What to eat in the second trimester that will best nourish your body and promote your baby’s growth? Our guide to the best second trimester foods will help you out. Plus, learn which foods to avoid while pregnant.
During the second trimester of pregnancy (the second 13 weeks of pregnancy), you won’t have to deal with symptoms like nausea, morning sickness, and GI issues nearly as often as you did in the first trimester. You’ll probably start feeling your baby move and see your belly grow. And you might feel like you’re more settled into your pregnancy.
Since you are no longer feeling as uncomfortable as before, the second trimester is prime time to nourish your body – and your growing baby – with lots of nutritious foods. What to eat in the second trimester that will best nourish your body and support your baby? Follow our guide to second trimester eating for all the info you need.
The second trimester: How much to eat in a day?
The second trimester marks the point where you’ll start needing extra calories to accommodate your baby’s growth needs. But “eating for two” doesn’t mean doubling your calories, as your growing baby is still very small.
On average, you’ll need to eat around 340 more calories per day to support baby’s growth. This equals two servings of dairy (say, two more glasses of skim milk or two bowls of low-fat yogurt), plus one to two ounces of protein.
Best foods for the second trimester
In the second trimester, focus on eating a balanced diet, since your body is ready to handle most foods again. A balanced diet means prioritizing the following food types:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy foods
- Other protein-rich foods (lean meats, eggs, beans)
- Whole grains
Specifically, focus on eating foods that are high in the key pregnancy nutrients, to support your baby’s growth and development. We’ll cover all of the key pregnancy nutrients, and their benefits, in detail later. But here are the powerhouse foods that make the most impact during the second trimester, based on the nutrients they contain:
Dairy foods (cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt): The calcium and protein in dairy foods help fortify baby’s bones and muscles (as well as your own). And the iodine supports baby’s thyroid and brain. Choose vitamin D-enriched milk for an added nutritional bonus. Craving a snack? Enjoy some yogurt, eat a few cubes of cheese, or blend up a fruit-and-dairy smoothie.
Spinach and kale: These leafy greens are nutrient superheroes! They’re packed with essential nutrients including fiber, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, C, E and K.
Low-mercury seafood: Now that you’ve moved past the nausea stage of pregnancy, you’ll probably feel more ready for seafood. The right seafood supplies essential pregnancy nutrients, but choose wisely – you’ll also need to stick to low-mercury choices to keep baby safe. Salmon supplies omega-3s, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, Atlantic mackerel is high in both omega-3s and vitamin D, and shrimp is an iodine-rich choice. All of these choices are low in mercury. Stick to no more than 2-3 servings of low-mercury seafood per week.
Eggs: Eggs supply iron, protein, iodine, and choline, and their yolks are great sources of vitamin D. So, they support baby’s brain, muscle growth, bone growth, and more. Your body’s a lot more ready for eggs in this trimester, so get creative with veggie omelets, or make a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs and black beans!
Lean meats: All lean meats are great choices as long as they’re cooked thoroughly for safety. They’re great sources of protein and iron, as well as essential amino acids. But lean beef is notable, as it also supplies choline and vitamin B12. Sirloin steak and chuck steak are two awesome lean beef choices.
Beans and lentils: These legumes are awesome sources of protein, iron, fiber, potassium, and folate. Edamame is especially powerful because it’s packed with all those nutrients, plus calcium.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a great source of iron, protein, folate, and magnesium. It’s also super versatile – mix in fruits like strawberries or bananas, stir in plain yogurt, or even add pureed sweet potatoes or butternut squash!
Looking for more info on what to eat during the second trimester? Check out a dietitian's guide to what you should eat throughout pregnancy, from Registered Dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman at Well+Good:
Nutrients for the second trimester
There are many other food options that will help supply key pregnancy nutrients. In addition to the “best foods” we’ve singled out above, prioritize any foods that supply the following nutrients during the second trimester:
Iron: Your body makes more blood during pregnancy to supply oxygen to baby, and to aid in baby’s healthy growth. Since iron is an essential nutrient for making more blood, you’ll need about two times more iron than you needed before you were pregnant. If you don’t consume enough iron, you could be at risk for pregnancy anemia. It can be difficult to meet your iron needs with just food, so your prenatal vitamin is also key in keeping your iron intake up.
- How much is recommended: 27 mg/day
- Foods that supply it: Spinach, kale, lean beef, chicken, eggs, oatmeal, beans, lentils, and your prenatal supplement
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a “helper” nutrient during pregnancy, as it helps your body absorb that crucial iron. It also supports your immune system.
- How much is recommended: 85 mg/day
- Foods that supply it: Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes
DHA (and other omega-3 fatty acids): DHA is a vital omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy, because it may help baby have a healthy birth weight and reduce the risk for a preterm birth. But all omega-3s are valuable, as they help support your growing baby’s brain, heart, eye, and immune system development. Omega-3s may also help reduce your risk of preeclampsia and postpartum depression.
- How much is recommended: 200-300 mg/day
- Foods that supply it: Low-mercury fish (Eat 2-3 servings per week, and you’ll meet the recommended daily intake levels)
Folate: Folate is one of the most vital pregnancy nutrients because it supports the healthy growth of baby’s developing brain and spinal cord. It might also help reduce your risk for pregnancy complications. (Folate is also called folic acid or vitamin B9.)
- How much is recommended: 600 micrograms/day
- Foods that supply it: Leafy greens (like kale and spinach), beans, oatmeal, other fortified cereals, strawberries, beets, cauliflower, oranges, grapefruits, folate-enriched pasta, and your prenatal supplement
Calcium: Calcium helps your baby develop strong bones and teeth. You’re sharing your own calcium stores with baby to supply them with this nutrient. So, be sure to keep your calcium intake up. You could be at risk for osteoporosis (brittle bones) later in life if you don’t take in enough calcium while you’re pregnant.
- How much is recommended: 1,000 mg/day
- Foods that supply it: Dairy foods, spinach, kale, and other dark leafy greens
Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in all of your body systems functioning properly, so it’s super important for both you and baby. Most notably, it helps baby build strong teeth and bones, and promotes muscle and nerve function in both of you. It might also help prevent pregnancy complications such as preterm labor.
- How much is recommended: 350-360 mg/day
- Foods that supply it: Leafy greens (like kale and spinach), oatmeal, other whole grains, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, black beans, peanuts, almonds
Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your baby build strong bones and teeth. Healthy sun exposure and food both play a role in getting enough Vitamin D. But it can be tough to get the vitamin D you need, especially if you don’t live in a sunnier climate, so you might also depend on a supplement for some of your intake.
- How much is recommended: 600 IU (international units)/day
- Foods that supply it: Fortified cereal, vitamin D milk, egg yolks, cheese, salmon, Atlantic mackerel, supplements
Iodine: Iodine is one of the most vital nutrients for your baby’s growth, thyroid development, and brain development. You won’t need to take in as much iodine as the other nutrients – a little iodine goes a long way.
- How much is recommended: 220 micrograms/day
- Foods that supply it: Milk, yogurt, enriched bread, enriched pasta, shrimp, eggs
Protein: Protein encourages healthy muscle growth – for both you and baby. It also helps build baby’s brain, and promotes the healthy growth of your uterus tissue.
- How much is recommended: 75g/day
- Foods that supply it: Lean meats, cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans, lentils
Potassium: Potassium and sodium work together to maintain fluid balance in your cells. Plus, potassium helps support your muscles and promotes a healthy blood pressure.
- How much is recommended: 2,900 mg/ day
- Foods that supply it: Bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, dried apricots, beans, lentils, nuts, milk
Choline: Choline is an essential nutrient that encourages the healthy growth of baby’s brain.
- How much is recommended: 450 mg/day
- Foods that supply it: Lean beef, chicken, salmon, eggs, cauliflower, broccoli
Vitamin B12: During pregnancy, your red blood cell count increases by 20-30%. For your body to produce these red blood cells, you’ll need vitamin B12, along with iron and other B vitamins. Vitamin B12 also helps promote a healthy brain for your baby.
- How much is recommended: 2.6 micrograms/day
- Foods that supply it: Lean beef, salmon, freshwater trout, dairy foods
Are there any foods to avoid in the second trimester?
The main foods to avoid in the second trimester (and throughout pregnancy) are:
- High-mercury fish
- Any raw or undercooked meat, egg product, or seafood (including cold cuts)
- Unpasteurized foods (be especially careful to check dairy products; soft cheeses are often unpasteurized, so it’s best to stay away from them)
It’s important to note that you don’t have to avoid common allergen foods during pregnancy. Avoiding allergenic foods in pregnancy doesn't reduce baby's chances of having an allergy to those foods. So, there’s no reason to restrict your diet in the hopes of reducing baby’s food allergy risk.
The only reason to avoid an allergenic food during pregnancy is if you already have an allergy to that food.
More pregnancy nutrition tips for the second trimester
- Stay hydrated! Water helps your body deliver key nutrients to your baby. Try to drink 8 to 10 glasses per day. Pour water into a reusable water bottle or glass before you go to bed, then drink it right away in the morning. And carry a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day.
- Keep taking your prenatal vitamins. Your prenatal vitamin supplies the nutrients you and baby need to thrive, especially those that are difficult to get through food. So, be sure to take your vitamin every day.
- Try healthy comfort foods like baked sweet potato “fries” with oil and fruit-yogurt smoothies, to balance nutrition and satisfy your cravings.
- Have nutritious snacks ready. It’s important to eat whenever you’re hungry, and choosing your snacks wisely will go a long way. Some great snack choices include yogurt and fruit, whole-wheat crackers and cheese, almonds, pumpkin seeds, hummus with veggies, and a banana dipped in peanut butter.
- Remember that weight gain is healthy and normal during pregnancy. Someone who was in the “average” weight range before pregnancy will usually gain 1-2 pounds per week during the second trimester, and gain a total of 25-35 pounds over the course of their whole pregnancy.
- Don’t feel like you need to eat the perfect diet. As long as you prioritize the high-nutrient foods and take your prenatal vitamin, you’ll be in good shape. It’s fine to eat foods that fulfill your pregnancy cravings, within reason. If you’re craving healthy snacks, even better!
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