October 20, 2020
• Updated on
26 Jul

Protein Requirement during pregnancy - A Complete Guide

Proteins are the builder nutrients in the body and are found in each and every cell. They bring structure to the cells and help them not only function optimally but also self-repair after daily wear and tear instantly.

This is the reason why optimal protein intake is necessary for a pregnant woman because it is not just you who you are eating for, but also, and more importantly, the child that is growing inside of you.

Here’s a look at protein rich food for pregnancy, protein requirements during pregnancy and how to make sure you get the right amount. 

Protein & Pregnancy

You need to understand the basics: what is the role of protein during pregnancy

During pregnancy and later, proteins help maintain and rebuild your body’s tissue health. They ensure that the growth rate of the baby inside is normal and ample intake helps reduce the risk of low birth weight for the baby.

It helps in the creation of optimal skin, muscles, hair and bones of the child. Proteins are also needed to make antibodies for the baby’s immune system and for the optimal transportation of oxygen through the blood. The amount of food-based protein taken during pregnancy determines the future of your child’s health.

It enables your baby’s cells to grow and develop and have a strong foundation to build upon for the rest of their life. This is why you need to eat a high protein diet in pregnancy.

How Much?

There’s a misconception that pregnant women need to eat for two, which isn’t really true. So how much protein do you need when you’re pregnant? It is recommended that for every kilo on your body, you need approx. 1 gram of protein, every day. 

However, as a pregnant woman, you need nourishment for two so your protein intake requirement definitely goes up. According to WHO and FAO, additional protein is recommended for pregnant women of 1 g per day in the first trimester, 9 gms per day in the 2nd Trimester and 31 g protein/day third trimesters.

It is recommended that the higher intake during pregnancy should consist of normal food, rather than commercially prepared high protein supplements. Speak to your nutritionist and doctor to get the right amount based on your health conditions and lifestyle requirements.

Managing Protein Intake

Now that you know about the protein requirement in pregnancy, ‍how does one manage the consumption of protein foods for pregnancy?

It’s simple, distribute the portions across meals every day so that you are getting 2-3 portions of protein in almost every meal. A portion of protein can be visually represented by the size of your palm.

Here’s the recommended portions of protein foods for pregnancy for non-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians, Vegetarians and Vegans


‍Food Groups                   Number Of Servings

Milk and its products             3 cups

Lean Meat/ Eggs                   2

Pulses                                   3 bowls

Cereals                                 8

Nuts and seeds                   3 exchanges

Red meat should avoid during pregnancy as it is difficult to digest, bloating, irritation.



‍Food Groups                Number Of Servings

Milk and its products          4 cups

Pulses                                  3 bowls

Cereals                                8

Nuts and seeds                  4 exchanges

1 cup= 250 ml; 1 bowl= 200 ml; cereal one exchange= 20 g i.e. 1/8 cup; nuts and seeds one exchange= 2 tsp= 8-10g.



‍Food Groups                Number Of Servings

Pulses                                   4 bowls

Cereals                                 8

Pseudocereals                     4

Nuts and seeds                    6 exchanges

Vegan protein foods for pregnancy also include almond mylk, cashew milk.


Opt for lean meats:

Lean organic chicken, wild salmon, eggs are good sources of animal proteins. Moderate intake of each of these meat protein foods for pregnancy will help you get most of your amino acids, iron and DHA needs sorted. 

‍Plant proteins:

It’s great if you are a non-vegetarian. You will get your key proteins easily, however, they are but just one type of amino acid. Switch them up with some good plant proteins as well.

Add nuts seeds, legumes, dals which contain a lot of phytonutrients and antioxidants that maintain cholesterol levels, fat and sodium in the body, making the environment optimal for the baby’s growth inside the womb.


‍Cereals, pseudocereals, pulses:

Pulses can be taken such as dal ka cheela, sprouts, channa tikki, rajma tikki. Pseudocereals such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and other grains such as steel-cut oats and millets should be added.

Always have a cereal pulse combination to increase the absorption of protein because protein is deficient in methionine and cereals are deficient in lysine but high in methionine. A cereal-pulse combination is necessary to maintain the balance.



Not only is yogurt good for your digestion, it is also an amazing resource of protein. You can have it with all your big meals as a thumb rule, is a great protein rich food during pregnancy.


‍Nuts and seeds:

These are some of the best healthy protein snacks for pregnant women.

We cannot stress how powerful nuts and seeds are in every aspect of your life. Peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and almonds are all good sources of plant protein, with numbers ranging from 4 to 7 grams per serving- which roughly a handful of them together.

Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia, flax and sesame seeds are also packed with protein, contributing 5 to 9 grams per serving. Sprinkle them in salads, have them as a snack every day to get your daily dose naturally.

Avoid soy and tofu during pregnancy.

Nuts and seeds

Pregnancy Nutrition Programs At Nutrition By Lovneet

At NBL, we understand how protein foods for pregnancy work. We offer specialised pregnancy and postnatal nutrition plans, taking over all your needs into account.

We design the chart with protein foods for pregnancy according to your specific health needs and preferences, and hold your hand throughout, guiding you along the way.

So if you, or anyone you know, is on their motherhood journey, get in touch with us - we’d love to help you or your loved one have a happy, healthy pregnancy with the right foods!


How can I increase my protein during pregnancy?

Eat lots of protein foods for pregnancy like pulses, nuts, seeds, milk and milk products, lean meat.

What happens if you don't eat enough protein while pregnant?

If you don’t eat enough protein foods for pregnancy, it can affect the growth and development of your baby. 

How much protein a day does a pregnant woman need?

Protein foods for pregnancy vary based on the trimester. 

Is high protein bad for pregnancy?

If the protein foods for pregnancy are from supplements and not whole foods, it is not ideal.

Lovneet Batra
Lovneet Batra is a clinical nutritionist with over a decade of experience treating patients and educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet. One of Delhi’s most sought-after nutritionists...
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