Meal & Snack Ideas for Meeting Your Protein Needs While Pregnant and Breastfeeding


Protein is necessary for almost every cell in the body; from our skin, muscles, organs, nails, and hair, to our blood, enzymes, and hormones.1,7

Our protein needs increase when pregnant and breastfeeding to help support a growing uterus, breasts, breastmilk, and blood supply, as well as to help our baby develop and grow.2

How much protein do I need?

3In general, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding women over 19 years old is 46 grams per day, or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight.2,

For pregnant and breastfeeding women, protein needs go up to 71 grams in the second and third trimesters, as well as while breastfeeding.2,3

Note that protein needs may vary depending on your weight and activity level.

Read more:

Protein: Getting Enough and The Best Sources

Protein Rich Meal Plan for when Pregnant or Breastfeeding Twins or Multiples

Have questions about meeting your protein needs? Reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET). Chat Now!

Protein sources and gram amounts

Meat, poultry, fish: 3 oz cooked contains 18-24 grams

Eggs: 1 whole egg contains 6 grams


  • 1 cup milk has 8 grams

  • 1 ounce cheese has 6 grams

  • 1 cup low fat yogurt has 12 grams

  • 1 cup low fat Greek yogurt has over 15 grams

Soy products:

  • 1 cup soymilk contains 7 grams

  • ½ cup tofu contains 10 grams

Nuts and seeds: ¼ cup nuts or seeds has 5 grams.

Beans and peas: ½ cup beans have 7 grams.

Whole Grains:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa has 8 grams

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal has 6 grams

  • 1 slice 100% whole wheat bread has 4 grams

Pro Tips

Vegetarian protein

When it comes to protein, not all food sources are created equal. Animal-based proteins contain all the essential amino acid building blocks your body needs to make protein. Most plant-based proteins contain less of some of these essential protein building blocks.5,6

There are a few plant-based protein foods that contain adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids, including: Quinoa, buckwheat, soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh), chia seeds, amaranth, spirulina, and hemp seeds.1

To get adequate protein from a plant-based diet, choose a wide variety of protein sources throughout the day: Whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds; as well as dairy, eggs, and fish should you eat any of these as well. By doing this you're more likely to get enough essential amino acids to make the protein needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.8

Choose a variety of protein foods

When choosing proteins, focus on lean sources such as: eggs, lean cuts of meat, soy products, safe-to-consume seafood such as salmon and cod, poultry without the skin, nuts, seeds, beans and peas, and whole grains.

Consuming a variety of these foods will offer you many other nutrients in addition to the protein they provide.

Goal: Aim to have a bit of protein at each meal and some snacks to help meet your goal.

Read More: Vegan Diet during Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and for the Family

Meal & Snack Ideas for Meeting your Protein needs while Pregnant and Breastfeeding

The below meal, snack, and recipe ideas can help you get protein throughout the day.

Note that all protein estimates for the below meals and snacks are approximate, and based on 3 oz of meat/poultry/fish, ½ cup grains or beans, 8 oz milk, and 6 oz yogurt, unless otherwise noted.


  • Option 1: Smoothie made with fruit, low-fat yogurt or milk, veggies (like spinach or kale) and 1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter (12+ grams protein)

  • Option 2: 2 Eggs, black beans, handful of veggies, and salsa wrapped in a whole grain tortilla (22+ grams protein)

  • Option 3: Low-fat plain Greek yogurt with berries and chopped walnuts (18+ grams protein)

  • Option 4: Oatmeal (1/2 cup dry oats), nut butter, and banana (10+ grams protein. 17+ grams if oatmeal is made with low fat milk or soymilk)

  • Option 5: Eggs, whole grain toast, and an orange (16 grams if 2 eggs)


  • Option 1: Seasoned shredded chicken over a bed of lettuce with quinoa (30+ grams protein)

  • Option 2: Canned Chunk Light Tuna* or canned salmon mixed with olive oil and seasonings stuffed in an avocado; with sliced tomato drizzled with olive oil and brown rice on the side. (22+ grams protein)

  • Option 3: Turkey (fresh, not deli meat), whole grain bread, baby carrots, hummus (30+ grams protein)

  • Option 4: Quinoa topped with spiced black beans, diced tomato, sunflower seeds, and a drizzle of oil, cilantro optional (20+ grams protein)

  • Option 5: Chopped salad (use up those veggies left in the fridge!) drizzled with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper; canned salmon, whole grain wrap (20+ grams protein)


  • Option 1: Stir-fried veggies and chicken with quinoa (25+ grams protein)

  • Option 2: Ground turkey, black beans, and veggies sautéed in a skillet with cumin, chili powder, and a can of low-sodium diced tomatoes. Topped with a sprinkle of cheese and eat over a bed of whole grain rice or pasta (35+ grams protein)

  • Option 3: Shrimp, brown rice, green beans (22+ grams protein)

  • Option 4: Broiled salmon, asparagus, millet (31+ grams protein)

  • Option 5: Bean and vegetable soup with whole grain toast (10+ grams protein)


  • Option 1: White bean dip with fresh cut veggies (5+ grams protein)

  • Option 2: Cup of low-fat plain Greek yogurt with whole grain cereal and berries (15+ grams protein)

  • Option 3: Walnuts, raisins, and a few dark chocolate chips (5+ grams protein)

  • Option 4: Pear with cheese (6+ grams protein)

  • Option 5: Two tablespoons almond butter on whole grain crackers (10+ grams protein)

* The US Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women to eat between 8 and 12 ounces of lower mercury fish per week4

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

How to Include More Whole Grains in Your and Your Child’s Diet

Food Safety During Pregnancy

Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and for the Family

Nutritious Snack Ideas During Pregnancy

Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for you. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for you and your child.