Healthy eating and pregnancy
Healthy eating plays an important role in a healthy pregnancy. Eating well contributes to your baby's successful growth and development. It will also help you feel better, give you more energy and help you gain the healthy amount of weight.
When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you need more nutrition in your diet. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat a little more food every day. Often, one extra snack per day is enough.
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Should I take supplements?
Two nutrients you will need to supplement are folic acid and iron. Your daily multivitamin should have 0.4 milligrams (mg) of folic acid and 16 to 20 mg of iron. A health care provider can help you choose the multivitamin that is right for you.
Take your daily multivitamin with folic acid for at least three months before pregnancy. Make sure to keep taking your multivitamin during pregnancy.
What can I eat?
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, follow Canada's Food Guide. It will help you choose the right amount and type of food that is best for you and your baby.
It is important to keep variety in your diet while you are pregnant.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. Choose dark green and orange vegetables each day Examples might include spinach or broccoli, and squash or carrots.
- Choose whole grain foods like bread, rice and pasta.
- Dairy products like yogurt and cheese contribute to healthy bones for you and your baby. Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk..
- Choose lean meats, dried peas, beans, tofu and lentils. Have cooked fish each week. Health Canada has advice to help you choose fish low in mercury.
How much food should I eat?
During the second and third trimesters, you need a few more calories each day. This supports the growth of your baby. Most of the time, it means you may need a little more food each day. You can add an extra healthy snack or extra food to your meal.
Here are some examples:
- fruit and yogurt
- cereal with milk
- half a bagel with cheese
- one extra piece of toast at breakfast and milk at supper
- spinach salad made with spinach, hard-boiled egg and walnuts
- half of an English muffin topped with Swiss cheese and sliced pear
- a bowl of cooked oatmeal made with ground almonds, applesauce and cinnamon to taste
What foods should I avoid?
When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, food safety is very important. Follow Health Canada's food safety advice for pregnant women. Avoid eating foods that are a higher risk to you and your growing baby during pregnancy. A food is considered "high risk" when there is a high chance it could be contaminated by unsafe bacteria.
Higher risk foods include:
- Raw fish - especially shellfish, oysters and clams
- Undercooked meat, poultry, seafood
- Hot dogs and deli meats (for example, non-dried deli-meats, pâté, refrigerated smoked seafood and fish)
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs (homemade Caesar vinaigrette, runny eggs)
- Unpasteurized milk products - soft and semi-soft cheeses like brie or Camembert
- Unpasteurized juices - unpasteurized apple cider
- Raw sprouts - especially alfalfa sprouts
Remember, there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy or when planning to be pregnant.
How much weight should I gain?
When you are pregnant, gaining weight will support your baby's growth and prepare you for breastfeeding. How much you need to gain depends on your weight before pregnancy. Most of your weight gain will happen during your second and third trimester.
Visit the Pregnancy Weight Gain Calculator to learn how much weight is healthy for you. Keep in mind, your weight gain depends on what your body mass index (BMI) was before you became pregnant. BMI is a number based on comparing your weight to your height.
Gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy can:
- help your baby have a healthy start
- reduce your risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery, and
- improve your long-term health by maintaining a healthy body weight
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