Healthy Pregnancy

The 7 Most Important Nutrients To Eat During Pregnancy, According to a Top Dietitian

Emily Laurence

Food can be… confusing. Should you be avoiding gluten at all costs? Gobbling up avocados as fast as humanly possible? Well+Good's nutrition experts are setting the story straight when it comes to food, cutting through the hype and hand-wringing and getting you the most comprehensive information on what you should (and maybe shouldn't) put in that body of yours. See All

Pregnancy inherently involves a lot of change for people. All of a sudden, you have to baby-proof your house, nix half of your favorite skin-care products, spend sleepless nights thinking about what college tuition will be like in 2038…the list goes on. There are so many new things to keep in mind, particularly on the nutrition front.

While we can’t help you save for your kid’s future education, we can at least help you out on the food front. In the latest episode of You Versus Food, host Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, shares a run-down of the most important nutrients during pregnancy for each trimester. (Beckerman herself just had a baby, so the topic has definitely been top of mind for her.)

“As your body and baby grow, you will need to increase your total intake of food and be a little more conscious of the foods you’re eating,” Beckerman says in the video. She emphasizes that it’s important to eat a balanced diet of complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein to keep you and your baby strong—just like when you aren’t pregnant.

That said, there are some specific nutrient needs unique to pregnancy that are important to consider. In the first trimester, she says folate (or folic acid) and DHA are two biggies to prioritize. She explains that folate, which can be found in foods including spinach, lentils, and fortified cereal, plays a major role in DNA replication and cell growth. (Its cousin, folic acid, is the stuff you’ll find in supplements.)

Beckerman says that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is incorporated into nearly every nerve cell in the body and is needed to support the baby’s nervous system development. The primary source for DHA is fish, but Beckerman says you still don’t want to eat fish every day; limit it to four times a week to avoid eating too much mercury. “If you don’t love fish, algae oil works or opt for omega-3 fortified eggs,” she says.

However, nutrition is important throughout pregnancy, not just during the first trimester. Watch the video above to see what nutrients to prioritize in the second and third trimesters, including the surprising food that’s full of iron. Having this advice gives food baby a whole new meaning.

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