Optimum Nutrition – Trimester 1

(The first trimester is 0-13 weeks gestation)

Nutrition plays a key role even before you conceive. Optimum nutrition aids in your chances of conception and to have a healthy pregnancy. Pre-conception nutrition reduces the incidence of congenital malformation, pre-term birth, and intra-uterine growth retardation.

Optimum nutrition will ensure that your body would have a good store of nutrients to supplement your growing foetus. An unborn baby is most susceptible to nutritional deficiencies and infections during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the embryo develops rapidly. During the first three months of pregnancy all the organs of your baby are completely formed.

Many women experience continual sickness and don’t feel like eating much. Morning sickness is normal during the first three months of pregnancy. It is caused due to increase in a hormone called HCG – Women with poor diets are particularly at risk. During pregnancy the need for vitamin B6, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc all increase; extra supplements of these usually help worst cases of pregnancy sickness.

However optimum nutrition doesn’t mean increase in quantity of food. In fact in the first trimester, the nutritional requirement is the same as before.

For the mother, optimum nutrition means a variety of nutritious meals before and during pregnancy which ensures a healthier pregnancy with fewer complications, resulting in a healthy baby.

Optimum Nutrition during pregnancy is needed to support:

  • Growth of the placenta
  • Higher Blood volume
  • More cardiac output
  • Increase in levels of fluids in the body
  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes in breasts in preparation for breastfeeding
  • Alterations to lung, kidney, urinary and reproductive functions.

Find below the key nutritional requirements during the first trimester:

In the first weeks, you may feel nauseous and not feel like eating much or eat at all. However it is important to remember to eat a good balance of foods every day, even if the quantities are small initially.

B group Vitamin Folate (Folic Acid)

As most women, may not know that they are pregnant for up to 4 weeks, ensuring adequate nutrient intake of B group vitamin folate (know as folic acid in supplement form) around the time of conception is essential. All women planning a pregnancy should take at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily for one month prior to planned conception (women at higher risk may be advised to take more).

This vitamin is required for the normal development of the nervous system, particularly the closure of the neural tube which occurs during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. Supplementation of folic acid must continue throughout the first trimester to avoid any birth defects such as spina bifida.

Apart from Folate, other B vitamins include: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, cobalamin and choline. These are essential for good digestion, energy production, certain enzymes invloved in amino-acid synthesis and maintenance of blood.  Women who lack vitamin B in their diet are more likely to have a low birth weight baby.

Niacin (a form of vitamin B3) supplements taken during the first trimester has been positively correlated with higher birth weights, larger head circumference and longer length, (all signs of healthier infants). 

Good sources of folate are white pumpkin (kovda), chickpeas (chole  chana), green peas, green leafy vegetables like spinach, methi, chawli leaves, dill (suva / shepu), radish (mooli) leaves, mustard greens (sarson), avocado, sweetlime, oranges, melons, tomatoes and nuts. 

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is needed for building bones and teeth, for blood clotting, for regulating nerve and muscle activity and for absorbing iron. In the first trimester, 500 to 800 mg of Calcium and 5 mg of Vitamin D is required. Apart from building your own reserves, it aids in the development of your babies bones and teeth.

Calcium absorption is improved with the presence of vitamin D in the diet. The main source of Vitamin D although is sunlight, is not sufficient and hence supplementation, under the guidance of a doctor, is very important.

It is found mainly in dairy produce like yoghurt, milk, cheese, paneer, buttermilk.


Protein rich foods are needed to make your baby. They are considered as the building blocks of your cells as well as for your baby’s.

Lack of enough protein may result in weight loss, fluid retention, fatigue and frequent infections.

Lean meats, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, seafood, cheese, roasted peanuts, lentils and kidney beans are good sources of proteins.

This group provides Important nutrition during pregnancy like vitamins A and C, potassium and fibre. Some of the best sources of Vitamin C are found in fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, melons and berries. It is recommended to eat two to three servings of fruit a day. Eg: freshly squeezed juice or a whole fruit for breakfast, fresh or dried fruit for a snack, a fruit salad or a cooked fruit as dessert.

One should have a variety of leafy vegetables like spinach (palak), amaranth (lal saag), methi (fenugreek leaves) and other vegetables like carrots (gajar), sweet potatoes (shakarkand), corn (makka), peas (matar), green beans (gavar, french beans, chowli beans) and potatoes. These foods contain vitamins A and C, folate, and minerals such as iron and magnesium. They are also low in fat and contain fibre, which helps to alleviate constipation.

Breads, Cereals, Rice and Pastas

This group provides complex carbohydrates, which is an important source of energy, alongwith vitamins, minerals and fibre. You should avoid refined flours like Maida. Eat more of complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat, millets like jowar, bajra, ragi. Grain products are also a good source of protein. Many grains are enriched with B-vitamins and iron.

Fats, Oils and Sweets
Use fats, oils and sweets sparingly. These products contain calories, however only few vitamins or minerals. Fats should not make up more than 30 percent of your daily calories.

Consumption of small amounts (1-2 tspns) of pure cows ghee is beneficial in pregnancy.

Iron-Rich Foods
Indian women most often are anaemic due to an improper diet or loss of blood during menstruation. You must fortify your iron levels even before becoming pregnant. Foods such as meat, raisins and prunes, beans, Â all green leafy vegetables like spinach, radish leaves, turnip leaves, mint leaves, beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, pomegranate are rich in iron.

 Your body is better able to absorb iron when consumed with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, nimbu paani, amla juice and broccoli.

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