Everyone knows you need protein during pregnancy (and always) as part of a healthy, balanced diet, but what does it actually do? Protein is an important part of every cell in your body – it helps build and repair tissue, helps the body make hormones, and is a critical component of things like blood, skin, bones, and muscles. It’s basically a building block for all of your cells and tissues – and for your baby’s body. Since the body doesn’t store protein, you need to make sure you get a steady supply of it in order to get its benefits while TTC and when pregnant and breastfeeding.
Getting enough protein helps ensure healthy fetal growth and development, reduces the risk of the baby being low birth weight, and helps your tissues and muscles stay healthy. It also aids in breast and uterine growth, and is important with the increased blood supply that occurs during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women should eat 75 to 100 grams of protein daily. Most nutritionists say women should aim to get 25g more protein than when they’re not pregnant. This usually comes to about 3 to 4 servings a day.
What foods are a good source of protein? For vegetarians, good sources include kidney beans, black beans, lentils, tofu, oatmeal, peanuts/peanut butter, cottage cheese, various cheeses (ricotta, Parmesan, Swiss, cheddar), soy milk, and eggs. Meat sources include chicken, salmon, trout, and beef. When eating meat during pregnancy, make sure it’s fully cooked. If you’re getting protein from seafood, check with your provider about what fish you should avoid, because of mercury levels.
If you’re interested in adding protein powders to shakes or smoothies, check with your midwife first, to make sure it’s safe for you to consume. These shouldn’t be your main sources of protein, but rather, supplemental sources.
What are your favorite ways to get protein during pregnancy?