By Wendy Colson RN, IBCLC, RLC
Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth and development where nutrition needs increase significantly to grow a small human! Proteins are known as the “building blocks” for cells that make up our entire bodies and are particularly needed during pregnancy. During pregnancy you need an increased amount of protein to supply to your growing baby during pregnancy for brain and tissue development. Being deficient in protein can be very common during pregnancy due to the rapid increase in the body's demand.
How Much Protein Does A Pregnant Woman Need?
General dietary guidelines have recommended protein intake be in the range of about 60g/day, however recent updates in research have shown that these guidelines have underestimated the beneficial protein requirements needed. So how much protein is too much during pregnancy? Updated guidelines show needs increase throughout pregnancy as your baby grows and show that it is very difficult to really eat too much protein. How much protein when pregnant may also increase depending on the amount of muscle mass you have as this increases your calorie needs overall.
Here’s some general ranges to consider:
First half of pregnancy: aim for at least 80g of protein/day in accordance with hunger cues
Second half of pregnancy: aim for at least 100g of protein/day according to hunger
Just like with any nutrition needs, how much protein should a pregnant woman eat depends on many factors such as your weight, height and activity level so these are general guidelines.
How Do You Get Enough Protein While Pregnant?
Protein rich foods on their own are very satiating and filling which can make it difficult for some pregnant women to get enough protein throughout the day. Aiming to include protein rich foods at every meal and snack can help stabilize blood sugar throughout the day which can help address unwanted nausea, aversions and low energy.
Foods High In Protein Include:
- Animal proteins such as: beef, chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, lean sausages
- Fish and seafood that is ideally wild caught such as wild salmon
- Eggs are a wonderful pregnancy superfood with 7g/protein per egg
- Dairy products such as greek yogurt and cheese from grass fed and pasture raised animals
- Homemade or store bought bone broths which contain an essential amino acid during pregnancy, glycine
- Plant based proteins such as nuts, nut butters and seeds (peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seeds etc)
- Beans and legumes such as garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils contain plant based protein and carbohydrate
- Protein powders are a great source of protein for pregnant women
Since every protein contains a different combination of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) it’s important to work to eat a variety of protein rich foods as each category contains different types of vitamins and minerals.
Additional tips to get enough protein while pregnant:
Getting between 80-100g of protein a day may be tough! To reach your protein needs consider:
- Keeping single serving protein items such as individual cheese sticks or greek yogurt cups on hand to add to a snack
- Prepare proteins in advance by batch cooking items to have ready made at meal times (for example slow cooking chicken or preparing extra servings of protein when making dinner to have leftovers)
- Consider a quality protein powder while pregnant if you have trouble meeting your protein needs. A single scoop of our BOOBIE* Body protein powder for pregnant women provides 19g of plant based protein in each scoop alongside organic superfoods
What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Protein When Pregnant?
Since protein is critical for tissue growth and development a lack of protein during pregnancy can lead to adverse health effects for both mom and baby. Some impacts for the mother include fatigue and muscle atrophy, impacts on the baby include impaired fetal grow (also known as intrauterine growth restriction) and impacts on brain development. Since the baby is growing rapidly, meeting your protein needs is essential.