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

Discover how eating sardines, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, carrots, and kale can promote optimal nutrition for your baby's growth.

Updated June 12, 2024

by Dr. Nicole Avena, Ph. D.

Associate Professor of Neuroscience
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It’s almost that time! Hang tight because, in just a few more weeks, you’ll get to meet the baby you’ve been nurturing for the past nine months. During this exciting time in your pregnancy, your baby will be growing rapidly!1 As the third trimester begins, baby holds onto the nutrients it receives from the placenta to prepare itself for birth.2 Babies have “good fat,” also referred to as brown adipose tissue. This “good fat” helps them maintain their body temperature.3 And in these last few weeks, you may experience sudden bursts of energy.4 This trimester will also result in weight gain, but for a good reason — your body and baby are growing!5 So, if you’re wondering how to fuel your body best, we’ll be sharing some of the best foods to eat during your third trimester.

Foods You Should Eat in the Third Trimester

The third trimester allows baby to continue developing, so consuming specific vitamins and minerals is vital. The number of calories you consume should increase because your baby needs sufficient carbohydrates and proteins to grow.5,6,7

You might be wondering, what should I eat during this time of such critical development in my pregnancy? Here’s a list of great foods to eat in the third trimester that will help promote optimal nutrition for your baby’s growth:

1. Atlantic Herring (Sardines)

Fried fishes with addition of herbs, spices and lemon slices on a wooden background. Seafood, sardines

Atlantic herring, or sardines, can be an excellent addition to your next lunch or dinner! They provide the body with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.8,9 DHA plays a vital role in supporting the function of the baby’s brain and nervous system after birth.9 Sardines are also packed with other essential nutrients such as zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.10 Vitamin D is another nutrient provided by this superfood.10 Ideally, fresh sardines are the best option, but canned sardines can still benefit your baby!

2. Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds in a bowl on wooden surface

Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of iron, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, vitamin K, and mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.11,12 Like sardines, pumpkin seeds can provide the growing baby with omega-3 fatty acids. This helps support their brain function by allowing them to develop their lipid bilayers and cell walls.12,13,14 Pumpkin seeds are easy to pack and snack on in between meals. They’re a great way to add essential nutrients to your diet without much effort. You can roast pumpkin seeds, add them to salads, or eat them on top of oatmeal!

3. Brown Rice

Bowl of Brown Rice

Swap the white rice on your plate with brown rice! Brown rice is a wonderful food to eat in the third trimester. It’s a complex carbohydrate, so the body burns it slowly to prolong energy.15 Unlike white rice, brown rice has a low glycemic index, which doesn’t spike blood sugar.16 It’s a great way to add whole grains and calories to your diet, especially since this is when your baby needs it most!16,17,19 One cup of brown rice contains 3.5 grams of fiber, which can help with constipation issues you may be experiencing during this time.18,19

White rice is considered polished because the bran and germ removed are the areas of a wheat kernel that contain the most fiber, B vitamins, and oil.16,20 Brown rice keeps the bran, germ, and nutrients that come with it.21 And its nutrients are plentiful — magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, and even more!22 Pairing brown rice with citrus foods like lime or meat like chicken can enhance its absorption.23

4. Carrots

Young pregnant woman eating a carrot in the kitchen and looking away

Carrots are perfect nutrient-dense snacks to keep on hand during the third trimester. They offer a multitude of micronutrients and can help keep the body hydrated. One serving of carrots has about 200 milligrams of potassium and 586 micrograms of vitamin A.24,25 Replacing calorically dense processed snack foods with carrots can provide significant benefits to your growing baby. You can also easily incorporate carrots into meal-prepping and homemade soup options. Storing pre-prepared meals in the freezer can allow you to spend more time with your baby once they arrive while enjoying healthy, nutritious meals.

5. Kale

Fresh Kale

By now, you’re probably super familiar with the infamous superfood kale. Why is this leafy green such a fantastic food choice? Kale is packed with nutrients that can be provided to the body, even in small portions. Adding kale to smoothies or meals can still provide the body with a substantial number of vitamins and minerals. Kale contains several essential micronutrients, including vitamins A, K, C, B6, folate, and manganese.26,31 These micronutrients help boost your immune system and preserve your skin’s elasticity, which is helpful as your stomach continues expanding!27 Also, blood volume and supply reach their peak during the third trimester.28 The vitamin K that kale provides can help with blood clotting and is important leading up to birth.29

As exciting as the third trimester is, you may feel like you’re about to pop! Despite the rollercoaster of emotions you can experience during this time, fueling your body and baby with the proper nutrition is extremely important. Getting enough calories during this time period will help pose the best outcomes for you and your baby. During these last few weeks, aim for about 450 calories above the calories consumed in the second trimester.30 Obtaining these calories should come from a variety of nutrient-dense, smaller meals. You got this!

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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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