Protein is one of the most important macronutrients to eat during pregnancy. And your protein needs increase quite a bit when you’re expecting. So how can you make sure that you’re getting enough protein during pregnancy?
Keep reading to learn how much your protein intake should increase, as well as the best sources of protein for pregnancy.
(The contents of this post do not constitute medical advice. This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read our disclaimer.)
Importance of Protein During Pregnancy
Eating enough protein during pregnancy is essential for your baby’s growth and development. Protein is made up of amino acids, which play several crucial roles in the body, including:
- growing and maintaining muscles
- repairing tissues
- regulating hormones
- healing wounds
- maintaining bone strength
Related: Protein-Packed Pregnancy Smoothie
Not getting enough protein during pregnancy can increase the risk of preterm labor and fetal growth restriction. Fortunately, there are many high-quality and varied sources of protein, as I’ll share later on in this article!
How Much Protein Do You Need When Pregnant?
Did you know that your protein needs increase by 50% during pregnancy? Pre-pregnancy, you need 40 grams of protein per day, minimum. That accounts for 12 to 20% of your daily calories.
During pregnancy, your protein intake should increase to a minimum of 60 grams per day, or 20 to 25% of your total calories. According to experts, the ideal daily protein intake during pregnancy is 71 grams.
It is possible to eat too much protein during pregnancy, so don’t go overboard. If you’re unsure if you’re consuming the right amount of protein, check with your healthcare provider. They may have resources to share with you or can refer you to a prenatal nutritionist.
Eating Enough Protein During Pregnancy
How many servings of protein you need each day during pregnancy depends on your diet since different foods have different protein content.
But generally, you should aim to eat 3 to 5 servings of protein every day. Since protein is found in a wide variety of foods, it’s possible to include this essential macronutrient in every meal of the day!
High-Protein Foods for Pregnancy
While lean meats, poultry, and seafood tend to be popular choices because they have a higher protein content, they’re certainly not the only option. Protein is also readily available in nuts and seeds, dairy products, and many vegetables.
Here’s a breakdown of different sources of protein and how much protein a serving contains:
Poultry and Eggs
- chicken, 3 ounces = 28 grams of protein
- turkey, 3 oz = 25 g protein
- 1 large egg = 9 g protein
Fish and Seafood
- salmon, 3 oz = 22 g protein
- shrimp, 3 oz = 20 g protein
- lobster, 3 oz = 16 g protein
- scallops, 3 oz = 14 g protein
During pregnancy, avoid seafood that is high in mercury, such as bigeye tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel.
- steak, 3 oz = 26 g protein
- lamb, 3 oz = 23 g protein
- pork, 3 oz = 22 g protein
- ham, 3 oz = 14 g protein
Collagen powder is an easy way to sneak some extra protein into your diet. A serving (2 scoops) of the collagen powder I use provides 18 grams of protein.
My birth center recommended this collagen powder, and I add it to all of my pregnancy smoothies. You can also stir it into coffee, tea, or yogurt, so there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into what you’re already eating or drinking.
- pinto beans, ½ cup = 11 g protein
- lentils, ½ cup = 9 g protein
- edamame, ½ cup = 9 g protein
- black beans, ½ cup = 8 g protein
- chickpeas (garbanzo beans), ½ cup = 7 g protein
- green peas, ½ cup = 4 g protein
- pumpkin seeds (pepitas), 1 oz = 11 g protein
- peanuts, 1 oz = 7 g protein
- peanut butter, 1 Tablespoon= 7 g protein
- almonds, 1 oz = 11 g protein
- pistachios, 1 oz = 11 g protein
- chia seeds, 1 oz = 11 g protein
- cashews, 1 oz = 11 g protein
Nuts are one of my favorite pregnancy protein snacks because they’re so quick and easy – no preparation needed! I like to keep a bag of almonds or cashews in my backpack and eat a few whenever I get hungry between meals.
- Greek yogurt, 6 oz = 18 g protein
- cottage cheese with 1% fat, 4 oz = 14 g protein
- skim milk, 1 cup = 8 g protein
- soy milk, 1 cup = 8 g protein
Red meat and peanut butter have been my consistent pregnancy cravings. So my body is definitely telling me that I need to be eating protein. I try to take a protein smoothie with collagen powder to work most days, which helps me feel full and satisfied until lunchtime.
What foods are you eating to increase your protein intake during pregnancy? Tell me in the comments!