungrier and will need extra vitamins and nutrients. So what does "eating for two" mean at this stage?

Here's what you should be eating during the second trimester to make sure you and your baby are getting all the nutrition you need.

1. Increase your calories overall

Finally! The words you were waiting for. But there is a catch.

While most women can and should increase your caloric intake by 300 to 500 calories per day (if you haven't done so already), make sure to get the most bang for your buck out of those calories by filling up on wholesome, nutritious foods. If you are expecting multiples (bless you), increase your caloric intake by around 500 to 650 calories, but your doctor will tell you exactly what is appropriate.

2. Protein

During that big growth spurt we talked about, you can expect to see a strong correlation in your hunger levels. Protein will keep you satiated and help baby gain weight appropriately. A non-pregnant person should aim to get a half-gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, so if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be getting around 75 grams of protein per day. A pregnant woman should add an extra 25 grams to her daily intake. This extra 25 grams is about the equivalent of four eggs or a 3-ounce chicken breast.

If you eat a plant-based diet, you can find those 25 grams of protein by eating things like one and a half cups of lentils or chickpeas, or 3.5 ounces of seitan.

3. Calcium

As baby's bones and teeth continue to develop, calcium is needed to help them become denser and more structurally sound. Research shows that many women aren't getting enough calcium—if you aren't getting enough for both you and baby, the body will reallocate your stores to make sure he gets what they need.

Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli) not only contain calcium, but they also contain other vitamins and minerals that help the body absorb it, so make sure to get your greens.

4. Vitamin D

This is one of the special nutrients that help absorb the calcium and can be found naturally in salmon, dairy, egg yolks and other fortified products. Pregnant woman are advised to get 4000 IU of vitamin D—most prenatal vitamins only have 400, so talk to your provider about an additional vitamin D supplement.

5. Iron

The importance of iron continues through all the trimesters, to avoid developing anemia. It's critical around the midpoint of pregnancy as the baby's own blood supply grows. Like calcium, the body will make sure baby is getting enough iron first, so it will deplete your stores if necessary, increasing your chances of anemia a second time. Pregnant women should aim for around 27mg of iron daily.

A note of caution, though. Iron pills can often lead to constipation. Make sure to drink plenty of water, and eat lots of high-fiber foods (like bran, fruits and veggies).

6. Balance your diet

A balanced diet high in vitamins and minerals has endless benefits during this phase of pregnancy, so now that you can hopefully stomach something more than white rice, aim to fill your plate with 50% of complex carbs (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), 30% of healthy fats and 20% protein to get the optimal mix of nutrients. It will help you feel your best, gain weight appropriately, boost your energy and make staying active easier, provided your doctor gives you the okay.

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