Foods to Eat During Your Third Trimester

Your baby gains weight quickly during the third trimester, and parts of their body continue to form. Eyes open, nails form, and hair grows, to name just a few of the things that go on.

With all this stuff happening, the food choices you make are very important for the health of your baby.

Where to Get the Nutrients You Need

The building blocks of your meals and snacks should be:

Within those things are vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need daily.

Vitamin A helps your baby’s bones grow. It also supports their skin and vision. Your baby’s eyes open and start to detect light in the third trimester.

You can find vitamin A in:

Vitamin C helps your body take in iron. It also helps make your baby's teeth, gums, and bones healthy. Your immune system needs it, too.

Good options for vitamin C include:

Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient for the development of red blood cells and your baby’s brain. It's in:

  • Bananas
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Organ meats, like liver and tongue
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes
  • Whole-grain cereals

Vitamin B12 keeps the nervous system strong and helps build red blood cells. You can get vitamin B12 through:

  • Beef liver
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Other meats
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fortified foods

Vegans and vegetarians need a B12 supplement, since plant foods don’t naturally have this vitamin. Talk with your doctor before you take any supplement.

Vitamin D helps you and your baby take in calcium. That helps strengthen the bones and teeth of both you and your baby. You can get it from:

Calcium forms bones and teeth, which is important during the third trimester, since your baby’s bones are getting harder. You can get calcium in:

  • Dairy products
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Fortified foods
  • Canned anchovies or sardines with the bones

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Choline helps your baby’s brain and spinal cord form. A lot of prenatal vitamins don’t have it. But you can get it from:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Peanuts
  • Potatoes
  • Soy products
  • Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower

Iron helps red blood cells give your baby oxygen. Iron is in:

  • Lean meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Nuts
  • Spinach
  • White beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Prune juice
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and breads

Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from plants and supplements.

Iodine helps form your baby’s brain. You can get iodine in:

  • Seafood
  • Dairy
  • Grain products
  • Iodized salt

Folate and folic acid help protect your baby from brain and spinal cord issues called neural tube defects. Your body also needs them to help the placenta and your baby grow. You can get them in:

  • Beef liver
  • Peanuts
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Nuts
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Enriched bread
  • Pasta
  • Flour
  • Rice
  • Cornmeal

Omega-3 fatty acids help your baby’s brain form. They're in a lot of fish. Make sure to choose low-mercury seafood like:

  • Canned light tuna
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Cod

You can eat 8-12 ounces a week, but you shouldn’t have more than 6 ounces of white (albacore) tuna every 7 days. If you eat more than that, there's a chance that too much mercury can get into your bloodstream. This could affect how your baby's brain and nervous system develop.

Other good options for omega-3s include:

  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kidney beans

Protein helps your baby grow, and it helps you and your baby's bodies make blood. You can get it from:

  • Lean meat
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Cottage cheese
  • Egg whites
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Peas
  • Soy products

Fats and oils should be 30% or less of your calories. But they do have crucial benefits. You can get energy from them, and they help your baby’s organs and the placenta grow.

Good fats and oils include:

Limit fats from things like meat and whole-milk dairy items.

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Whole grains are a good source of carbs, energy, and fiber. All of those things can ease constipation for Mom. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains that come from things like:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Whole-grain bread and cereal
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Whole-wheat pasta

In general, the amount of food you need to eat is specific to you. Women in their third trimester often need an extra 450 calories a day. You should talk to your doctor about how many calories you need and how much weight you should gain.

Your doctor can also recommend a prenatal vitamin to make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients you need.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on August 18, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Nutrition During Pregnancy.”

KidsHealth: “Eating During Pregnancy.”

Office on Women’s Health: “Pregnancy: Staying healthy and safe.”

Mayo Clinic: “Fetal development: The 3rd trimester,” “Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients,” “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart,” “Pregnancy nutrition: Healthy-eating basics,” "Pregnancy and fish: what's safe to eat?"

MyHealthfinder: “Eat Healthy During Pregnancy: Quick tips.”

National Institutes of Health: “Folate,” “Vitamin A,” “Vitamin C,” “Vitamin B6,” “Vitamin B12,” “Vitamin D,” “Calcium,” “Choline, “Iron,” “Iodine,” “Folate,” “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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