What to Eat During First Trimester of Pregnancy


You want to eat all the right foods during those first few months of pregnancy, but nausea and food aversions may make it difficult. Luckily, you don't need to eat extra calories during the first trimester -- a blessing when you're having a hard time keeping food down -- but you should try to make sure each bite you take is filled with nutrients that benefit both you and your baby. Consult your obstetrician to discuss your specific diet needs.

Small plate of baked tofu.
Small plate of baked tofu. (Image: VeselovaElena/iStock/Getty Images)

Pregnancy Diet Basics

During the first trimester, and throughout the pregnancy, it's important to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods from all the food groups. As best you can, include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins such as fish, poultry and beans, low-fat dairy foods and healthy fats such as olive oil. Plant-based foods are the richest in nutrients and should be the focus of most of your meals, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

While you may be dealing with cravings and nausea, try to limit your intake of foods filled with added sugar and fat to limit your intake of empty calories. Additionally, to limit your exposure to mercury, you shouldn't eat any tile fish, swordfish or king mackerel throughout your pregnancy.

Small bowl filled with red beans.
Small bowl filled with red beans. (Image: tycoon751/iStock/Getty Images)

Important Nutrients

During the first trimester your baby is developing rapidly, making new cells and growing organs and limbs, which means it's very important that your diet is filled with nutrients that the baby needs to develop properly, including protein, folic acid, calcium and iron.

Protein intake during the first trimester is essential for the baby's body and brain development, and you need 75 grams to 100 grams a day, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Good sources include poultry, seafood, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Folic acid supports development of the baby's spinal cord. Fortified cereals, pastas and bread, as well as beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, can help you meet your needs.

Calcium is needed for healthy bones and the growth of the baby's heart, nerves and muscles. Milk, yogurt, fortified plant milk alternatives, tofu, leafy greens and almonds can help you meet your needs.

Iron deficiency is a common problem during pregnancy, says AND, so make sure you do your best during the first trimester to up your intake to meet needs by including rich sources such as animal meats, beans, fortified cereals and leafy greens.

Small bowl of almonds.
Small bowl of almonds. (Image: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images)

Sample Meal Plan

Energy levels may be lagging during the first trimester, so do your best to eat regularly throughout the day to supply your body with a consistent source of fuel.

A healthy breakfast during your first trimester might include a bowl of fortified whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk or plant-milk alternative and an orange. For lunch, try a bowl of bean and vegetable soup with a whole-grain roll, nonfat yogurt and grapes. Grilled salmon with quinoa, broccoli and a mixed green salad makes a healthy dinner.

Healthy snacks to keep you going and help you meet your nutrient needs include a handful of nuts, low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers, an apple with peanut butter or carrot sticks with hummus. If you're craving something sweet, try dried fruit, which is also a good source of iron, instead of candy bar.

Small plate of grilled salmon.
Small plate of grilled salmon. (Image: AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images)

First Trimester Ills

In an ideal world, you'll be able to eat all the good foods you need during this trimester for a healthy pregnancy. But due to fluctuations in hormones, that may be difficult.

To manage morning sickness, eat small meals frequently throughout the day and drink plenty of water for hydration. Sipping on ginger ale or snacking on dry saltine crackers as needed may also help.

If you're experiencing heartburn or indigestion, stay away from spicy foods or any other foods that increase your symptoms. Also, stay in an upright position for three hours following a meal to prevent reflux.

Saltine crackers on tabletop.
Saltine crackers on tabletop. (Image: MSPhotographic/iStock/Getty Images)

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