March 18, 2016
GrowBaby's Quick Lifestyle Guide for a Healthy Pregnancy
Getty Images

Emily Rydbom, CN, HN, CNP

A developing baby depends solely on the transfer of nutrients from the mother. These nutritional building blocks help maximize brain development, growth of all organs, and develop the integrity of your baby’s immune system. The quality and the quantity of nutrition that you eat, the pollutants, drugs and infections that your body is exposed to during fetal development, and the stress level and state of mind that you adopt while pregnant are all factors that shape your baby, your life, the lives of your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. That’s right, not only can you grow a healthy child, but you can also optimize the health of your family for three generations. Balance in your lifestyle choices can bring vital health to your pregnancy. You are a powerful woman who has the ability to impact world health. Not bad for waking up nauseous and tired!

Before we continue take a moment, breathe in deeply, and realize that what you are doing is miraculous.

We believe in you.

Guideline for Healthy Weight Management in Pregnancy**

**All weight gain is listed as guidelines and averages. They do not take into account the individual woman. Remember that as you move through your pregnancy. You are 1 of 1. The picture of your health will be balanced and right for you.

BMI Weight Gain
Underweight (<19) 28-40 lbs
Healthy (19-24.9) 25-35 lbs
Overweight (25-29.9) 10-20 lbs
Obese (>30) Maintenance




Caloric Needs by Trimester

Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of resting energy your body uses in 24 hours.  Click here to find out  your metabolic rate.  


Trimester Additional Calories
1st Basal Metabolic Rate + None
2nd Basal Metabolic Rate + 300 k/cal
3rd Basal Metabolic Rate + 350 k/cal
4th trimester**Breastfeeding needs Basal Metabolic Rate + 300-500 k/cal

First Trimester

In the first trimester of pregnancy by week 6, your baby has a beating heart. By the 10th week of pregnancy you will have created all of the organs your child will have for the rest of their life. During the first 13 weeks, it is common to feel nauseous, fatigued, and moody. Don’t worry, all those symptoms are perfectly normal, and you will not have to eat more now than if you weren’t pregnant. It’s often hard to eat in the first trimester because of nausea. Focus on small and frequent snacks/meals that are protein rich (nuts and seeds, legumes, dairy, and lean animal) and always pair a carbohydrate with a healthy fat or lean protein. It is easy to mistake nausea with hunger and thirst. Try adding lemon, lime, mint, or ginger to your water or hot tea. These are natural ways to manage nausea. Adding magnesium rich foods can help as well: pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, and chocolate.

iStock_000058527238_Medium copy

Second Trimester 

In the 2nd trimester your baby is laying down new bone. Bone building nutrients are a focus in the 2nd trimester. Most of us know the role that calcium plays in strong bones, but did you also know that bones rely on vitamins A, D, and K, as well as the minerals boron, molybdenum, manganese, and magnesium? Focus on colorful fruits and vegetables daily to consume all of these cofactors. The goal is at least 1 food from each color daily: blue/purple, red, orange, yellow, white/tan, and green. The easiest way to achieve this goal is to make a daily smoothie loaded with fruits and veggies. Spinach is the mildest green vegetable to hide in a smoothie. Try a couple big handfuls, you’ll never know it is there!

iStock_000058527238_Medium copy 2

Third Trimester

Did you know that your baby’s brain grows by 260% in the 3rd trimester alone? Now that’s brain power! Focus on brain building nutrients in weeks 28-40 to help maximize cerebral development: protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins. All your healthy eating is starting to pay off. Even if you can’t see your baby eating, they are swallowing amniotic fluid daily and with it comes all the flavors of the foods you have been eating. Recent studies show that you can influence the palette of your child starting in utero. By choosing foods that have strong and complex flavors such as herbs and spices, and colorful fruits and vegetables, you can prime your baby to enjoy diverse flavors before food introduction.

iStock_000058527238_Medium copy 3

Top Nutrients and Where to Find Them

Protein—promotes cell growth and blood production. Protein is a long-lasting fuel source for your body as your energy requirements are in high demand. Found in lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu, and tempeh.

Carbohydrates—your body’s #1 fuel source. Found in whole grains, non-starchy and starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, and dairy/dairy alternatives.

Healthy Fat—promotes healthy hair, skin, eye, nail, and membrane development and is a key part of your body’s energy stores. Found in olive oil, olives, avocado, coconut oil, sunflower oil, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, seafood, and meat.

Vitamin A—an antioxidant and fat-soluble vitamin that helps create skin, eye, brain, and bone health, and fights off viral infections. Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, bell peppers, parsley, Swiss chard, and collard greens.

Vitamin C—an antioxidant and water-soluble vitamin that works in harmony with iron in your body. Vitamin C is also a co-factor in the production of L-carnitine. Vitamin C helps with muscle cramps, constipation, and is a key in collagen—daily Vitamin C helps your stretching skin and decreases the risk of perineum tears at delivery. Found in red bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries, parsley, broccoli, and citrus.

Vitamin D (a common deficiency)—promotes a strong immune system, regulates insulin and blood sugar, lowers the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy, reduces the risk of asthma and wheezing in your baby, increases the birth weight for your baby, and decreases the risk of postpartum depression. Found from the SUN! 20 minutes of a pinking dose of sunshine daily yields 20,000 IUs of vitamin D. Food sources include: egg yolks, sardines, cod, shrimp, and dairy products.

B Vitamins (associated with a common genetic variant)—B6, B12, and Folate+all the rest—these water-soluble vitamins play their biggest role in cerebral development and decreasing the risk of neural tube defects. The neural tube opens and closes in the 1st 4 weeks of pregnancy. Taking B vitamins prior to conception is the best way to optimize cerebral health. B vitamins are energy producers, red blood cell formers, nervous system health regulators, mood improvers, and sleep givers. We like them. Found in nutritional yeast, bananas, pork, green leafy veggies, legumes, yellow fruits and veggies, whole grains, and nuts and seeds.

L-Carnitine (a common deficiency)—an amino acid that plays a crucial role in decreasing the risk of gestational diabetes. It is a big energy giver as well. Focus on this nutrient especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Found in red meat and pork, avocado, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, and parsley.

Calcium—strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction, and nerve function. Take calcium apart from iron as they bind in the body. Found in dark green leafy vegetables, rosemary, yogurt, kefir, milk, salmon, and sardines.

Iron (a common deficiency)—crucial for red blood cell production, energy production, brain health, myelination (fatty coating on all neurons for better neuronal function), and energy production. Found in lean red meat, spinach, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, tofu, Swiss chard, and edamame (soy beans).

Zinc (a common deficiency)—a mineral that helps balance blood sugar, is an immune system regulator, supports optimal sense of taste and smell, is crucial in wound healing, and helps you make prolactin: the hormone that helps you produce breastmilk. Found in crimini mushrooms, spinach, beef, lamb, summer squash, and calf’s liver.

Probiotics—friendly bacteria that colonize in your gut to help boost your immune system health. 80% of your immune system comes from your gut lining. Probiotics help protect you and your child from infection, improve digestion and absorption of nutrients, and decrease the risk of allergies in your child. Found in kefir, yogurt, kimchi (fermented vegetables), sauerkraut, tempeh and natto (fermented soy beans), and miso (soy paste).

Do not worry if you cannot eat all of these top foods daily. We don’t expect anyone to be perfect. The goal is consistency; that’s what real perfection looks like. Besides, there’s a reason why prenatal vitamins are a key part to a healthy pregnancy. They help build the bridge between food choices and daily food intake. However, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Look for a prenatal that contains iron, B vitamins (including methylfolate), probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and a complete multivitamin with minerals. You can check out our preGenesis prenatal if you're looking for a high quality supplement!

Ethnic pregnant mother doing yoga with her young toddler

Quick Guide to Lifestyle Balance


Stress Management: A crucial part of managing food cravings, mood, and blood sugar during pregnancy. 20-30 minutes a day (it doesn’t have to be all at once) of breathing, singing, journaling, prayer, gratitude, meditation, or mindfulness practice.
Sleep Hygiene: A routine that is calming and consistent at bedtime will do wonders for your daily recovery. 11P-4A is the height of your cell repair and liver detox. Sleeping a quality 8 hours a night without phones, computers, or tablet lights to disrupt your REM sleep. Aim for consistent sleep and wake times.
Movement: Nature’s #1 antidepressant, daily movement can help balance mood and gain better sleep, it also regulates healthy weight management. 20-30 minutes a day, 5-7 days a week. Choose exercise that rejuvenates you such as running, walking, hiking, yoga, swimming, and light weight lifting.
Relationships: Studies show that positive social relationships are directly associated with mental health, physical health, health habits, and longevity. Daily check-ins and connection with your family, friends, church, school, groups, teams, and colleagues have a profound impact on your health.

If you’re interested in knowing more about what your individual needs for a healthy pregnancy, you can visit GrowBaby’s website, where you can download our nutritional app that helps you track your food choices to optimize the health of your child. Visit our Facebook page  where you will join a community of thousands of women who want empowered, scientifically sound education about pregnancy and motherhood. Thank you for joining us! Have a happy and healthy pregnancy!