This article will help you make a weekly pregnancy meal plan that assures that you are eating according to the USDA recommendations for a healthy pregnancy diet. It takes time at first, but once the process is in place you’ll be a pro at making make quick, weekly meal plans for pregnancy.
Step 1: Making Food Lists
The first thing you need to do is sit down and make a list of foods you like in each food category such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, or protein. The key is that the list will contain exactly the amount of food that is recommended for one day. Here’s how:
- Get a paper and something to write with. You’ll make something that you can save and stick to your fridge. You can also easily print and use our Making Pregnancy Meal Plans planning guide, which includes the serving size lists you need.
- If you are not using the Making Pregnancy Meal Plans planning guide, go back to the foods with serving sizes listed in Nutrition During Pregnancy. Begin with grains. Go to the grains list and select 7 servings (8 for the second trimester, or 9 for the third) that could be eaten on the same day.
- You do not need a different food for each serving. For example, one slice of bread is a serving. You may decide to select 3 slices of bread and that puts you up to 3 servings!
- Choose foods that you like.
- Feel free to choose additional foods that are not listed in our article, Nutrition During Pregnancy, but “fit” with the category. To figure out the serving size, find something similar in the list and use the same suggestion. For example, if you love flatbread, look at the serving size for tortillas or pita bread for an approximate guide to how to count flatbread.
- Do not worry at how these foods fit into meals or when you will eat them!
- Move on to the other categories, creating a list of the recommended daily amounts for each. The additional categories are: Veggies, Fruits, Dairy/Calcium, Protein, Healthy Oils.
Examples of the Daily Food Lists
Whole Grains – 7 servings
- Three slices of bread, 1 cup cereal, 1 cup rice, 6 crackers
- A large bagel, 1 cup of pasta, 1 granola bar
- 1 cup cereal, whole pita bread, medium muffin, 1 cup pasta
Fruits and Veggies – 5 servings
- An orange and an apple, 3 spears of broccoli, 1 sweet potato, 1/2 a cup of cauliflower and 1/2 cup of peas
- 1 wedge of cantaloupe, 8 strawberries, 2 cups of baby greens, 6 radishes, and a large tomato
- A peach and 1/2 cup of raisins, corn, 1/2 a cup of green beans, 1 carrot and 1/2 of a cucumber.
Dairy – 3 servings
- 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup of milk, 2 slices of cheese
- 1/2 c ricotta, 2 slices of cheese, 1 cup of milk
- 3 slices of cheese, 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1/2 a cup of ice cream.
Meat/Beans/Eggs – 6 servings
- 1 T of peanut butter, 12 almonds and 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, a chicken breast
- 4T of hummus, 1/2 a can of tuna, and 2 eggs
- 2 eggs and 1 cup of beans.
Healthy Oils – 6 servings a day
- 1/2 an avocado, 1/4 c. sunflower seeds, 3t sesame oil
- 6 t. olive oil
- 2 t of flax seed oil, 4 teaspoons of peanut oil
Step 2: Mix them into meals and snacks
Now that you have lists of the food that you actually would eat in a day, the next step is to create an initial pregnancy meal plan; let’s turn those individual foods into meals and snacks that you will enjoy and that you’ll be able to fit into your personal schedule. By the end of this process it is likely that you won’t end up with exactly the same foods in your meal plan that started on your lists, but you will soon see how the lists kick off your creative brainstorming and also make it easier to remember all the food to be included throughout a day.
- To begin, select just one of your lists from each category. If doesn’t matter which one. Keep your others close at hand. My example follows:
- Protein: 12 almonds, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter and a chicken breast.
- Dairy: 1 c milk, 1 cup of yogurt, 2 slices of cheese.
- Fruits and Veggies: cantaloupe wedge, 8 strawberries, 2 cups baby greens, 6 radishes, 1 large tomato
- Grains: 1 cup of cereal, 1 pita bread, medium muffin, and 1 cup of pasta.
- Healthy Oils: 6 t olive oil.
- Now start pulling your lists together to create some meals. Each time you put an item into a meal, cross it off the list. As you create a meal or a snack you may think of something that would go great with that meal that is not on your list. That’s great! Include the new item, and cross off something similar on your list.
This is an example of how I might work through the list:
- Immediately when I see my lists I see a great breakfast. I can have yogurt with cantaloupe and strawberries and a muffin. I write this down for breakfast, and cross each item off of my lists.
- I love chicken Parmesan, so I will plan on that for supper. I cross off the chicken breast, a slice of cheese, and the cup of pasta. I count the tomato because of the tomato sauce in the chicken parmesan, and make a note to add fresh tomato chucks to my recipe.
- For lunch I’ll use my pita bread. Nothing in my proteins seems fit for a pita, so I choose to use hummus rather than peanut butter. Looking back at the serving lists I see that 2T of hummus counts as a serving, so I cross off my peanut butter, and plan on having hummus in a pita for lunch.
- Now that my three main meals of the day are planned, I go back through my lists and think about how I can fit the rest in. For grains, I am down to only 1 c of cold cereal. I love cereal for a bedtime snack, so I’ll plan on that. I cross off cereal and the cup of milk and add cereal to my snacks list. In my fruits and veggies list I still have 2 cups of baby greens and 6 radishes. Greens and radishes would go great with pita and hummus, so I add them to my lunch plans. In diary, I still have one piece of cheese. I’ll put that into my pita sandwich too. In protein, I have 12 almonds and 1/8 cup sunflower seeds. They would go great in a trail mix, so I will make a trail mix with raisins, almonds, and sunflower seeds and a few chocolate chips and bring it to work to snack on through the morning or afternoon. The only thing left is my 6 t of olive oil. That will be easy to add to the pasta I’m having for dinner.
- Today’s Meal Plan! Yogurt, fruit and muffin for breakfast, snacking on trail mix, a pita with lettuce, cheese, radishes and hummus for lunch, chicken Parmesan for dinner and cereal with milk before bed.
Step 3: Use your first pregnancy meal plan to create others
Now that you have invested effort into creating a fabulous, healthy meal plan, make the most of it by using it in many different ways throughout your pregnancy.
Combine the same foods in new ways
This is a way to make your shopping list stretch farther, and add interest to your days. You are simply recombining the foods into different meals. Let’s continue with our example:
Today I am going to begin the day with cereal and milk and 4 sliced strawberries. I’ll continue snacking on my trail mix (I’ll count the raisins which is why I can cut back on the strawberries). I’ll also bring a muffin for a mid-morning break. For lunch I’ll have a big salad with a sliced chicken breast, oil and vinegar dressing, and carrots (which will replace my radishes), when I get home I’ll have wedge of cantaloupe and yogurt to hold me over for dinner, which will be 2 pita pizzas with cheese and tomatoes. Since I’m having 2 pitas I can cross off the pasta.
There are lots of other variations – you could bake nuts into the muffins and have raisins on your salad. The point is, if you start with foods you like you’ll be able to create several meal plans from the same list, which makes it easier to shop and keep supplies at home.
Vary one or two items per day
Another great way to get more mileage from your meal planning is to stick to a routine for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and simply vary your suppers within the same food groups. For example, every day you could have:
- yogurt, fruit, and a muffin for breakfast,
- the trail mix at work, pita sandwiches for lunch,
- cereal at bed time.
To plan your dinners select three protein servings, one grain serving, 1/2 a dairy serving and a vegetable. I could have fried rice with beef and carrots and a side of cottage cheese. I could have a waffle with creamed chicken and a side of snow peas.
Find a few meals staples meals that you can easily vary week to week, and put them on a weekly rotation.
- Pizza Mondays! Pizza can be topped with nearly anything – think kale and sweet potatoes in the winter, basil and tomato in the summer.
- Tuesday’s fried rice can be made with any meat, eggs, or tofu and nearly any vegetable.
- Pasta with olive oil goes with fish, chicken, or vegetables.
Use these simple staple meals again and again to limit your planning time. This also allows you to easily utilize foods that are in season and growing locally without totally revising your meal plan. These local foods generally have a higher nutrient level and are far tastier!
Other meal planning tips
- Put snacks that satisfy and add to the nutritional value of your day in convenient places, like your desk at work or in your car.
- Be flexible and remember to enjoy your food – enjoy the colors, smells and the social aspects of eating.
- Don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
The key is that now that you have a basic pregnancy meal plan, or several if you choose, you can vary them limitlessly by moving servings around and swapping one food item for another within the same categories. Making a few changes to an existing meal plan is far less overwhelming than looking at that long list of daily recommendations and starting from scratch every day as you try to fit them in. Enjoy a health pregnancy!
Get Ready! Look at the Making Pregnancy Meal Plans Planning Guide.