Healthy Eating

HealthyEatingPregnant_banner.png

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet will increase your chance of having a healthy baby and will keep you healthy after your baby is born.

Eating well will also help you feel better, give you more energy and help you gain a healthy amount of weight.

What should I eat when pregnant and how much?

What you eat now is similar to what was recommended when you were not pregnant, with slightly more food for the growing baby.

For a healthy amount of weight gain, pregnant women need just a little more food in the second and third trimesters. For most women, this means an extra 2-3 servings from any of the food groups each day in addition to what is recommended in Canada's Food Guide.

Continue to eat from all four food groups as outlined in Canada’s Food Guide and be sure to choose foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals, like:

Nutrient What does it do? Good food sources
Folic acid Decreases the risk of developing some defects in the baby and supports growth and development of the fetus
  • lentils
  • asparagus and spinach, cooked
  • grains made with enriched flour
  • orange juice
Iron Helps build extra red blood cells for your growing baby and you
  • beef, chicken, lamb and pork
  • fish
  • pumpkin seed kernels
  • tofu
  • legumes
Calcium and Vitamin D Supports your bones and the teeth and bones of your baby

Calcium:

  • cow's milk
  • kefir
  • cheese
  • almonds
  • tempeh

Vitamin D:

  • cow’s milk
  • fortified soy/rice beverage
  • fortified orange juice
  • salmon
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important for your growing baby’s brain and eyes
  • oily fish (herring, salmon, mackerel and trout)
  • ground chia, hemp and flax seeds
  • walnuts
  • soybeans

If you’re worried you might be missing some food groups, and some essential vitamins or minerals, or if you are vegetarian, talk with your health care professional about supplements that may help.

Learn more about healthy eating for each trimester.

What about food allergies during pregnancy?

If you have food allergies and are concerned about healthy eating during pregnancy, contact a registered dietitian or your health care provider. If you have concerns about your baby developing a food allergy, also talk to a health care provider. 

The latest evidence suggests that pregnant moms do not need to avoid or restrict foods to prevent food allergies from developing in their baby. Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide will help your baby grow and be healthy. 

Learn more on reducing the risk of food allergy in your baby.

    How much weight should I gain while pregnant?

    Healthy weight gain during pregnancy can decrease your risk of developing gestational diabetes and your chances of giving birth to a baby with a high or low birthweight. Learn more on healthy weight gain during pregnancy by trimester.

    The weight you gain helps your body support the growing baby and prepare for breastfeeding. Recommendations are based on each trimester:

    The optimal weight gain during pregnancy depends on what your weight was prior to becoming pregnant and also on how many babies you are carrying. The best advice is to talk with your health care professional about the recommended weight for you.

    If you are not gaining the recommended weight or if you are losing weight or dieting, it is very important to seek help.

    Get it straight: Coffee, teas, caffeine and sweeteners

    Know the facts: Sandwich meats, soft cheeses and sushi

    Sushi often contains fish which is healthy to eat during pregnancy. However, avoid any sushi made with raw or undercooked meat or fish, as these carry a high risk for contamination with bacteria.

    Fish is a healthy source of protein, iron and omega-3 fats. But be sure to choose fish that is low in mercury and limit or restrict eating fish high in mercury. Mercury that is ingested by mom can harm a growing fetus.

    Sandwich meats and soft cheeses should be avoided as they have a high risk of being contaminated with bacteria called listeria, which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or a sick baby.

    Other foods to avoid:

    • Raw or undercooked fish, meat, chicken, eggs, and seafood
    • Unpasteurized foods such as raw milk, unpasteurized juices or ciders and liquid eggs
    • Refrigerated smoked seafood and shellfish (e.g. smoked salmon)
    • Sandwich meats and hot dogs
    • Soft cheeses, even if pasteurized (e.g. brie, camembert, gorgonzola and feta)
    • Patés and meat spreads
    • Raw sprouts, which can be found in pre-packaged or prepared fruit and vegetable salads

    Hard cheeses are safe to eat during pregnancy as long as they have been made with pasteurized milk. Pasteurized soft cheeses are also safe if they have been cooked.

    Read the booklet: Eat Safely, Eat Well: Food Safety During Pregnancy to decrease your chances of getting sick from food.

    Alcohol and drug use

    Everything you eat, drink, or take into your body can affect your baby. It is not safe to take any amount of alcohol or drugs while you are pregnant. Learn more about how drugs and alcohol can affect you and your baby.

    Any amount of alcohol during pregnancy could increase the risk of baby developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), which could mean lifelong disability for your child.

    If you were drinking before knowing you were pregnant, having a small amount of alcohol is not likely to harm your baby. Quitting now and looking after your own health are the best ways to ensure that your baby is healthy. It is never too late to stop.

    Need help quitting? Call Alcohol and Drug Referral Service 1-800-663-1441 or the Motherrisk Alcohol and Substance Use helpline.

    What about heartburn?

    Many women experience heartburn or gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD) during pregnancy. Heartburn can feel like a burning, warmth or pain just below the breastbone.

    Find ways to manage heartburn (GERD) during pregnancy or contact your health care provider for more support.

    Prenatal vitamins and supplements

    The extra nutrients that are needed for a healthy pregnancy are provided by both food and supplements. For more detailed information on supplements, visit Healthy Families BC: Dietary Supplements During Pregnancy.

    • Any supplements or alternative medicines should be checked by your health care provider in advance.
    • While you're pregnant, take a daily prenatal multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that has folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron. These vitamins are not meant to replace a healthy diet. Instead, they ensure that the extra nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy are provided by both food and supplements.
    • To make sure that no harm comes to your baby, stay within dosages for the minerals and vitamins that are recommended during pregnancy. In some circumstances, such as that for vegetarians, a health care provider may offer different recommendations.  
    • Only take supplements from a bottle with a Natural Product Number (NPN).
    • If you can’t afford prenatal vitamins, talk to your doctor or local public health nurse about options.

    Resources

    I Need To...