Pregnancy Nutrition: The Most Important Nutrients in the First Trimester—And How to Get Them

Early pregnancy is a whirlwind of highs and lows. On one hand—you’re having a baby! It’s a blessing, a gift, a miracle! On the other hand—your breasts have never been so sore, you’re nauseated like you’re out to sea with no sea legs, and you *may* have already thrown up today. Twice. Oh, and you’re so tired you could fall asleep standing up.  

Blame it all on the hormones. The worst symptoms of nausea and vomiting are linked with hCG and estrogen, while surging levels of progesterone are likely behind those digestive woes. Whatever the cause, it’s a tricky time to be eating anything—let alone a varied, nutrient-focused diet. Still, you’re going to do the best you can for your growing baby, and that starts with understanding which nutrients matter most—and when. For all you brand new mamas-to-be, we’re sharing the most important nutrients in the first trimester, and what you can do to make sure you’re getting them. 

Key First Trimester Milestones 

The first trimester is a busy time for your baby, with so much critical growth happening in these early weeks: 

  • The neural tube closes 
  • Spine formation occurs 
  • Basic organ systems and facial features begin forming 
  • The heart begins beating 
  • Arms, fingers, toes and legs begin to develop and form 

First Trimester Nutrients 

While there are prenatal vitamins out there that are packaged for specific trimesters, it’s largely a marketing gimmick. That’s because your growing baby will benefit from the same nutrients throughout your entire pregnancy. What’s important is ensuring that your baby is getting those nutrients during key windows of development. 

During the first trimester, your baby needs support for critical early growth from these nutrients: 

Folic Acid or Folate 

Folic acid, or folate (the natural form of vitamin B9 found in food), is the most critical micronutrient in the first trimester because of the role it plays in preventing neural tube defects and reducing later instances of infant and child allergic diseases. The daily recommendation during pregnancy is 600 micrograms, and you can get that with the right daily prenatal vitamin and the right foods. Green leafy veggies, oranges, strawberries, beets, nuts and kidney beans are all good sources of folic acid. 

Beli’s prenatal formulation for women uses the most bioavailable form of MTCF folate fur superior absorption, ensuring that you and your baby are getting the nutrition you really need. 

Choline 

Choline is a B-vitamin recognized as an essential nutrient back in 1998 by the National Academy of Medicine. It ensures the proper development of your baby’s spinal cord and brain and, like folate, it offers protection against neural tube defects. During early pregnancy, it’s also important for placental growth. Daily recommendations of choline during pregnancy are 450 milligrams and 550 milligrams if you’re nursing. A worrying number of the most popular prenatal vitamins don’t actually meet current nutrient recommendations. Fortunately, Beli isn’t one of them!

You can also get choline from food sources like egg yolks, chicken, beef, peanuts, and veggies like cauliflower, but hitting that daily recommending amount will be much easier with a good prenatal. 

Iodine

Iodine is an essential micronutrient that we can only get through diet or supplementing. It can’t be replaced by any other nutrient during development, and it’s critical for optimal neurodevelopment. Daily recommendations of iodine during pregnancy is 220 micrograms and 290 micrograms while nursing. 

Zinc 

Zinc aids in the formation of your growing baby’s organs, cell growth, and brain development. Daily recommendations of zinc during pregnancy are 11 milligrams. Good food sources include red meat, shellfish, pork, poultry, dairy, beans, and nuts. 

For mamas-to-be, certain nutrients can help ease digestion and keep your mineral levels high. Beli’s no-nausea blend is formulated with vitamins B6 and B12 to promote healthy energy levels, a minty essence to soothe nausea, and a chelated form of iron you’ll need to limit the risk of anemia as your blood supply increases. 

Tips for First Trimester Nutrition 

Try not to stress about the whole eating-for-two thing just yet. During the first trimester, your body is really busy, but your baby’s energy needs aren’t hugely demanding just yet. And if you started prenatals during the preconception window, you’re already ahead of the game, since all those nutrients are helping nourish your growing baby and supporting your body.  

Shooting for roughly 2,000 calories a day—the same as a typical, non-pregnant adult—is generally recommended, though your doctor may suggest more if you’re particularly active. That will typically shake out to three meals, with one or two snacks. If you’re struggling to get—or keep—anything down, focus on quality over quantity. But don’t beat yourself up if your cravings are anything but healthy (and impossible to ignore)! That’s where a quality prenatal vitamin becomes even more important. 

If morning sickness is plaguing you all day long and you think your prenatal vitamin is to blame, we’ve got a post just for youPro tip—switch to a prenatal vitamin that’s formulated with a no-nauea blend, and try pairing it with a high-protein snack—think greek yogurt or toast with peanut butter—just before bed.