When you’re pregnant, eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby. The food you eat is the main source of nourishment for your baby, so it’s important to consume foods that are rich in nutrients. Proper nutrition can help promote your baby's growth and development.

What to Eat During Your Second Trimester

A healthy diet consists of:

  • carbohydrates
  • fats
  • proteins
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • plenty of water

Each meal should include at least three different food groups.

During your second trimester, it’s especially important to eat foods that are rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. These nutrients will help your baby grow strong bones and teeth. It’s also beneficial to eat foods containing omega-3 oils, which are vital for your baby’s brain development. Foods that contain one or more of these nutrients include:

  • avocado
  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • Greek yogurt
  • cheese
  • dried fruit
  • canned sardines
  • peanut butter
  • sunflower seeds
  • pumpkin seeds

It’s helpful to prepare and cook meals at home to ensure you maintain a balanced, healthy diet. If it’s too difficult or time-consuming to cook a meal every night, you should consider making one or two large dishes each week and freezing portions for quick weeknight meals.

Fresh food is always the preferred option, but there are also some fairly healthy frozen dinner options that you can buy at the store. Make sure to read the labels and only choose dishes that are low in fat and sodium. Frozen vegetables are another option, and stocking up on these can save you time when you want a quick, healthy meal.

What Not to Eat During the Second Trimester

There are a few foods that you should avoid eating while you’re pregnant, including raw meat, eggs, and fish. Specifically, you should avoid eating large fish, such as swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. These fish are known to contain high amounts of mercury, a chemical element that can harm your baby. You should also limit your intake of other seafood to 12 ounces per week, which is considered to be two average meal portions per week. This includes seafood that’s relatively low in mercury, such as:

  • shrimp
  • salmon
  • catfish
  • canned light tuna

Other products you shouldn’t consume during pregnancy include unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized milk products. You should also avoid certain soft cheeses, such as:

  • Brie
  • feta
  • blue cheese
  • queso fresco

They may have bacteria that can cause infections.

It’s okay to drink coffee or other drinks with caffeine while you’re pregnant, but you shouldn’t have more than one or two cups per day. You may also use artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, as long as they’re consumed in moderation.

You should never drink alcohol while you’re pregnant. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects and other complications, including fetal alcohol syndrome.

Evaluating Your Diet

Now that you're more than halfway through your pregnancy, it’s particularly important to reevaluate your diet. Make sure you’re:

  • getting at least 60 grams or two servings of protein per day
  • eating nine or more servings of whole grains per day
  • eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • eating four or more servings of dairy products per day
  • eating foods with essential fats
  • limiting your intake of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-sodium foods
  • taking your prenatal vitamins every day

Your doctor can help you create a more specific meal plan based on your age and weight before pregnancy.

Cravings and Food Aversions

Many pregnant women experience aversions to particular foods or cravings for at least one type of food. It’s unclear why women develop food cravings or aversions during pregnancy, but doctors and researchers believe hormones may play a role.

Pregnant women may crave:

  • chocolate
  • spicy foods
  • fruits
  • comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes and cereals

It’s okay to give in to these cravings sometimes, especially if you crave foods that are a part of a healthy diet.

In other cases, pregnant women can have an aversion to certain foods. This means they never want to eat these particular foods. This may only be problematic if women have an aversion to vegetables or dairy products that are important for the baby’s growth and development. Talk to your doctor if you’re having adverse reactions to foods you should be eating during the second trimester. Your doctor can suggest other foods to eat or supplements to take to compensate for the lack of certain nutrients in your diet.

Weight Gain During the Second Trimester

Women gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. It's normal to gain less weight if you start out heavier and to gain more weight if you were underweight before pregnancy. The extra weight you gain during pregnancy provides nourishment to your baby and is also stored for breast-feeding after you have your baby.

Many women become self-conscious about their weight during pregnancy, but you shouldn’t worry too much about the number on the scale. Instead of focusing on your weight, you should concentrate on eating a variety of nutritious foods. Healthy eating is incredibly important, and dieting to lose weight or prevent weight gain during pregnancy is detrimental to both you and your baby. You can buy new clothes that flatter your figure if you feel self-conscious about the weight you’ve gained.

Exercising during pregnancy can also help manage your weight during pregnancy. Swimming and walking are particularly good choices. However, you should avoid any extreme sports or contact sports, such as water skiing, basketball, or soccer. If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, start slowly and don’t overdo it. It’s also important to drink plenty of water so that you don't get dehydrated. Make sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.