Your baby is growing bigger and stronger, with its organs and body systems now developed. In this trimester, it’s essential to get the right nutrients and to keep your weight in check.
The second trimester, which includes weeks 13 up to the end of week 27, is sometimes said be the easiest part of a woman’s pregnancy. The nausea and food aversions often settle down, and your energy can feel like it’s coming back.
As with the first trimester, nutrition in this trimester is a key factor that can positively shape your baby’s health. During this time, your baby is growing bigger and stronger, with its organs and body systems now developed, so it’s vital to support its growth and development with the right nutrients.
Important nutrients for your baby:
It’s important to ensure you’re getting an adequate intake of the nutrients in the first trimester, but protein, calcium and iron are essential during this time.
Your protein needs are significantly higher when you’re pregnant, especially in the second and third trimesters. This is because protein is needed for the rapid growth of all your baby’s organs, as well as the expansion of the maternal tissues. The recommended daily amount is at least 60g or 1g per body weight. This can be easily attainable in the diet if you eat a variety of healthy foods, which often contain protein. These include lean beef, pork, beans, lentils, chicken, fish, nuts and seeds. If you’re vegetarian, naturopath and nutritionist Leah Hechtman recommends rice or pea protein smoothies as a great way to get enough protein in your diet. By adding fruits and vegetables in your protein smoothies, you’ll also be getting other plant-based nutrients in your diet.
Protein is needed for the rapid growth of all your baby’s organs, as well as the expansion of the maternal tissues.
Calcium is needed to build strong bones and teeth for your baby, as well as to grow a healthy heart, nerves and muscles. It’s found mostly in milk, yoghurt and cheese, with smaller amounts found in green leafy vegetables, canned salmon and sardines (with bones), almonds, dried figs, tahini and tofu.
“During pregnancy, women need around 1300-1500mg of calcium daily,” says Belinda Kirkpatrick, nutritionist and author of Healthy Hormones. “But it can pretty hard to meet the requirements every day from non-dairy sources.” If you don’t get enough calcium while you’re pregnant, your baby will draw it from your bones, which could increase your risk of osteoporosis later in life. If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, speak to your healthcare professional.
If you don’t get enough calcium while you’re pregnant, your baby will draw it from your bones, which could increase your risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Iron requirements are higher in pregnancy as it plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen to the foetus and maintaining healthy red blood cells as your blood volume increases. In fact, the developing foetus draws from your body’s reserves to last them through the first six months after birth. Given this, it’s important to be eating iron-rich foods every day or getting the recommended 27 mg daily. “Poor maternal iron levels may result in reduced infant growth and reduced foetal stores which can negatively affect the infant’s brain development,” says Hechtman.
Vegetarians need to be particularly mindful of iron levels, as plant-based iron is not absorbed by our bodies as well as iron from animals. Food sources of iron include red meat, chicken, fish, green leafy vegetables, lentils, apricots and garbanzo beans.
Healthy weight gain during the second trimester:
While you may be eating for two, it’s important to remember your body doesn’t actually need that much more food to grow a healthy baby. In fact, you only need around an extra 1,400 kilojoules a day, which is equivalent to an extra snack. So, when those cravings kick in, it’s best to think about quality over quantity. This means choosing nutritious wholefood snacks and meals over packaged, high energy snack foods and take away. If food aversions are still an issue, Kirkpatrick suggests healthy protein sources and vegetables, when possible. “I would recommend including organic eggs, sardines, brazil nuts, sweet potatoes and chia seeds.”
When those cravings kick in, it’s best to think about quality over quantity. This means choosing nutritious wholefood snacks and meals over packaged, high energy snack foods and take away.