What should you eat in the first trimester?

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March 7, 2016
first trimester nutrition, toronto naturopathic doctor, naturopath toronto

Eating for two (or more!) has never been so exciting (or daunting)! While you might think that you should be eating plenty of more calories, what you’re actually eating is just as important! 

Here’s some of the nutrients to pay particular attention to in your first trimester, how much is needed in pregnancy, and the forms you should watch out for in your prenatal supplement. 

Necessary Nutrients

Folate (Vitamin B9)

Canadian recommended dietary intake: 600 ug

Preferred form: Methyl-folate

You likely already know that folate (aka. folic acid) is crucial during pregnancy. This is because it reduces the risk of babies being born with neural tube defects. It’s especially important to get the required amount of folate in the first few weeks of your pregnancy to assist with neural tube formation (this eventually becomes the brain and spinal cord) and red blood cells. 


Choline is necessary for brain development and cognitive function in infants, and helps with the prevention of neural tube defects.


Canadian recommended dietary intake: 600 ug

Preferred form: Potassium iodide

Iodine is needed for brain and overall nervous system development. During the first trimester, fetal development is completely dependent on the your thyroid health. If you’re at risk for hypothyroidism (or has hypothyroidism), it may lead to cognitive developmental problems in your baby. Moreover, if you have low thyroid function, you may be at risk for miscarriage during this trimester.

TO DO: Have a thyroid panel done (TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO)

Essential Fatty Acids (DHA and EFA)

Along with amino acids from protein, DHA is one of the building blocks of the fetal brain. During this trimester, DHA comes directly from you! When your stores are full, it decreases likelihood of premature birth and postpartum depression. DHA is important for a healthy birth weight, and visual and cognitive development! While supplementation is important during the first trimester, it becomes key in the third trimester as your baby’s brain growth is most significant at that time.

Low levels of DHA have been linked to shorter gestation, low birth weight, postnatal depression and allergy. 


As the body undergoes many changes during pregnancy, it places more demand on the your nutrient stores. As your body is creating a new organ, like the placenta, it creates oxidation. When there is a decrease in antioxidants in your body, the oxidation can cause damage, possibly resulting in poor growth, premature birth and low birth weight.

So if you can, continue to eat colourful fruits and vegetables to get these antioxidants and prevent too much oxidation from doing unnecessary damage to your baby.

MAKE THIS: Pear-blackberry smoothie or Winter Berry smoothie


Canadian recommended dietary intake: 27 mg

Preferred form: Iron bisglycinate

Iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in women! Do you know why? Periods! Yes, you’re taking a break from your period right now, but it’s likely that before you got pregnant your stores were low. It’s necessary to have your levels tested because your baby will use your iron for itself – which may leave you even more deficient. A telltale sign of low iron is cravings for ice!

In the baby, iron helps to develop their cardiovascular system. If your stores are low it may increase miscarriage risk, increase the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. 

Also, ensuring that you get enough iron may assist in decreasing the risk of postpartum depression after your baby is born. 

TO DO: Get your ferritin levels tested (and make sure your levels are optimal, not normal)

PRO TIP: Vitamin C helps with iron absorption


Canadian recommended dietary intake: 11 mg

Preferred form: Zinc picolinate

Zinc is important in the first trimester because it helps gene expression, it’s involved in thyroid and progesterone production, and maintains a healthy immune system (for both you and your baby!). 

If you’ve taking the birth control pill in the past, have a history of miscarriage, or are a vegetarian/vegan, this is one mineral to make sure is in your prenatal. 

Vitamin C

Canadian recommended dietary intake: 85 mg

Preferred form: Ascorbate

Vitamin C helps to prevent rupture of membranes (ex. strengthening the amniotic sac), and as been shown to decrease the risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure, high protein in the urine, and swelling of your hands, legs and feet)

Vitamin D

Canadian recommended dietary intake: 600 IU

Preferred form: Cholecalciferol

If you live in sunny Canada (ha!), you are likely Vitamin D deficient. And as we know, when you’re deficient, baby is deficient. Vitamin D is important because it helps your baby’s skeleton and brain grow. Before you start supplementing though, this is one of the vitamins where it’s important to have tested. The amount of Vitamin D you may need to take, may be different than what your friend is taking!

Also, ensuring that you get enough Vitamin D may assist in decreasing the risk of postpartum depression after your baby is born. 

TO DO: Get your vitamin D levels tested! 

Vitamin E

Canadian recommended dietary intake: 15 mg

Preferred form: alpha-tocopherol

Vitamin E helps stabilize the cell membranes. Low levels can increase risk of miscarriage and preeclampsia, as well as lead to premature or low birth weight babies.


Canadian recommended dietary intake: 60 ug

Preferred form: Selenomethionine

Selenium acts as an antioxidant and helps with thyroid metabolism. If there’s a deficiency, early or recurrent miscarriage may occur. 

EAT THIS: Eggs, poultry, seafood and other muscle meats

Coenzyme Q10

This is essential for energy production and is an antioxidant. Low coenzyme Q10 levels might result in preeclampsia, diabetes, cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases. 

Next Steps

If you’re pregnant and wondering if you’re getting enough of the recommended daily intake of vitamins or minerals, wanting to take a look at your iron, thyroid and Vitamin D levels, or is looking for guidance on how to choose the right prenatal (hint: go with a professional line!), be sure to contact a Naturopathic Doctor!




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