During the third and final trimester of your pregnancy, your baby grows quickly. His eyes, bones, organs, brain and lungs are developing and his nutritional needs are increasing. In addition to his rapid growth, your body is preparing to give birth. A healthy diet, packed with nutritious foods, is just as important now as it was during the first two trimesters of your pregnancy.
Eating a well-balanced diet is the cornerstone of good nutrition during the third trimester, according to Elizabeth M. Ward, registered dietician and author of “Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During & After Pregnancy.” Mothers-to-be should focus on eating whole grain bread and cereal products, a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. Although your obstetrician will probably recommend a prenatal multivitamin, most of your nutrients will come from the foods you eat.
Extra Nutritional Needs
In addition to your basic diet needs, during the third trimester, your infant’s rapid brain development will benefit from eating foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids and choline, Ward advises. Rapid bone growth makes calcium a vital nutrient at this time, as well. Fish, including salmon, mackerel, tuna and shellfish are good sources of iron and Omega-3 fats. Low-fat milk, cottage cheese and yogurt provide additional calcium.
During your entire pregnancy, you should gain between 25 and 35 lbs, according to MyPyramid, the USDA's nutritional guideline program. During the third trimester, you will gain weight more quickly than you did earlier in your pregnancy. Ward recommends increasing your pre-pregnancy caloric intake by 450 calories daily. For example, if you consumed 1,500 calories before you got pregnant, a reasonable caloric intake now would be 1,950 calories per day.
Food Groups and Servings
MyPyramid provides serving suggestions from each food group for women in their third trimester. Eat at least 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of vegetables, and 8 oz. of whole grain bread products. You’ll need 6.5 oz. of protein from lean meat, poultry, seafood, beans, nuts or eggs every day and at least 3 cups of low-fat milk or yogurt.
During the third trimester, you may experience heartburn. Ward suggests eating five or six mini-meals to reduce acid indigestion. You may also be more comfortable if you eliminate spicy and fatty foods from your diet.
Merck Manuals suggests putting away the saltshaker. Excess salt in the diet may lead to ankle swelling and water retention.
Some women experience an aversion to certain foods during pregnancy. If you find meat distasteful, get adequate protein from soy meat-replacement products. It may be easier to eat mild-tasting vegetables, such as mashed potatoes or green beans now. Try waiting until your food cools, if you experience strong food aversions. Warm food produces more aroma, which can trigger nausea. Try a fruit smoothie if you can’t stomach the idea of drinking plain milk.