Food & Drink

Recipes by Trimester – First Trimester (Weeks 1 – 12)

[Image - Jakub K]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

During pregnancy, your partner will have sudden cravings and completely different nutritional needs.

What should you be offering to cook?

Nutritional needs actually shift throughout pregnancy, as different parts of your baby develop and grow, and as your partner’s body goes through big changes. Dry crackers, flat ginger beer and peppermint cordial can be a lifesaver in the first trimester, when nausea and sickness tend to be at their worst.

During the first trimester, after fertilisation and implantation, your baby is developing at an astonishing speed. With their organs forming and facial features taking shape, it’s no wonder your partner’s tired! The nutrients she needs now will not only give your baby the best start possible, but support her body as it goes through huge changes.

Important nutrients in the first trimester (daily recommended amount):

Iron (27mg) – Most women need about 50% more than usual during pregnancy due to an increase in blood volume and red blood cells, meaning her body needs to make extra haemoglobin. Throughout the pregnancy, babies take all the iron they need from mum and towards the end, will be storing enough to last through the first 6 months after birth.

Vitamin C (85mg) – During pregnancy, women’s immune systems drop dramatically. It cleverly enables the body to accept a foreign body (the baby) growing inside it without fighting it off, however it does mean that – all through pregnancy – your partner is really susceptible to picking up every virus going around and getting it more severely and for longer. Vitamin C is wonderful for fighting infection!

Calcium (1200mg) – Like all nutrients in pregnancy, your baby takes what it needs first, so getting enough calcium is just as important to ensure that mum keeps strong bones as well as baby developing some. Again, this is something that needs to be taken throughout the pregnancy.

Folate – Vitamin B9 (400 – 600mg) – The baby needs folate (folic Acid) in order to develop a healthy nervous system and avoid Neural Tube Defects relating to the brain and spinal cord, such as Spina Bifida. It also works with Vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells. Women with a higher BMI are more likely to have low levels of folate in their blood.

Vitamin B6 (1.9mg averaged over a few days) – Some women find that this vitamin can reduce nausea, although the reason is unknown. It helps us to use and store energy from foods, and process amino acids. You don’t want your partner to take too much of this one (over 50g a day), as overly high levels are thought to have side effects, and it’s much better to get it from a healthy, balanced diet than a supplement.

Your partner may need to simply nibble on whatever she fancies at any moment. However, if she can manage to eat properly, it should make her feel better. She’s going to be exhausted right now, so take the responsibility of cooking the main meal and try tempting her with these recipes to help her get the nutrients to feel at her best; as she puts all of her energy into growing your little one. All recipes featured serve one, so just double them to eat together!

Mango & Papaya Smoothie

Both mango and papaya are tropical fruits which are high in folate, so this recipe is great for baby’s development. With a splash of calcium to help with healthy bones and a little honey to aid nausea – this smoothie should give your partner a much needed boost.


1 cup of mango

1 cup of papaya

1 cup of ice cubes

½ cup of yoghurt (a fruity flavour can work just as well as plain)

½ cup of milk

Add honey to taste and optional coconut milk for that truly tropical feel.


Blend together and serve with a straw so your partner can take little sips to combat nausea. (If she’s lactose intolerant or allergic to diary, replace milk and yoghurt with fortified almond, soy or rice milk to give enough calcium.)

Beef Stir-fry

It may sound rich, but beef is a fantastic source of iron, which 50% of pregnant women lack causing extreme tiredness, further nausea and dizziness. Serving it to your partner in a stir-fry makes it that bit more manageable. The rice as the carbohydrate is crucial to combatting the nausea and sickness, and is light on the digestive system. The vegetables provide non-heme sources of iron, some folate and are a good source of fibre, something really important for pregnant ladies! (For those on a tighter budget, look out for reduced section steaks which can easily be frozen for later.)


1 beef steak, cubed or in strips

1 medium stalk of broccoli, chopped (Folate)

½ cup of chickpeas

1 cup of rice, cooked

1 ounce (28g) of sesame seeds (can replace with pumpkin or squash seeds.)

1 medium green pepper, chopped or diced

½ cup of morel or white mushrooms, sliced

½ cup of mange tout

1 spring onion if desired, chopped

As much spinach as you can manage! (Add a couple of minutes before finishing to wilt to perfection.)

Bean sprouts, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts can be added for those really wanting an Asian flavour.


Cook together in a wok – or a deep frying pan if you don’t have one – and stir in your sauce of choice at the end! Hoisin Sauce goes well with beef, but for another option try 2 tbsp of balsamic vnegar, 2 tbsp of dark Soy Sauce and 2 tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce, the small amounts of each mean that the bottles last for ages! It keeps fine in the fridge for a few days and tastes great cold, so if your partner wants to eat a smaller portion more often then that’s fine too. (If your partner is veggie then simply replace the beef with tofu.)

Get her to nibble on: Dark chocolate (iron), fresh oranges (Folate, Vitamin C), falafel (iron), sunflower seeds (iron, Vitamin B6), pistachio nuts (Vitamin B6), dried apricots/prunes (iron, Vitamin C)