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. According to Canada's Food Guide, 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 Eating Well with 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. Make sure to choose foods from each of the Food Guide's four food groups every day.
- Vegetables and fruits
Have at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day along with other vegetables and fruit. Examples might include spinach or broccoli, and squash or carrots.
- Grain products
This includes foods like bread, rice and pasta. Try to choose the whole-grain variety.
- Milk and milk alternatives
Milk and alternatives like yogurt and cheese contribute to healthy bones for you and your baby. Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk every day.
- Meat and meat alternatives
Choose lean meats or meat alternatives like dried peas, beans, tofu and lentils. Have at least 5 1/3 ounces or 150 grams (g) of 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 can have an extra two or three Food Guide servings per day. You can add these servings to your meals or have them as a snack.
Here are some examples of two extra Food Guide servings:
- one piece of fruit and ¾ cup (175 g) of yogurt
- one extra piece of toast at breakfast and an extra cup or 250 millilitres (mL) of milk at supper
- half a bagel (1 ½ ounces or 45 g) with 1 ¾ ounces (50 g) of cheese
- 1 ounce (30 g) of cereal with 1 cup (250 mL) of milk
- spinach salad made with 1 cup (250 mL) of spinach, 1 hard-boiled egg and 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of walnuts
- a bowl of cooked oatmeal (¾ cup or 175 mL) made with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) ground almonds, ¼ cup (60 mL) applesauce and cinnamon to taste
- a bowl of plain popcorn (2 cups or 500 mL) 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 ½ cup (125 mL) orange juice and a squeeze of lemon juice
- half of an English muffin topped with 1 slice of Swiss cheese and half of a sliced pear
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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