pregnant woman in a white shirt holding an apple looking at a counter with cucumbers, strawberries, carrots and a cutting board

Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is a time when nutrition is paramount. Since your baby gets first dibs on available nutrients, if you aren’t taking in adequate nutrients for both you and your baby, it may leave your body depleted. As you have undoubtedly heard by now, the goal isn’t to eat for two, it is to think for two- concentrate on increasing the quality of what you eat. There are several key nutrients to focus on during pregnancy including iron, folic acid, iodine, choline, vitamin D, and DHA.

pregnant woman in a white shirt holding an apple looking at a counter with cucumbers, strawberries, carrots and a cutting board

Iron: We need extra iron during pregnancy to make more blood to supply oxygen to baby. Additionally, baby uses the iron to build up his own stores that he relies on until six months of age. Too little iron can be problematic for baby’s brain development and leave you anemic. Our body relies on dietary intake as we cannot make iron. Good sources include: red meat, pork, poultry, seafood, dark leafy green vegetables and fortified grains (cereals, breads, pastas).

Folate: Folate is involved in neural tube development in the fetus. The neural tube becomes the brain and spine. Diets lacking in folate may increase the risk of neural tube defects. In addition to taking folate in your prenatal supplement, make sure to eat folate rich foods especially during the first trimester, and ideally when you are trying to conceive. Good sources include: spinach, yeast, asparagus and brussels sprouts, as well as, dark leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, dairy products, meat, eggs, seafood and grains.

Iodine: Iodine is a mineral essential for thyroid function. Iodine needs increase by 50% in pregnancy due to increased production of thyroid hormones associated with growth and development and fetal needs. Good sources of iodine include iodized salt, seaweed, saltwater fish, and seafood as well as cow’s milk, eggs, and meat. It is important to note that sea salt does not usually contain iodine, and while most processed foods in the United States are high in salt, it is also not iodized.

Choline: Choline is essential in pregnancy since your body cannot make it in adequate amounts to provide for both you and your baby. Like folate, it is also involved with neural tube development. It plays a role in infant brain development and learning as well as memory function. Pregnant and breastfeeding moms need extra choline which is transferred to the fetus during pregnancy and postpartum to the baby through breast milk. Good sources include: shrimp and other seafood (scallops, cod, wild salmon, sardines), poultry (chicken – especially chicken liver – and turkey), beef, pork, egg yolks, milk, peanuts, beans, collard greens, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, cauliflower and spinach.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb and retain calcium and phosphorous, promoting strong bones and teeth in your baby. It is also involved in neuromuscular and immune function. Good sources include fatty fish and fortified dairy products. Your body also makes vitamin D by producing it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight.

DHA: DHA is an essential Omega-3 fatty acid involved in the development of the brain, nervous system and retina – especially important in fetal, infant and early childhood growth. Good sources include: wild salmon, sardines, mussels, and rainbow trout.

Calcium: Although your calcium needs do not increase during pregnancy, calcium is still important for your own health and for your baby’s bones and teeth. Good sources include: milk, yogurt, collard greens, boiled black-eyed peas, and canned salmon.

Pro Tip:

  • In addition to following a healthy eating plan, take a prenatal vitamin to help ensure you are meeting your daily requirements for vitamins and minerals.

Selecting meals and snacks from the below listed options will help you choose foods that provide the key nutrients of pregnancy including iron, folic acid, iodine, choline, vitamin D, and DHA.

Breakfast

Option 1: Low-fat plain yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, and nuts or flax seed
Option 2: Toasted whole grain English muffin with cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon, onions and tomato
Option 3: Hard boiled eggs, sliced avocado, and salsa on whole grain toast
Option 4: Scrambled eggs with tomato, onion, cheddar cheese and black beans wrapped in a whole grain tortilla
Option 5: Oatmeal with chopped dried apricot, ground flax seeds and shredded coconut

Lunch

Option 1: Poached salmon topped with lemon and dill, served with green beans and brown rice tossed with slivered almonds.
Option 2: Peanut or other nut butter with a banana on whole grain wrap (wrap up and slice like sushi)
Option 3: Spinach and feta cheese omelet with whole grain toast and fruit salad on the side
Option 4: Baby spinach with tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, whole grain croutons and grilled chicken breast
Option 5: Homemade grilled chicken salad (shredded chicken, tossed with mayonnaise or plain yogurt, diced apple and walnuts) on toasted whole grain bread with side salad

Dinner

Option 1: Spinach salad tossed with mandarin oranges and ginger based dressing topped with grilled shrimp and brown rice
Option 2: Grilled salmon served with a side of kale, quinoa and avocados tossed with lemon and olive oil
Option 3: Shaved Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onions and chicken sautéed with olive oil and chicken broth, served over brown rice
Option 4: Turkey burger with cheese or avocado, smear of pesto or mustard on bed of sautéed peppers and onions with baby greens salad on side
Option 5: Sautéed chicken breast seasoned with oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice, over a whole grain pita bread topped with tzatziki sauce, chopped romaine, tomatoes, feta cheese and kalamata olives

Snacks

  • Option 1: Strawberry banana smoothie: Blend strawberries (fresh or frozen), banana and low-fat milk or milk alternative
  • Option 2: Mix of peanuts and raisins
  • Option 3: Low fat plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced fruit
  • Option 4: Guacamole with carrot sticks and cauliflower stalks
  • Option 5: Cottage cheese mixed with blueberries

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