Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Following Canada's Food Guide can help women eat the amount and type of food that is right for her and her baby.

During different stages of their childbearing years, women need additional nutrients or calories.

Folic Acid and Iron

Although folic acid is found in some foods, such as dark green vegetables, beans, lentils, orange juice and some grain products, all women who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding need a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid. This supplement, together with the amount of folic acid obtained by following Canada's Food Guide, will help decrease the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) and meet the extra folic acid needs for those pregnant and breastfeeding.

In addition, pregnant women need to ensure that their multivitamin contains between 16 and 20 mg of iron. A health care provider can help you find the multivitamin that is right for you.

Additional Food Guide Servings

Gaining weight is a natural process of pregnancy that supports your baby's growth and development, and prepares you for breastfeeding. How much weight gain is recommended depends on a woman's weight before becoming pregnant. Most of the weight gain happens during the second and third trimesters.

To help them gain a healthy amount of weight, pregnant and breastfeeding women need just a little more food in the second and third trimesters. a few more calories. For most women, this means an extra two or three Food Guide Servings from any of the food  groups each day in addition to their recommended number of Food Guide Servings per day.

These extra Food Guide Servings can either be included as an additional snack, or can be added to their usual meals. Breastfeeding women also need an extra two to three Food Guide Servings each day.

Want to know if you are on the right track? Print the My Food Guide Servings Tracker and use it to keep track of the food you eat.

Here are some examples of what two extra Food Guide Servings may look like:

  • One piece of fruit and 175 g (¾ cup) of yogurt, or
  • One extra piece of toast at breakfast and an extra 250 mL (1 cup) of milk at supper, or
  • Half a bagel (45 g) with 50 g (1 ½ oz.) of cheese, or
  • 30 g of cereal with 250 mL (1 cup) of milk, or
  • Spinach salad made with: 250 mL (1 cup) of spinach, one hard boiled egg and 30 mL (2 Tbsp) of walnuts.
  • A bowl of cooked oatmeal (175 mL or 3/4 cup) made with: 30 mL (2 Tbsp) ground almonds, 60 mL (1/4 cup) applesauce and cinnamon, or
  • A bowl of plain popcorn (500 mL or 2 cups) sprinkled with your favourite flavouring (such as cinnamon, garlic powder, curry powder, hot sauce or finely grated parmesan cheese) paired with a tall glass of soda water, mixed with 125 mL (½ cup) orange juice and a squeeze of lemon juice, or
  • Half of an English muffin topped with 1 slice of Swiss cheese and half of a sliced pear.

Here are some examples of what three extra Food Guide Servings may look like:

  • Pasta salad made with: 125 mL (½ cup) of pasta, 125 mL (½ cup) of cut-up vegetables, and 75g (2 ½ oz) chicken, or
  • Half a pita bread (35 g), 15 mL (1 Tbsp) peanut butter, 125 mL
    (½ cup) of milk and 125 mL (½ cup) of baby carrots, or
  • One slice of whole grain bread (35 g) with 50 g (1 ½ oz.) of cheese and 125 mL (½ cup) of orange juice, or  
  • A sandwich made with two slices (35 g each) of pumpernickel bread and 75 g (2 ½ oz.)/125 mL, (½ cup) canned salmon*.
    * Health Canada provides advice for limiting exposure to mercury from certain types of fish.

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