Protein Needs During Pregnancy

Did you know that protein needs increase during pregnancy? Since many women experience some form of food aversions or nausea, getting in enough protein can feel a bit daunting. Let’s talk about how much protein you really need, and how to make that happen when you’re expecting.

How Much is Enough?

Protein needs can be a complicated topic. I have discussed needs for non-pregnant people elsewhere on the blog, but we’re going to keep it simple here.

I recommend at least 80g per day in the first half of pregnancy and at least 100g per day in the second half of pregnancy.

Remember, you can’t “cram” protein at dinner, it needs to be spread throughout the day for your body to use it well. Here is one way to think about spacing it out during pregnancy (low end will meet early needs, high end will meet later needs).

  • Breakfast: 15-20g
  • Snack 1: 6-7g
  • Lunch: 22-27g
  • Snack 2: 6-8g
  • Dinner: 25-30g
  • Snack 3: 6-8g

When Nothing Sounds Good

The best laid plans can easily fall away when nausea hits, or the mere thought of most protein-rich foods triggers your gag reflexes. What happens when getting food in is a struggle, or you suddenly can’t stand meat?

First, give yourself some grace. Remember that people have been having healthy babies for millennia, and perfect nutrition just doesn’t exist. Do what you can. If keeping food down is a challenge, prioritizing any form of calories is more important.

Second, let go of traditional meals and snacks. Graze if you need to. Take small bites more often. For the vast majority of pregnancies, these aversions and nausea won’t last forever.

Third, get scrappy. Find ways to “hide” protein in things. Add powdered milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, protein powder, chia seeds, hemp seeds, beans, nuts, or tofu to everything. Use smoothies and bone broth as a base.

Curious about how to choose the right protein powder – or if it’s even the right choice for you? I’ve created a resource just for you. Click below to learn more.

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I’m Katie Goldberg (AKA The Pregnancy Dietitian), mom of 2 little humans, health coach, and registered dietitian nutritionist. I can guide you through the research and best practices (and avoid all the B.S.) to help you confidently nourish your body and your baby during this unique season of life.

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