A healthy meal for each trimester


Did you know, there are certain nutrients you and your baby need more of in each trimester?

In the first few weeks of your pregnancy, you need more nutrients like folate, zinc, and magnesium, to support your baby’s organ development.

You see, your baby’s major organs like her heart, brain, and liver are fully formed by the end of the 1st trimester. They will only continue to grow for the remainder of the time your baby is in-utero.

That’s when our focus shifts to growth and nutrients like protein and calcium become more important in the second half of pregnancy.

Your baby’s brain then develops at its most rapid pace in the 3rd trimester. That’s when brain-loving nutrients like choline and DHA omega’s are the most important.

1st trimester

One of my favorite 1st trimester meals is baby spinach and cherry tomatoes tossed through chickpea pasta, drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It’s a great meal idea when you just find out you’re pregnant, as that’s when your baby needs the most folate to prevent birth defects.

At this time, try to eat as much of folate-rich foods including: spinach, kale, broccoli, romaine lettuce, avocado, asparagus, and legumes.

For this reason, I love folate-rich meals and snacks during the 1st trimester. Coincidentally, the foods that are rich in folate, are also rich in zinc and magnesium, which help support healthy organ development.

Chickpea pasta, baby spinach & tomatoes

This is one of my go-to 1st trimester meals. It’s nutrient dense and easy to make (especially when you’re low on energy).

Chickpea (garbanzo bean) pasta is a nutrient-dense option to regular “white” pasta. Feel free to add mozzarella and omit the baby spinach if you have an aversion to greens.

What you need

  • 1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella ciliegine (optionall)
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt + pepper

What to do

  1. Boil and drain the pasta according to the instructions.
  2. When the pasta has cooled to room temp, toss the pasta in baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

2nd trimester

Your baby goes through a growth spurt in the 2nd trimester, so getting enough protein, calcium, and iron, to fuel that growth is key. My favorite meals in this trimester include eggs, grass-fed beef, and low-mercury seafood like shrimp and salmon.

It’s important to get enough protein each day to help fuel your baby’s growth and to help you feel full. Most women make the mistake of not getting enough protein at this stage of their pregnancy, and eat empty-calorie carbs that contribute to excessive weight gain. We talk about how much protein to aim for and how you can easily get enough each day in the Bella Mama Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.

High-protein snack ideas

1. Greek yoghurt with frozen berries & almonds


Greek yoghurt has twice the protein content of normal yoghurt. Choose unsweetened, plain varieties and naturally sweeten it with berries or chopped banana. Plain yoghurt is best because it doesn’t have added sugars that unnecessarily spike your blood sugar levels. If you can, look for high protein brands like Siigis that have up to 25g of protein per serve compared to 6g in some other brands.

2. Hard-boiled eggs and avocado 


This snack is one of my go-tos because eggs are naturally high in protein and low in carbohydrates. They’re also super versatile and you can have them morning, noon, or night. I like boiling my eggs for 8-minutes (to make sure they’re cooked through), and then having them on some wholegrain toast or crackers with a few slices of avocado and seat salt. Check out my IGTV on how to make the perfect boiled eggs here.

3. Cheese and whole grain crackers


Cheese is a great snack option in your 2nd trimester because 1 oz of cheese has more calcium than a glass of milk. Top some wholegrain crackers with cheese for a quick and easy mid-afternoon snack that will keep you full until dinner. If you can, add some avocado for an extra serve of folate and healthy fats. Cottage cheese has about 12g of protein in a half cup serve while 1oz of cheddar or Swiss cheese has about 7g of protein.

3rd trimester

By now, your baby’s organs are fully formed. Your baby’s brain is developing rapidly so we want to get enough of the nutrients that will improve your baby’s brain development. Nutrients like DHA omega-3’s and choline do exactly that. Research links these nutrients to improve brain development and cognitive function, right up until childhood and adolescence.

Low-mercury seafood is where you’ll find DHA omega-3’s. My favorite options are salmon, cod, and shrimp. If you like sardines and anchovies, they are some of the best sources of DHA omega-3’s.

Easy roast salmon

This easy roast salmon is a perfect pairing to roast sweet potatoes or a green salad.

What you need

  • 8 oz salmon or trout fillet
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

What to do 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  3. Rinse fish fillets, pat dry with a paper towel and place on parchment paper, with the skin down.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over fish to coat it. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  5. Place the fish in the oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove fish and check to see if it is cooked through. The center of the fish should be opaque and flaky. If it isn’t, put it back in the oven for an additional 3 minutes or until cooked through.

I am passionate about seeing women (and their babies) get the nutrients they during pregnancy and beyond. That’s why the Bella Mama Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy is a month by month guide on what food to eat during and after pregnancy. You’ll find nutrition tips, recipes, and checklists on how to look after your holistic health each month, so you can have your best pregnancy and your best transition into motherhood.