Eating during pregnancy should evolve throughout the three trimesters, as your body’s needs and your baby’s needs change. In your first trimester you are mostly aiming at keeping food down, whereas in your third trimester your metabolism increases, conveniently increasing your appetite for much needed extra nutrients. In the third trimester, the recommended weight gain is generally around 1 pound per week, though everyone is different and this varies. In order to gain this weight, an additional 200-450 calories should be consumed each day.
In order to fulfill your hunger and get sufficient nutrients you may need to alter your meal pattern and eat smaller, more frequent meals, particularly if you have acid reflux (a common 3rd trimester problem) and or if you have a tendency to feel full halfway through your meal (explained by the fact that your uterus is pressing on your stomach).
By this point your baby has the most taste buds that she will ever have, meaning that she can taste the foods you eat. This is another reason to have a varied diet – get her taste buds ready to be a gourmet eater! A balanced, varied diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein remains in order with particular attention to the following nutrients:
Iron : due to an increase in blood volume, red blood cells increase 30% during pregnancy. On top of eating iron rich foods, it’s recommended that women take 30 mg of iron per day in supplement form starting in their second trimester. Remember to combine iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods (i.e. red meat with fresh peppers) and avoid eating calcium-rich foods with iron as the absorption of both will be compromised.
Folic acid: this remains important throughout pregnancy. Natural sources are found in green vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Calcium needs are at its peak in the third trimester when fetal bones are mineralizing at a high rate. Your body is amazing in that it adjusts to this by increasing its calcium absorption. Women should not limit themselves to dairy, which can be hard to digest and acidifying, to meet their calcium needs. Instead, focus on other good sources of calcium which include sardines, canned salmon with bones, sesame seeds, almonds and dark green vegetables. As mentionned above, calcium’s absorbtion is compromised by iron supplements, make sure to take this supplement away from a calcium-rich snack or meal.
Vitamin C: a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is capable of meeting your vitamin C requirements. A few good options include: bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, orange, broccoli, bruxel sprouts.
The need for Protein is at an all-time high in this stage due to protein tissue augmentation. As high blood pressure and related issues are common in this stage of pregnancy, protein needs to be varied and not only sourced from animals. Legumes are an excellent protein choice as they also contain precious fiber helping prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. They also contain important minerals for pregnancy health such as folate, calcium, iron and zinc. Try lentil dishes, and bean dips as well as incorporating them into salads and soups. Fish is also an excellent choice as it is easy to digest and contains those precious omega 3 oils.
Fats: Essential fatty acids, such as those found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds as well as in fish for are important for the baby’s brain development as it consists of 60% fat. Like in all stages of pregnancy, trans-fats must be avoided and saturated fats minimized.
Water: drinking more water is essential for facilitating elimination, digestion, and keeping your mood up.
Remember that the third trimester is also about gathering your strength for your marathon event – the delivery and care of your newborn! This is why it’s so important to have proper nutrition as well as lots of rest, relaxation and exercise in your final stretch, as fit and healthy mothers generally have quicker, easier births as well as a faster recuperation.