Prenatal nutrition: The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
Healthy eating plays a very important role in a healthy pregnancy. You need to eat foods from a variety of sources to make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you and your developing baby need. Eating well will also help you feel better, give you more energy and help you gain a healthy amount of weight. It will also contribute to your baby's healthy growth and development.
Know what you need
During your second and third trimesters of pregnancy, you need a few more calories each day to support the growth of your baby. One extra snack is often enough. For example, have an apple or a pear with a small piece of cheese as an afternoon snack. Follow Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide to eat the amount and type of food that is right for you and your baby.
Fruits and vegetables are a must!
Pregnant women need fruits and vegetables every day. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit contain more of the kinds of vitamins you and your baby need. You should eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day. Make sure your fruits and vegetables are prepared with little or no added fat, sugar and salt, and choose vegetables and fruit more often than juice.
Grain products are important
You need to include grain products as part of your daily diet. This includes foods like bread, rice and pasta. Try to choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar and salt, and look for the "whole grain" variety since at least half of your daily grain intake should be whole grain.
Have milk and milk alternatives for strong bones
Milk and alternatives are important for your growing baby. Opt for the low-fat variety, which will give you the high quality protein, calcium and vitamin D you need but with less of the fat and calories. Have skim, 1% or 2% milk every day and go for lower fat varieties of yogurt and cheese. Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk.
Include meat and meat alternatives
Eating meat and alternatives each day will help you and your baby stay healthy. Choose lean (less fatty) meats and meat alternatives—dried peas, beans, tofu and lentils—made with little or no added fat or salt. Fish is also important and should be eaten each week. But choosing which fish to eat, and how much, can be complicated.
Visit Health Canada's Web site to find out how to choose fish that are low in mercury so that you and your baby can take advantage of the benefits of eating fish while minimizing the risks from mercury.
Aim for three meals a day with healthy snacks in between. Check out Canada's Food Guide to see how many servings of each food group you need each day.
Take a multivitamin every day.
Make sure it has 0.4 mg of folic acid and 16 to 20 mg of iron. A health care provider can help you find the multivitamin that is right for you.
Common Questions About Prenatal Nutritution
How much weight should I gain while I'm pregnant?
It depends on how much you weighed before you got pregnant. The following recommendations are based on your Body Mass Index (BMI) before you became pregnant. BMI is a number based on a comparison of your weight to your height (BMI = weight (kg)/height (m)2).
If you are pregnant with more than one baby (twins, triplets) you will need to gain more weight. Your health care provider will be able to advise you.
Is there anything I shouldn't eat while I'm pregnant?
Yes. Avoid the following foods which may be contaminated by bacteria:
- Raw fish, especially shellfish such as oysters and clams
- Undercooked meat, poultry and seafood
- Hot dogs, non-dried deli-meats, refrigerated pâté, meat spreads and refrigerated smoked seafood and fish
- All foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs (for example, homemade Caesar vinaigrette)
- Unpasteurized and pasteurized soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert and unpasteurized semi-soft cheeses such as Roquefor or Stilton
Unpasteurized juices, such as unpasteurized apple cider
Raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts
I often have to eat on the run. What should I grab for a snack?
There are lots of healthy foods you can eat on the run. Try pre-washed vegetables (like baby carrots, cauliflower and broccoli), raisin boxes, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, mixed vegetable juice or fruit juice, trail mix (raisins, dried fruit, nuts and seeds) and cheese. Don't forget to drink plenty of water!
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