16 Nutritious Foods To Include In Your Third Trimester Diet

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The third trimester of pregnancy extends from the 28th week until childbirth. It is important to meet the recommended nutritional requirements in the third trimester to have sufficient energy to keep up with your daily routine while providing all necessary nutrients to your growing child.

Previously, pregnant women were advised to eat for two, where the focus was primarily on the quantity rather than the balance of required nutrients. The present recommendations emphasize that what you eat is more important than how much you eat, especially in advanced pregnancy.

Continue reading this post, where we discuss your nutritional requirements in the third trimester of pregnancy and suggest foods that you may include in your diet during this period.

Nutritional Requirements In Third Trimester

During the trimester, you need an additional 450 calories a day to your basic caloric and protein needs (1). Here are the other nutrient details:

  • DHA is important for proper development of the fetal brain and retina during the third trimester. Its requirement increases from 100 to 200mg per day.
  • You need a daily dose of 1,000mg calcium, which is essential to build bones and teeth in your baby. Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium.
  • Vitamin D is needed for the bones to absorb calcium. You would need 15 µg per day.
  • With the progressing pregnancy, the iron requirement for fetal growth rises in proportion to the weight of the fetus, with most of the iron accumulating during the third trimester (2). You would need 27mg of it every day.
  • Folic acid is essential to avoid neural defects in the baby. Your intake can go up to 800µg per day.
  • You need additional 26g a day of protein in the third trimester as it is required to maintain maternal tissues and fetal growth.

Now that you know the amounts of nutrients you need, let’s go into your diet plan.

Third trimester diet chart

Magnesium rich foodsDark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, avocados
Protein rich foodsEggs, milk, yogurt, tofu, all meats
Calcium rich foodsBroccoli, watercress, cheese, seafood, dried peas, and beans
Folic acid rich foodsLentils, beans, Brussels sprouts, oranges, eggs
Iron rich foodsBreads and pastas, beans, beets, raspberries, strawberries, red meat, dry fruits like apricots, prunes

Foods You Should Have During The Third Trimester

Here is a list of the best foods to eat in the third trimester:

1. Fruits:

Image: iStock

Fresh fruits are rich in vitamin C and play a vital role in the development and proper functioning of the placenta. The vitamin absorbs iron from the food and helps in maintaining a strong immune system (3).In your third trimester, you must take fresh fruits such as kiwis, strawberries, banana, and melon (4). If you are working, then pack the fruit slices for your snacks and eat them during breaks.

2. Lentils:

Image: iStock

These are rich in thiamine (vitamin B1) and fiber (5). You can make soup, porridge (dal), or stew with cooked lentils and have it in your meals.

3. Ham and vegetable salad:

Image: iStock

Vegetables are a rich source of vitamins and ham is a thiamine booster that helps release energy from the food. A salad of radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, and sweet corn, along with thin slices of ham, is an excellent inclusion in your diet during the third trimester.

4. Seeds and nuts:

Image: iStock

Munching on seeds and nuts will provide you with sufficient amounts of thiamine, essential omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins (6). You can snack on sunflower seeds and dry fruits such as hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts added to your breakfast cereals and cereal bars.

5. Wholemeal toast with baked beans:

Image: iStock

Wholemeal toast with baked beans is rich in thiamine and fiber that help keep up your energy level throughout the day and prevent constipation.

6. Bacon sandwich:

Image: iStock

It is a power pack of thiamine and vitamin C. Make a sandwich with thinly sliced and grilled lean bacon, sliced tomatoes and fresh granary bread, and you will simply love the taste.

7. Avocado salad:

Image: iStock

Avocado is rich in vitamin C, E, and fiber (7). Mix avocado slices with walnuts, watercress, and fruits like mango or orange and add flavorings of your choice.

8. Brussels sprouts:

Image: iStock

They are rich in vitamin C and K and make a good side-dish for your meals (8). It can either be steamed or microwaved until cooked or stir fried with spring onions, garlic, and ginger.

9. Salmon:

Image: iStock

The third trimester is associated with the brain development of your baby. Salmon fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, which is important for the development of your baby’s nervous system . However, you can have salmon in limited quantities and only if it is properly cooked. Go for home-made salmon.

10. Eggs:

Image: iStock

Eggs are a good source of choline, which helps in proper functioning of cells and in the rapid development of the baby. Choline aids in memory development and reduces the risk of renal and pancreatic disorders. You can have a thoroughly boiled egg in your breakfast.

12. Ripened papaya:

Image: iStock

It is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and folate (9). It also helps in preventing heartburns that are common during the third trimester. However, do not eat unripe papaya because it contains pepsin, which can induce contractions and early labor.

13. Green smoothies:

Image: iStock

Green smoothies are a rich source of fiber, calcium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium (10). A blend of baby spinach or kale with ice makes an excellent green smoothie. You can use coconut water and add other ingredients like berries, pineapple, orange, mango, mint or ginger to enhance the taste of the smoothie.

14. Milk and milk products:

Image: iStock

These are rich sources of calcium. By the third trimester, your calcium requirement increases (11). Milk and milk products along with calcium supplements as prescribed by the doctor will help you meet the requirement.

15. Iron-rich foods:

Image: iStock

Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, lean beef, and pork are rich in iron. Iron is necessary for the increased supply of blood to the placenta during the third trimester (12).

16. Folic acid-rich diet:

Image: iStock

Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the developing baby (11). Bread, yeast, beans, chickpeas, and green leafy vegetables like spinach are all a good source of folic acid.

Now you know there is a long list of foods that you need to cover during the third trimester. It could be exhausting to remember and eat each food unless you have a plan in place.

Third Trimester Diet Plan

Here is an example of a diet plan. You may follow this or change it to suit your requirements in such a way that you get the required calories and all the essential nutrients.

Food items Daily servings
For breakfast:
Broccoli parmesan cheese omelet1 serving = 407 calories
Whole wheat toast with butter
1 slice toast with 1 tsp butter
1 serving =125 calories
Orange juice (100ml)
fortified with vitamin C and calcium
1 serving =42 calories
For snacks:
Mango (1 cup)
It is rich in protein, vitamin C and folate.
1 serving = 100 calories
Apricots and walnuts
Rich in proteins.
Apricot (1/2 cup) = 37calories
Walnuts ( 1 cup) = 173 calories
For lunch:
Salmon salad sandwich
Fill a pita with salmon and green vegetables. It gives you a good shot of sodium and protein.
1 serving = 422 calories
Soy crisps
A good source of protein and fiber.
1 serving = 140 calories
Cantaloupe (1/4th of melon)
It is rich in vitamins A and C.
1 serving = 50 calories
For snacks:
Vegetables
(carrots, broccoli or bell peppers with 2 tablespoons hummus)
1 cup veggies = 121 calories
For dinner:
Sauteed halibut (fish) 1 serving (204 gm) = 379 calories
Wild rice
It is rich in protein and fat.
1 cup = 166 calories
For dessert:
Skimmed milk, fortified with calcium.8-ounce serving = 80 calories

The diet plan makes your food goals simple, right? Add a few food tips to it, and you are good to close your pregnancy on a healthy note:

Healthy Diet Tips To Follow During The Third Trimester

Here are a few diet tips that you can follow (14):

  • Have small and frequent meals and never skip a meal.
  • Include all healthy food groups in your daily diet.
  • Drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration and constipation.
  • Cut down on caffeinated beverages.
  • Quit smoking and eliminate alcohol.
  • Avoid foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat. Consumption of excess salt can lead to water retention and ankle swellings.
  • Avoid swordfish, shark, white snapper fish, or mackerel because they are high in mercury content.
  • Do not consume unpasteurized milk.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is nutrition important in the third trimester?

Mothers should consume nutritious foods during pregnancy to balance the unborn baby’s nutritional needs while having a healthy nutritional status. During the third trimester, you may need 450 extra calories a day. It should be obtained from healthy foods and snacks to maintain a healthy balanced diet.

You may ask your OB-GYNE for a more individualized plan based on your body weight, activities, and the number of babies (15). Eating empty calories such as sweets or junk food may not have nutrients such as vitamins and minerals required for the baby, and it can be taken from the mother’s body (4).

2. Why is protein important in the third trimester?

Protein is the building block of the human body. It is essential for expanding blood volume and the growth of maternal and fetal tissues. Substantial amounts of proteins are also needed for placental growth. Deficiency in protein intake could impact the fetus’s optimal growth and weight. However, most mothers can meet their protein requirements during pregnancy from dietary sources (16).

3. Which foods to avoid in the third trimester?

Avoid eating more than the recommended amount of fish servings to prevent excess mercury intake. It is recommended to avoid unpasteurized dairy products such as cheese and uncooked or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis.

You may also avoid eating raw, unwashed, or unsafely prepared salads with fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables. Caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants are also not recommended during pregnancy (17).

Continue healthy eating if you have been doing so. If not, switch to a healthy diet to satisfy nutritional requirements in the third trimester, essential for the baby’s proper growth and development. DHA, 1,000mg calcium per day, vitamin D, iron, folic acid, and an additional 26g of protein per day are important nutrients in the third trimester. Consult your gynecologist before creating a diet plan for yourself, as they can recommend important foods for you depending on your dietary needs. Moreover, follow healthy diet suggestions, such as eating small, frequent meals, drinking enough water and fluids, and quitting alcohol and smoking.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Healthy Weight during Pregnancy.
    https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/prenatal-wellness/healthy-weight-during-pregnancy
  2. Thomas H Bothwell; (2000); Iron requirements in pregnancy and strategies to meet them.
    https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/72/1/257S/4729643
  3. Shailja Chambial et al.; (2013); Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783921/
  4. Eating right during pregnancy.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000584.htm
  5. Thiamine.
    https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/thiamin
  6. Nuts & Seeds: Ancient Foods That Are Still Nutritional Gems Today.
    https://navs-online.org/articles/nuts-seeds/
  7. Mark L. Dreher and Adrienne J. Davenport; (2013); Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/
  8. Healthy food trends – Brussels sprouts.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000725.htm
  9. Papayas raw.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169926/nutrients
  10. Julieanna Hever; (2016); Plant-Based Diets: A Physician’s Guide.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991921/
  11. Pregnancy and diet.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-diet
  12. Pregnancy: Nutrition.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12593-pregnancy-nutrition
  13. Nutrition During Pregnancy.
    https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy
  14. Proteins And Amino Acids.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235221/
  15. Foods To Avoid In Pregnancy.
    https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/foods-to-avoid/
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Jyoti Benjamin

(MS, RD, CSO, FAND, CD)
Jyoti Benjamin has 25 years of experience as a clinical dietitian and currently works in Seattle. She focuses on teaching people the value of good nutrition and helping them lead healthy lives by natural means. Benjamin has a masters in Foods and Nutrition, and has been a longtime member and Fellow of AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the... more

shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more