Foods To Eat in the Second Trimester - Baby Chick
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Foods To Eat in the Second Trimester

Find out what foods you should eat during the second trimester and view an easy recipe for overnight protein-powered oats with berries.

Updated June 11, 2024

by Dr. Nicole Avena, Ph. D.

Associate Professor of Neuroscience
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Women often say the second trimester is the easiest of the three. The nausea and vomiting, the food aversions, the mood fluctuations, the lack of energy, and all the other not-so-great aspects of pregnancy you may have gone through in the first three months come to an end.6 (Or they’re fading and will end soon.)

At this point, you’ve also had some time to adapt to the changes your body is going through. Your belly will now start expanding at a much faster pace.7 Your hormones will likely give you a sense of happiness and energy and make you feel more like yourself than you did in the first three months.6 You’re also most likely to experience that “pregnancy glow” during the second trimester.8 This makes it a perfect time to start planning the baby’s room, celebrate with a baby shower, make arrangements at work for maternity leave, take a vacation (who wouldn’t love a babymoon?), and — most importantly — focus on superb nutrition. There are some specific foods you should eat during the second trimester to benefit both the baby and yourself.

Which Foods To Eat During the Second Trimester

Although you didn’t need additional calories to support your developing baby in the first trimester, you need some extra energy now.9 Your baby’s growth is about to take off!10 However, you don’t need to eat for two (contrary to that old saying).11 Throughout this trimester, you need roughly 340 calories a day in addition to your regular daily calorie intake.1 These extra calories will help provide the extra nutrients your growing baby and body need in the second trimester.

Wondering what foods you should eat during the second trimester? Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Get Your Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 containing foods

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that some people (about 6% of the population) are deficient in.2 The lack of these vitamins is detrimental to fertility.12 Also, research shows a link between low maternal vitamin B12 during pregnancy and insulin resistance in children at age 6, highlighting the importance of adequate nutrient intake for your baby’s short- and long-term health.3 Excellent sources of B12 include meat, fish (such as cod or salmon), dairy products (milk and cheese), and eggs.13

2. Maintain Your Zinc Intake

Foods High in Zinc on the table.

Consuming enough zinc during pregnancy is essential due to its critical role in cell and protein development and DNA synthesis. Research has linked low zinc levels to the development of gestational diabetes.4 Good sources of zinc include fortified breakfast cereals, lamb, ground beef, turkey, Alaskan king crab, tofu, and pumpkin seeds.14

3. Eat Peppers as a Midday Snack!

Pregnant woman with insuline pump preparing healthy food in the kitchen

Peppers are very low in calories and high in fiber, serving as a great snack throughout the day.15 They’re packed with many vitamins and minerals that aid in suppressing inflammation during pregnancy.16 Some of these compounds are beta-carotene, lutein, flavonoids, and lycopene.17 Additionally, the consumption of peppers alongside an iron-rich food can help with the absorption of that nonheme iron.18 You can incorporate peppers into salads, omelets, and other main dishes and serve them as a snack with hummus or another nutrient-filled dip!

4. Fill up on Fruits

It has to be healthy for the baby. Pregnant woman in kitchen. Close up. Focus on hands.

Fruits can be very high in flavonoids, which have many health benefits. Specifically, pomegranates include quercetin and anthocyanins. Both of these compounds are very important for inflammation that can be associated with pregnancy. Additionally, research shows that these compounds can offset the adverse effects of environmental pollutants on fertility.5

You can also eat pomegranates as a snack or use them in sweet and savory dishes. Try putting pomegranate seeds on top of your waffles during breakfast or putting some on top of a lamb dish for a more savory taste. Since pomegranates are sometimes harder to find and more expensive, you can substitute many other fruits that provide anti-inflammatory compounds!

5. Try Spinach as Your Salad Base

Fresh salad of baby spinach leaves, sliced strawberries, slivered almonds, feta cheese, and a light dressing.

While we may not think about the base of our salads, substituting spinach as the base may be very beneficial to your pregnancy, especially in the second trimester. Spinach contains nutrients such as folate, fiber, choline, iron, magnesium, and many more!19 Specifically, its high nitrate concentration benefits heart health by reducing blood pressure and increasing blood flow within our tissues.20,21 When our body is working to support a baby’s growth, our blood must be abundant throughout our tissues to keep baby (and ourselves) healthy.22 Additionally, spinach may aid in regulating oxygen usage in our bodies, assisting in physical activity.23 This is very important during pregnancy!

6. Try Wheat Bran

Blueberry Muffins with fresh raspberries, strawberries, blueberries on a wooden cutting board.

Wheat bran can be a very efficient source of many vitamins and minerals our body needs. It’s loaded with selenium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.24,25,26 When our body is changing, antioxidants are vital to combat the subsequent inflammation that occurs.27

Put It All Together!

Eating these essential foods in your second trimester will significantly benefit you and your growing baby. It may seem overwhelming to get all the nutrients into your day, but it’s relatively simple when you build nutrient-packed meals! There are several ways to create your meals to include everything your body needs, and breakfast is the perfect meal to get off to a great start. Here’s one example of a healthy, nutrient-dense breakfast adapted from my book, “What to Eat When You’re Pregnant“:

Overnight Protein-Powered Oats With Berries

If you are looking for a healthy and easy way to start your day, look no further. Overnight oats are easy to prepare the night before, and the protein will help you start your day feeling great. Plus, the wheat bran and fruit in these will give you a boost of antioxidants and phytoestrogens.24,28

Healthy Breakfast, Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal
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A bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh blueberries and sunflower seeds, ideal among foods to eat second trimester. The oatmeal has a purple tint, and the bowl is placed on a wooden surface with some scattered blueberries around.

Overnight Protein-Powered Oats with Berries


  • Author: Nicole Avena, Ph. D.

Description

If you are looking for a healthy and easy way to start your day, look no further. Overnight oats are easy to prepare the night before, and the protein will help you start your day feeling great. Plus, the wheat bran and fruit in these will give you a boost of antioxidants and phytoestrogens.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Makes one serving.

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (Fiber, B-Vitamins, Iron!)
  • 1/2 cup milk of your choice: almond coconut, dairy, etc. (Vitamin B12!)
  • 1 tablespoon wheat bran (Selenium, Magnesium, Omega-3!)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Choice mixed berries: raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, strawberry, banana, or pineapple (Anti-inflammatory and Vitamin C!)
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds or crushed walnuts (optional) (Zinc!)

Instructions

Add oats, milk, wheat bran, maple syrup, and salt into an 8-ounce container. Stir to combine. Add toppings. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or mason jar lid and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, mix in nuts (optional), eat cold straight from the jar, or add a little milk and rewarm in the microwave. Enjoy!

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Nicole Avena
Dr. Nicole Avena, Ph. D. Associate Professor of Neuroscience
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Nicole Avena, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Psychology at Princeton University. She is the author of several books, including… Read more

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