What to Eat During First Trimester of Pregnancy

During your first trimester of pregnancy, you don't need more food--only about 200 to 300 additional calories per day. What you do need are plenty of extra vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and protein. So unless your doctor tells you otherwise, try not to count calories. Instead, focus on what goes into those calories, and make sure they're the healthiest for you and your baby.

  1. Considerations

    • In the first trimester, your baby's brain and other major organs are developing. That's a lot of work for both of you. Because you may not feel much like eating, look for foods that pack the most nutritional punch into every bite. You'll want to eat more whole grain pastas and green leafy vegetables that are high in complex carbohydrates and less of those sugary, starchy foods that are loaded with simple carbs. Stick with lean meats, chicken, certain kinds of fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (such as kidney beans).

    Everyday Eating

    • If it all seems too complicated, talk to your doctor to develop a meal plan that works for you. In the meantime, The March of Dimes recommends the following food servings per day for pregnant women:
      Grains: 6 ounces per day (1 ounce of grains is equal to 1 slice of bread)
      Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups per day
      Fruits: 1 1/2- 2 cups per day
      Milk products: 3 cups per day
      Protein: 5 - 5 1/2 ounces per day

    Vitamins and Minerals

    • During the first trimester, folic acid and zinc are particularly important nutrients, so be sure you're getting plenty of sources of each every day. You can work folic acid into your diet by eating lots of green leafy vegetables, such as spinach; legumes, such as kidney beans; and organ meats, such as liver. Good sources of the trace mineral zinc include meats, liver, certain kinds of shellfish, milk, whole grains, and wheat germ.

      Calcium is important throughout your pregnancy, so make sure you get enough in low-fat dairy sources such as milk and yogurt. If you can't tolerate dairy, good sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, and certain calcium-fortified soy beverages. (Check the labels to be sure.)

    Vitamin Supplements

    • If you're not getting enough vitamins in your diet--and it's not always easy--you should take a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement. Your obstetrician can recommend the right one for you. If you're already taking a vitamin supplement, be sure to tell your doctor, as too many vitamins can be harmful to your baby.


    • In general, stay away from highly processed, sugary, or fatty foods. For more specific foods to avoid, the Mayo Clinic publishes a list that includes uncooked fish such as sushi. Other fish to avoid--even cooked--include swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. They contain high levels of mercury that can potentially harm your baby's nervous system. Make sure that any food you eat containing eggs, meat, fish, or shellfish is completely cooked, and always avoid unpasteurized cheese and juices.


    • First trimester heartburn and constipation are common ailments. Drinking six to eight 8 ounce glasses of water can help. Stay away from caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, and soda.


    • It's very common to experience nausea during the first trimester. In fact, many women have trouble keeping anything down. According to the authors of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," try eating smaller meals more frequently throughout your day, and eat only what you can tolerate, even if that means eating the same thing every day.

    Physician Visits

    • You can find lots of pregnancy nutrition information on the Internet and in books, but nothing beats seeing your doctor to get the best prenatal care possible.

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