Pregnancy Nutrition: Protein
The importance of protein during pregnancy
With a vital supporting role for every cell in the body, protein is essential for you and your baby. Learn how many portions to eat as part of a well-balanced pregnancy diet, and why oily fish is an excellent source.
What is protein and why is it important during pregnancy?
Proteins are found in every cell of the body, making up skin, muscles, hair, fingernails and all other tissues. They provide structure to cells and help them function properly, as well as helping cells repair themselves.
During pregnancy, the protein you eat helps your baby grow normally while contributing to other important areas of their development, including:
- Growth and repair of new and damaged tissues
- Making antibodies for their immune system
- Making hormones and enzymes
- Helping muscles function properly
- Transporting oxygen through their blood
Your own need for protein increases during pregnancy too, with a healthy intake needed to support the various changes your body is going through.
Which contains more protein per portion?
Salmon – a 140g portion of grilled salmon contains 33.88g of protein.
Red lentils contain significantly less protein than salmon: around 7.6g per 100g portion.
The building blocks of good health
A good supply of protein during pregnancy enables your baby’s cells to function well from the start. All future growth and development then has a strong foundation to build upon, throughout infancy, childhood and beyond.
Foods that contain protein
With a vital supporting role for every cell in the body, protein is essential for you and your baby.
Getting the right amount of protein to support you both
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for women is 0.75g per kilogram bodyweight per day. So for a woman weighing 55 kg, they will need around 41g protein per day. During the second half of pregnancy, this requirement increases by 10g per day. But it’s not just the quantity that matters. It’s also important to eat a variety of protein sources because different proteins provide different amino acids.
Good sources of protein include:
- Lean meat & chicken
- Dairy foods
- Beans, pulses and nuts
Because these foods are frequently eaten in the average western diet, most people in Ireland get enough protein without giving
A good rule of thumb is to include a portion at every meal so that you’re getting 2-3 portions per day. A portion is generally equivalent to the size of your palm.
Try to eat 2 portions per week
Good protein sources and their protein content:
One portion is equivalent to:
- 50–75 g (half the size of the palm of your hand) cooked lean beef, lamb, pork, mince or poultry
- 100g cooked fish
- 2 medium eggs
- 40g unsalted seeds or nuts
- 100g cooked soya or tofu
Add these protein-rich foods to your shopping list:
- Dairy products
- Seeds and nuts
- Beans and lentils
Delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes from our team of nutritionists
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
Our nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.