Pregnancy + Parenthood

A 3-Step Approach to Supporting Nutrition During Pregnancy

6 min read
We're unpacking the a 3-step approach to eating and supplementing appropriately during pregnancy.
We're unpacking the a 3-step approach to eating and supplementing appropriately during pregnancy.

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It kind of goes without saying that during pregnancy, the body goes through a lot of changes, and that means that our nutritional demands evolve, too. It’s why doctors and other maternal health experts tend to recommend that you not only adopt healthy eating habits during pregnancy, but also incorporate appropriate supplementation to help support nutrient gaps.*

But what does that actually look like in practice? Let’s take some of the guesswork out of supporting pregnancy nutrition.

1. Start with a balanced diet.

“A healthy diet becomes really important during pregnancy,” says Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, and Ritual’s VP of Scientific Affairs. “Whatever is happening to you right now isn’t just impacting you.”

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), eating well is one of the best ways to support the body during this time. You may have heard of the phrase “eating for two”, and while it’s true that pregnant women† need to consume extra calories in order to support baby’s growth—the Institute of Medicine recommends women gain anywhere between 11-40 pounds, depending on BMI—it may be more helpful to reframe the maxim as eating twice as healthy, instead.* (5, 7)

The good news? Aside from cutting out a few no-nos (alcohol, caffeine, unpasteurized dairy products, and raw fish, for example), making healthy food choices while expecting doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. Focusing on a balanced diet of macronutrients and micronutrients is a great start, and prioritizing produce (green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, blueberries, pomegranates—anything in its unprocessed, natural form) is never a bad idea.

A quick refresher on macronutrients and micronutrients: Our bodies need a careful balance of both. Macronutrients refer to nutritional compounds we need in large quantities, like protein (in addition to vegan protein sources such as beans and lentils, protein is also found in lean protein like chicken and red meats, including lean beef); carbs (try sweet potatoes or whole grains, like brown rice or whole wheat bread); healthy fats (think avocados, nuts, or fatty fish); and water (because staying hydrated is important, and can help with easing pregnancy-related constipation). Micronutrients refer to vitamins and minerals—nutritional compounds that we need in smaller amounts, but are by no means less important. Consider B-vitamins such as biotin, which supports normal energy-yielding metabolism (or folate, which supports DNA methylation); vitamin D, which supports bone health alongside calcium; vitamin C, which supports normal immune function; and vitamin A, which lends support for normal vision health.)* (6, 7)

2. Take a quality prenatal multivitamin.

Prenatal multivitamins are specifically formulated to lend nutritional support during pregnancy—and that’s true no matter how well we’re eating. Ritual’s Essential Prenatal multivitamin is a bestselling option for a reason: It’s formulated with 12 important nutrients to support the nutrient demands of pregnancy, including vegan omega-3 DHA (more on omega-3 fatty acids here) and choline, plus iron, vitamin B12, and methylated folate to contribute to red blood cell formation. (Up to one-third of women have a genetic variation that makes it difficult to efficiently utilize folic acid, the synthetic form of folate commonly found in prenatal multivitamins.) And just like food safety becomes especially salient during pregnancy, so does the quality of supplementation—here’s four questions to ask to check for a high-quality prenatal multivitamin.* (8)

Pro tip: We recommend starting a prenatal multivitamin regimen at least three months ahead of pregnancy. That said, a prenatal multivitamin can still lend support, regardless of when someone starts—so whether it’s pre-pregnancy, the first trimester, second trimester, or even third trimester, a delay needn’t stop someone from embracing the habit and sticking with it until baby arrives (at which point we recommend switching to a postnatal multivitamin).*(7)

3. Consider supplementing with protein.

While a prenatal multivitamin can help support micronutrient needs throughout pregnancy, it’s important to mind the macronutrients as well—and that brings us to protein. Pregnant women† need more protein to help support the increased nutrient demands that occur during this life stage (and while breastfeeding, too, for that matter). In fact, the amount of protein deposited in maternal and fetal tissue increases over the course of pregnancy.* (1, 2, 3, 4)

It’s a big reason why we developed a protein shake specifically for this life stage. Essential Protein Daily Shake for Pregnancy & Postpartum is formulated with pea protein and the amino acid l-methionine to offer a complete amino acid profile. Plus, it’s fortified with choline—a key nutrient for pregnancy that also happens to be an l-methionine helper nutrient. (That’s not even to mention the hand-crafted vanilla flavor and creamy, non-gritty texture.)* (7)

The essential takeaway

When eating for two (or more!), we believe focusing on good dietary habits can go a long way—after all, a healthy approach to nutrition helps with the extra demands of pregnancy. In the end, we advise keeping things simple by hitting all the food groups (while avoiding raw fish and other pregnancy no-nos), then supplementing with a high-quality prenatal multivitamin (and maybe even a protein powder) to help fill nutrient gaps. As always, if you have questions about pregnancy nutrition, women’s health, and/or supplementation in general, we recommend reaching out to a trusted healthcare provider.*

Better together: Try the Essential Duo. Support nutrient needs for pregnancy by bundling Ritual’s Essential Prenatal vitamin and Essential Protein Daily Shake for Pregnancy & Postpartum.* A bonus? You’ll get $10 off your first month when you sign up for the Essential Duo.

References

  1. Elango R, Ball RO. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy. Adv Nutr. 2016 Jul 15;7(4):839S-44S
  2. Hanson MA, et al. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) recommendations on adolescent, preconception, and maternal nutrition: “Think Nutrition First” Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2015;131(Suppl 4):S213–53.
  3. National Academy of Medicine: Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). 2005.
  4. World Health Organization (WHO). Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series No 935. 2007.
  5. Institute of Medicine (US) and National Research Council (US) Committee to Reexamine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines; Rasmussen KM, Yaktine AL, editors. Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009. Summary.
  6. García Duarte, S., Ruíz Carmona, M., & Camacho Ávila, M. (2015). Constipation during pregnancy with the hydration. Nutricion hospitalaria, 32 Suppl 2, 10298.
  7. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2021). Nutrition During Pregnancy. FAQs.
  8. Tsang BL, Devine OJ, Cordero AM, et al. Assessing the association between the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) 677>T polymorphism and blood folate concentrations: A systematic review and meta-analysis of trials and observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(6):1286-1294.

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Meet Our Experts

This article features advice and has been reviewed by members of our Science Team.

Science Thumb — Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, VP of Scientific Affairs

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a Registered Dietitian. She received her training from Penn State University and University of Connecticut where she researched dietary patterns, chemosensory perception and community nutrition. Her dietetic work is focused on promoting healthy eating habits by translating the science of nutrition into practical information for the public.

Science Thumb — Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, VP of Scientific Affairs

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a Registered Dietitian. She received her training from Penn State University and University of Connecticut where she researched dietary patterns, chemosensory perception and community nutrition. Her dietetic work is focused on promoting healthy eating habits by translating the science of nutrition into practical information for the public.

Science Thumb — Arianne

Arianne Vance, MPH, Research Scientist

Arianne Vance is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA. Her graduate research focused on maternal and child health, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and maternal mental health. She is passionate about sharing her love of science by presenting cutting-edge research in an accessible and engaging way.

Science Thumb — Arianne

Arianne Vance, MPH, Research Scientist

Arianne Vance is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA. Her graduate research focused on maternal and child health, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and maternal mental health. She is passionate about sharing her love of science by presenting cutting-edge research in an accessible and engaging way.

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