Continuing our pregnancy nutrition series, today we are talking all about what to eat in the second trimester! We’ll cover what you should be eating, how much you should be eating, and what to do about food intolerances.
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This article was written by Courtney Moore, MS RDN LD. Courtney is a registered dietitian nutritionist living in Dallas, TX with her husband and baby girl. She studied Human Nutrition, Food Science and Hospitality with a concentration in dietetics at the University of Arkansas (woo pig!) and completed her dietetic internship as well as her Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has worked in many different areas of nutrition, spending most of her years as a transplant nutrition specialist but found that her heart is in preventive medicine and wellness! As a subject matter expert, Courtney regularly contributes articles about all things food and nutrition. Take it away, Courtney!
Let’s talk second trimester! If you are entering the second trimester, this often means there is hope for the ick symptoms to being to subside. Hopefully, the nausea/vomiting – “morning sickness”, extreme fatigue, headaches, etc. will begin to subside, and hopefully, you’ll begin feeling like your old self again (with a little growing bump!). The second trimester is defined as weeks 13-27. While a lot happens every week of pregnancy, this trimester is particularly exciting, and you may see some of the biggest physical changes happen during this time. You will likely go from a tiny little bump to what feels like an ever-growing sweet baby bump!
What changes should I expect in my second trimester?
During this time, your belly will be growing and continuing to grow each week as that baby gets bigger. Also, as your body is changing and growing to make room for baby, you may begin experiencing or noticing stretch marks. While you can’t completely prevent these, you can help your body prepare but lathering it with moisture to help your skin prepare for the growth. See our pregnant belly care guide for our full recommendations! Also, you may notice that you are a little more hungry more often as your appetite is increasing.
As you are noticing all of these changes and more, your baby is experiencing major changes too. During the second trimester, your baby’s organs all become completely developed. And, towards the middle to the end of the second trimester, your baby will start to wiggle and move! Exactly when you start to feel those sweet kicks is different for all women, but by the end of the second trimester, you’ll be feeling your little one dance in your belly!
What should I be eating in my second trimester?
Moving from one trimester to another, nutrient needs don’t change dramatically. However, for many, moving into your second trimester also means being able to eat normally again. Hopefully, you are able to eat a little more variety as the nausea subsides and you perhaps have a little more energy to cook.
If you’ve been able to eat balanced meals with a little bit of protein, fat, and carbs with all of your meals- keep it up! If not, as you start feeling better, slowly try to eat meals with all 3 macros—focusing on great protein, nutrient-dense fats and fiber-rich carbohydrates.
There are also some specific nutrients you should consider focusing in on – calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Calcium: Calcium helps build the baby’s bones and teeth as well as helping in the development of the baby’s musculoskeletal, nervous and circulatory system. Fun fact: calcium absorption in your intestines doubles during pregnancy, making it more bioavailable to you for absorption(1)! With this, make sure you are consuming the complementary nutrients (vitamin D, Vit K2, Mag) as well to help with absorption. If you consume dairy products, it will be easier to make sure you’re hitting your needs. Non-dairy consumers can do it, but may just need to be more intentional about the additional foods they consume. Great sources of calcium include:
- All things dairy – yogurt, cheese, milk. Best if it is full-fat, grass-fed
- Leafy Greens, including kale, collards, spinach
- Fatty fish like sardines and salmon
- Nuts and seeds, especially almonds and chia seeds
- Magnesium: Magnesium works in conjunction with calcium to increase absorption and helps build healthy bones and nervous system for baby. Magnesium deficiency is actually somewhat common for the general public, and often more common during pregnancy (1). For you mommas, magnesium can help prevent or ease muscle cramping and helps promote relaxation. Below are a few great sources of calcium:
- Green leafy veggies
- Almonds and cashews
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate / unsweetened cocoa powder
- Epsom salt baths – you can actually absorb magnesium through the skin with Epsom salt baths (Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate) (1)
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D also helps in bone and skeletal development for babies in utero. It also is important for your health as a mom- low vitamin D levels have been associated with an increased risk for preeclampsia, low infant birth weight, and gestational diabetes (1). Good sources of vitamin D include:
- Depending on where you live (exposure/closeness to the sun), a little bit of sunshine each day may be the best. It is often hard to get all of our vitamin D from the sun due to us being covered up with clothes, sunscreen, being indoors, cold, cloudy weather, etc.
- Fortified foods
- Supplementation is also a great option for vitamin D as it is hard for some of us to get adequate amounts or if we are deficient, almost impossible for us to get to an adequate amount with food and/or sunshine alone.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are made up of EPA and DHA. DHA is specifically important to the developing baby as it plays a critical role in his or her brain development and protects again inflammation and damage. Good sources of Omega-3 Fatty acids include:
- Salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout (goal of 2-3x/week)
- Pasture-raised eggs
How much should I eat during my second trimester?
If you’re still feeling crummy and cannot tolerate anything, hang in there. However, for many of us, at some point in the second trimester, we begin to feel better and can actually think about diversifying our diet and loading up on the nutrient-dense foods. Variety, color, and meals that balance all 3 macronutrients is the goal for the days and weeks ahead, focusing on nourishing that growing little babe. If you are hungrier than usual, listen to that. Do not cut back, restrict or worry. At no point in pregnancy should you deny yourself nourishment. Your appetite may increase at a different pace than your friend’s or sister’s did. Try not to compare your pregnancy to anyone else’s experience or even a previous experience you may have had with another child. Each pregnancy can be so different and taking care of our bodies and our growing babies are the priority. If your appetite isn’t revving, try to listen to your body. The whole idea of “eating for two” isn’t necessarily accurate, especially for the second trimester. But, hear us say it again – if you are hungry, eat! Choose nutrient-dense foods when you are eating your meals or adding snacks.
What should I do about food intolerances during pregnancy?
Often times during pregnancy, women are able to tolerate foods they couldn’t in the past! For example, many women have reported being able to reincorporate dairy products in their diet during pregnancies. This can be super helpful and a great way to include a more diverse range of nutrients in your diet, not to mention indulge in some foods that were previously off-limits for you! If you typically don’t tolerate dairy, it may be worth trying. Just make sure that you start with a small amount, about half a normal serving size, and work your way up from there to find your limit.
However, it is important to note that this does not include food allergies. If you have a true food allergy and/or a chance of an anaphylactic reaction, you will need to be just as diligent as you normally are about staying away from any allergy-inducing foods. Intolerances refer to foods that cause more benign symptoms, such as stomach upset or headaches.
The second trimester is often known as the “best weeks of pregnancy” as for many people you’re feeling better and your baby is growing but your growing belly often isn’t getting in the way too much or causing discomfort. Continue to embrace wherever you are in the pregnancy journey and try to enjoy the ride!
- Nichols, Lily. Real Food for Pregnancy: the Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition. Lily Nichols, 2018.
- Wilson, Debra Rose. “The Second Trimester of Pregnancy.” Healthline, Healthline Media, Nov. 2014, www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/second-trimester.
- Healthline Editorial Team, and Debra Sullivan. “Eating Well in Your Second Trimester.” Healthline, 2018, www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/second-trimester-diet-nutrition.
- “Where to Get Calcium Naturally during Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association, 23 Sept. 2019, americanpregnancy.org/naturally/where-to-get-calcium-naturally-during-pregnancy/.