Healthy Eating in Your Third Trimester
Keep up good habits in the last stretch of your pregnancy.
You’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy — the third trimester. It’s just as important now as it was earlier in your pregnancy to have a healthy diet. Remember, you are the only source of nutrients for your baby. So it’s important to continue to choose nutritious foods for your health and the health of your baby.
Most women who are of normal weight should try to eat an average of 300 more calories a day in the last months of their pregnancy. Women who are underweight or overweight may have different calorie requirements. And women carrying multiples also may have different calorie needs. Your doctor can help you determine what is right for you.
Three hundred calories is not much additional food. Each of these food choices contains about 300 calories:
- 1 cup of raisin bran cereal with ½ cup of fat-free milk and a small banana
- 3 ounces of roasted lean chicken breast and ½ cup of sweet potatoes
- One piece of whole-wheat toast with two tablespoons of peanut butter
But remember that not all calories are equal. Aim to eat nutrient-packed foods and drinks. Eating healthy increases your chances of a healthy third trimester for you and your baby.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should continue to take your prenatal vitamin and highlight the following foods in your last trimester:
- Fiber. High-fiber foods are important to help avoid or relieve constipation. Find fiber in vegetables, whole grain cereals, whole wheat breads, brown rice, beans, fruits and nuts.
- Water is an essential nutrient. It helps circulate nutrients throughout your body. It also helps form amniotic fluid for your baby. Drinking an adequate amount of water can help prevent constipation. ACOG suggests drinking six to eight cups per day.
- Calcium. It builds healthy bones and teeth in your baby. It is important to take in enough calcium so your baby doesn’t take calcium from your bones. Dairy products, fortified breads, almonds, fortified cereals and dark, leafy vegetables are rich in calcium.
- Vitamin C. This essential vitamin is needed for a healthy immune system and for building muscles and bones. You can find vitamin C in foods such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli.
If nausea is an issue, eat several small meals. Eat regularly, though, because you need the energy at term for labor and birth.
Other smart food choices
Include foods from each food group that are packed with vitamins and nutrients. Here are some suggestions. Speak with your health care provider about what amounts are right for you.
Vegetables. Try carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. They all have vitamin A and potassium. Look for low-sodium or no-salt-added when using canned. Or rinse canned vegetables to decrease the sodium. Iron is found in some veggies and meats. It helps increase your blood volume to prevent anemia. Eating a wide assortment of vegetables will help you consume a variety of nutrients.
Fruits. Eat a variety of fruits including bananas, oranges, cantaloupes and grapefruit. Fruits can be a good source of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A.
Dairy. Dairy products contain protein, calcium and some potassium. Look for dairy fortified with vitamins A and D. Calcium helps build your baby’s bones and tooth buds. Good options include low-fat or fat-free yogurt and milk.
Grains. Aim for whole grains as much as possible. Whole grain cereals and cooked cereals are usually fortified with iron and folic acid.
Protein. Protein is the building block for your baby’s cells. It is recommended that you eat
Protein can be found in beans, nuts and seeds, which contain iron, potassium and fiber. Protein can also be found in lean meat and it provides a type of iron that is most easily absorbed. Seafood contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Pregnant women are advised to eat up to 12 ounces of seafood each week. Just avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel. The mercury content in these fish is not safe for pregnant women. Although white albacore tuna contains less mercury, pregnant women should limit it to six ounces per week.
Eat small meals more often if you experience heartburn during pregnancy. Avoid spicy and fatty foods. Try not to lie down for at least two hours after eating. It may contribute to heartburn.
Lower your risk of foodborne illness. Here are some tips:
- When preparing food, wash your hands and cooking surfaces often.
- Don’t cross-contaminate vegetables and meat.
- Cook food at the right temperature and refrigerate food promptly.
- Avoid foods that may increase your risk of foodborne infections including alfalfa sprouts and unpasteurized milk and milk products.
Also, do not drink any alcohol — no level of alcohol has been proven safe for pregnant women.
Continue to make healthy choices in your pregnancy to help you and your baby stay safe and well nourished in your last trimester. Vegetarians and women with other dietary restrictions should talk with their doctor about special requirements during this stage of their pregnancy.
By Jennifer Mitchell, Contributing Writer
For more information, please visit Optum's Health Library
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month. 6th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2015.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Pregnancy. Accessed: July 12, 2016.
United States Department of Agriculture. Health and nutrition information for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Accessed: July 12, 2016.
March of Dimes. Morning sickness. Accessed: July 12, 2016.
Last Updated: July 13, 2016
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs and to determine whether making a lifestyle change or decision based on this information is appropriate for you. Some treatments mentioned may not be covered by your health plan. Please refer to your benefit plan documents for information about coverage.