Some things are just common knowledge when it comes to nutrition and pregnancy, like the fact that you can’t eat sushi or drink alcohol while you’re expecting. And it’s safe to assume that most people know you should increase your calories by up to 300 per day – and that you should be eating as healthy and clean as possible.
One piece of vital information that I was never supplied with (by my doctors, maternity classes, online resources or books) is the importance of increasing my protein intake, especially in the second trimester.
Why is getting more protein in the second trimester so important?
It wasn’t until I met my naturopath a couple months ago that she explained to me the importance of DOUBLING my protein in my then-upcoming second trimester:
Protein is important because it provides the amino acids (building blocks) for cellular development for the baby, which is essential during the second trimester. Development during this stage includes baby’s hormonal systems, growth factors, metabolism, as well as sexual development to name a few.
I’ve heard the term “building block” as it relates to protein before. Why is it called that? Because protein is vital in the development (“building”), function and repair of the body’s tissue and organs. And in the second trimester, baby is growing at a faster rate, gaining around 2 pounds and typically tripling in length (bottom to head). Also, organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs and heart are all in a time of rapid development during this stage of pregnancy.
Protein is a vital building block your body uses to create skin, muscle, hair, and bones. In the second trimester, muscle tissue keeps developing and bones become harder. Real hair is growing on their wrinkled, pinkish skin and fingernails are forming. Also, baby’s immune system is developing rapidly at this time, a function supported and relied upon strongly by proteins.
All that being said, it makes sense that we make it a priority to get enough protein throughout pregnancy for the health of our babies’ development.
My ND recommends 60-100 grams of protein a day, over the course of the day. The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 70 grams per day and the American Pregnancy Association suggests 75-100 grams be consumed in a day. And this is if you are pregnant with one baby.
A protein-rich diet
It is best to get your protein from a variety of sources, because different foods are rich in different amino acids (from protein).
I start every day with a protein shake. Below is the recipe I follow. It’s super high in protein (35g) and low in sugar.
My PROTEIN-PACKED BREAKFAST SHAKE Recipe
Almond milk – 1 1/2 cups (plus I add some water)
Protein powder (organic, vegan, gluten free) – 2 scoops
Collagen protein – 1 scoop (skip this if vegan)
Nutzo butter – 1 Tbsp (obsessed with this nut butter!!)
Spinach – handful
Frozen blueberries – handful
Omega 3D – 1 Tbsp
3-4 drops of Stevia (or some banana) for added sweetness
(+ some other vitamins and minerals I’m deficient in)
It feels great to start my day with a healthy serving of the protein (not to mention healthy fats, and other nutrients) that my body – and baby – require.
Some of my go-to protein rich snacks include:
- OATMEGA Bars – 14 g protein per bar (non-gmo, low sugar, high in Omega 3s, gluten free and comes in four flavors, my favorite is the Vanilla Almond)
- Warrior Bars – 14 g lean protein per bar, gluten-free
- Almond Butter Perfect Bars – 13 g protein per bar, organic ingredients
- Protein balls – various recipes
- Organic cheese sticks
- Mary’s Nut crackers (organic) and organic sprouted hummus
- Hard boiled eggs
- Full fat organic yogurt
- Trilogy butter – raw, organic, 9 g protein
Protein-rich meals that have been on rotation in my house lately:
- Zoodles w/ organic ground turkey or turkey meatballs
- Chicken Burgers on butter lettuce
- Soups and stews made with bone broth
- Organic, nitrate free hot dogs (pregnancy craving!)
- Wild Salmon (limited) with veggies and brown rice
- Chicken fajitas with black beans and rice tortillas (or on lettuce)
- Big green salads with lots of nuts and seeds added
Is this new news to anyone else? It’s shocking that during neither of my pregnancies, my OBGYN didn’t make a point to go over nutrition in detail with me. If you know someone who is pregnant, please feel free to share.
And let me know in the comments below what your favorite protein snacks include!