Protein During Pregnancy: How Much You Need & High Protein Foods

A pregnant woman sits comfortably in a bright, airy bedroom, resting against a pile of fluffy white pillows. She's wearing a pastel pink long-sleeve top and striped light blue and white pajama pants. The woman has a peaceful expression as she enjoys a cup of yogurt, cradling her bump with one arm. A bedside table with a vase of soft pink flowers adds to the serene ambiance.

Mama, did you know that protein is the most abundant compound found in the human body after water?! If not, don’t worry, lots of people (ourselves included) didn’t really know that, either! And that’s why we’re going to show you why protein is incredibly important during pregnancy.

The long and short of it is that protein is present in the blood, skin, and muscles and is vital for every body, but especially for pregnant bodies during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Consider this your guide to what proteins mean for you and your baby. We’re breaking down protein during pregnancy AND showing you the best protein-rich foods to add to your daily diet when you’re growing a little one.

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What Is the Importance of Protein During Pregnancy?

During the last trimesters of your pregnancy, your baby’s growth rate is the fastest. This means that your body undergoes drastic changes to keep the baby healthy and prepare for birth. 

Incorporating more protein into your diet has the following advantages for your baby AND you:

Why trust us?

Isabella Adams is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. 

With over 10 years of experience in clinical nutrition, public health, and wellness coaching, Isabella holds certifications in sports nutrition and pediatric nutrition and is passionate about health and wellness for all!

How Much Protein Do Pregnant Women Need?

Your protein needs will increase after the first trimester to support the processes your body undergoes as your baby grows. 

The Cleveland Clinic recommends using a formula to find out your protein needs in pregnancy (but don’t get too worried about having to do math–it’s easy):

To find out your protein needs, divide your pre-pregnancy weight by two, in grams. (For example, a person weighing 150 pounds before pregnancy should aim for 75 grams of protein per day.)

However, this amount varies based on factors like your age, weight, health, activity levels, and trimester/ pregnancy stage. So please make sure you consult your OB about your protein needs. 

What Is the Best Protein for Pregnancy?

The best part about getting lots of protein when you’re pregnant is that there are many options to choose from based on your preference and dietary restrictions. 

For example, you can find amazing alternatives if you are a vegetarian such as nuts, legumes, and tofu. 

Best High-Protein Foods for Pregnancy

Below are the best protein-rich foods to add to your daily diet during pregnancy. Let’s get into it!

Chicken Breast (26 grams of protein per 3 ounces, cooked)

Chicken is one of the best protein-rich foods you can find. It’s one of our favorites because it is high in protein per serving at more than a third of the daily recommendation. 

The best part is that it is readily available for most people and is a versatile food you can use in a ton of high protein recipes.  

Eggs (12 grams of protein per 2 eggs)

Eggs are also protein-rich foods that are low cost and something many of us already incorporate into our diet. 

You can use them in many recipes for breakfast, salads, and sandwiches, and they are an excellent alternative to meat if you are a vegetarian!

Nuts and Nut Butters (4 to 9 grams per 1 ounce) 

There are many awesome ways to incorporate protein-rich nuts and nut butters into your diet when pregnant. 

Nuts are great because you can eat them whole as snacks, add them to your salads, cereal, and smoothies, or grind them into butter.

Nuts come in various tasty types depending on your preference, whether you like tasty pistachio nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, macadamia, almonds, etc!

Plain Greek Yogurt (17 grams of protein per 6 ounces)

There are so many benefits of using Greek Yogurt instead of regular yogurt if you are looking for a protein source. For one, it boasts a higher protein content, and its low sugar content is ideal when pregnant. 

Don’t like the slightly sour taste of greek yogurt? Try it in a smoothie, or add berries, nuts, honey, and granola for a tasty yogurt bowl.

Lean ground beef (22 grams of protein per 3 ounces, cooked)

Beef is an excellent source of protein, but try and avoid the fattier options when dealing with beef. 

Try buying lean beef, which is more nutritious with just as high protein content. Additionally, lean beef is a rich iron source for you and baby!

Salmon (22 grams of protein per 3 ounces, cooked)

Salmon is an oily fish that contains a high level of proteins and fatty acids, which are invaluable to you and baby. Omega 3s help with baby’s brain development, but remember to limit the intake to two portions weekly to avoid having too much mercury in your diet

Legumes (15-30 grams per cup, cooked)

If you enjoy a diet of plant-based food (or even if you eat meat, too), then you will love the fact that legumes are also rich in proteins. 

Chickpeas, lentils, kidneys, and red and black beans are yummy protein-dense options to add to your diet.

Tofu (7 g per 3 oz)

Both vegans and vegetarians love tofu, but you will also enjoy it if you eat meat! Tofu, when cooked properly, really can be delicious, we promise!

It is a protein-rich soy-based food packed with many nutrients, including iron, zinc, and calcium–all vital for your baby’s development. 

Protein During Pregnancy: You Are What You Eat (And So Is Baby!)

If you read take nothing else away from this post, please know that you are what you eat during pregnancy, and your nutritious directly affects your baby’s growth. 

Proteins are the building blocks of the body, and your baby needs them for the tissues and other vital organs to form. 

We love that there are lots of high-protein food options available, even for vegans and vegetarians. Each of the foods we’ve mentioned provide high levels of protein that are healthy and safe for you and baby. Enjoy!

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