Eating Right- Trimester 2

The second trimester is the period spanning about 13-26 weeks. During this stage, your baby  grows to the size of around 35cm! It is therefore important to ensure that your baby receives an adequate amount of nutrients to help in his/her growth and development.


During the second trimester, pregnant women require about 70-100g/day of protein. Protein is required for tissue growth and development of your baby, as well as for energy. Lack of adequate protein can lead to inadequate tissue development and growth in the baby as he/she is at their optimal growing phase. Protein-rich foods should be consumed at least twice a day. Here is a guide as to how much protein each of these foods give you so that you can have an idea of how to plan your meals ensuring that you get enough protein to help baby grow.

  • 1 cup cooked kidney beans = 17g
  • 1 cup cooked white beans = 17g
  • ½ cup (99g) boiled lentils = 8.9g
  • 1 cup (237ml) slim milk = 8.3g
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg = 6.3g
  • 86g boneless, skinless, grilled chicken breast = 26g
  • 85g canned pink salmon with bones = 16.8g


A lot of negativity is usually centralized around fats but they are also essential in providing necessary energy and they constitute 25-30% of the daily calorie intake. This however, applies to the ‘good’ fats. Healthy fats such as unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids help lower your lipid/cholesterol levels and provide essential nutrients for your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. Oily fish, such as, salmon, trout, herring and sardines are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and should be consumed at 340g/week. Raw seafood and most types of fish contain methylmercury but some types contain more than others such as shark and swordfish. These should therefore be avoided. In high doses, methylmecury damages the developing nervous system of the unborn baby causing Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida, anencephaly and encephalocele.


There is no additional increase in energy requirements at this stage from the first trimester, hence calorie requirements remain the same. Your diet should comprise 40-50% carbohydrates of the daily calorie intake. Carbohydrates are the primary sources of energy required by our bodies and should be consumed in sufficient amounts but not to excess. Excess carbohydrates result in the excess being stored as fat under the belly making the baby weight a little harder to drop after the baby is born. Starchy whole grains, such as potatoes, brown rice, wild rice, pasta, bread and maize provide essential carbohydrates and also help to prevent constipation which is a common problem at this stage in your pregnancy as your growing baby puts pressure on your intestines. 6 servings of grains are required everyday and 15g of carbs are equal to 1 serving.

Folate (folic acid/ vitamin B9)

Five portions of fruits and vegetables a day will improve folic acid and iron intake as requirements are now slightly raised. Spinach and citrus fruits are high in folic acid which is required at around 600 micrograms/day. In the first trimester, folic acid helps in neural tube (brain and spinal cord) development. During the second trimester it aids in the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen to the baby. Go for breakfast cereals that are fortified with folic acid. This is indicated on the nutritional label usually found at the back or the side of the box or on the list of ingredients.

  • ½ cup cooked spinach = 100mcg
  • ¾ cup orange juice = 35mcg
  • 1 small orange = 30 mcg
  • 1 large grapefruit = 30mcg
  • 1 medium banana uncooked = 20 mcg
  • ½ cup sliced avocado = 45mcg

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and Vitamin D daily requirements do not differ between the first and second trimester. Calcium is required at about 1 000mg/day, while vitamin D is required at around 200 IU (International Units)/day. I refer you to Eating Right- Trimester 1 for more information…


Iron is needed for the formation of red blood cells. About 27mg of iron is required per day. However, if you happen to be anemic before pregnancy, you will require much more iron and if you have too much iron at the start of pregnancy you will require less. A deficiency in iron can lead to a low blood cell count and results in not enough blood circulating around the body. The blood is the means by which the nutrients you consume are delivered to the baby via the placenta. Therefore, a low blood count means that your baby will not receive adequate nutrients. Iron is especially required for your growing baby and placenta in the second and third trimesters. Iron deficiency in pregnancy is associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight and infant mortality (death).

Sources of iron include chicken, broccoli, beetroot, raisins, iron fortified cereals, dried fruits and spinach. Lean beef is also a good source of iron, but it needs to be thoroughly cooked. However, the iron found in vegetables is non-heme iron which is not as well absorbed as heme iron found in meat sources. Iron supplements might be required, depending on what your ob-gyn advises.

  • ½ cup boiled, drained spinach = 3mg
  • 1 cup canned white beans = 8mg
  • ½ cup boiled, drained broccoli = 1mg
  • 85g roasted lean beef tenderloin = 2.6mg
  • 85g roasted dark turkey = 0.9mg
  • 1 serving breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the DV (daily value) for iron = 18mg


It is also important to stay hydrated during pregnancy. One of the major causes of premature contractions is dehydration. Drink about 2.5L of water daily, throughout the day. Drinking too much water in one go may result in water intoxication so drink it at intervals.

Stay Away From

  • alcohol as it causes low birth weight, emotional and learning difficulties in the child.
  • soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk as they carry bacteria called Listeria and cause Listeriosis which is deadly for unborn babies.
  • raw/under cooked food as it may contain salmonella which may cause miscarriage or premature delivery.
  • fish that contains mercury- as mentioned above.
  • liver contains high amounts of Retinol/Vitamin A and too much of this nutrient can cause birth defects in a developing baby. Although liver is more harmful in the first few months of pregnancy, it is better to be safe and opt for other sources of Vitamin A such as fruits of vegetables. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove bacteria.

*Remember, small frequent meals are encouraged as opposed to large and infrequent ones.

Happy Eating


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