What to eat, foods to avoid and supplements during pregnancy.
Eating well now will help you and your baby be healthy through pregnancy and beyond.
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 during the second and third trimester.
What does it do?
Good food sources
Decreases the risk of developing some defects in the baby and supports growth and development of the fetus
Helps build extra red blood cells for your growing baby and you
Supports your bones and the teeth and bones of your baby
Important for your growing baby’s brain and eyes
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.
What if I am vegetarian?
Well-planned plant-based diets that include a wide variety of foods can provide the nutrients you and your baby need. It is best to speak to a registered dietitian to make sure you are getting enough iron, zinc, omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.
Contact a dietitian
What about food allergies during pregnancy?
If you have food allergies, or if you have concerns about your baby developing a food allergy, talk to a health care provider or a registered dietitian.
Pregnant moms do not need to avoid or restrict foods to prevent food allergies from developing in their baby.
Nitrates and manganese in well water
If you use well water for drinking or cooking, be sure to have your well water tested regularly for nitrates and manganese.
Coffee, tea, caffeine and sweeteners
- Caffeine: It is recommended that you limit caffeine to no more than 300 mg a day. Two cups (16 ounces) of brewed coffee has about 300 mg of caffeine. A 12 oz caffe latte has 75 mg of caffeine. Caffeine is also found in energy drinks, yerba mate, teas, chocolate, cola and some medications.
- Certain herbal teas and herbs are unsafe during pregnancy and should be avoided. Avoid teas that don't have an ingredient list. The following types of tea are generally safe: ginger, bitter orange/orange peel, echinacea, peppermint, rose hip and rosemary. Limit herbal teas to three cups per day.
- Moderate amounts of artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes are considered safe during pregnancy.
Deli meats, soft cheese and raw sushi
Deli meats and soft cheeses (for example, brie, camembert, gorgonzola and feta) should be avoided or cooked well as they have a high risk of being contaminated with bacteria called listeria, which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or a sick baby.
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.
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.
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 (for example, smoked salmon)
- Uncooked hot dogs
- Patés and meat spreads
- Raw sprouts, which can be found in pre-packaged or prepared fruit and vegetable salads
One of the biggest causes of food-borne illness is unsafe food preparation and storage. Learn more about food safety and pregnancy.
Many women experience heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux 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.
- Before taking any supplements or alternative medicines, check with your health care provider.
- 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 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.
Learn more about dietary supplements during pregnancy.
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 Disorder (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 at 1-800-663-1441.
- Public Health Agency of Canada: The healthy pregnancy guide
- HealthLink BC: Healthy eating guidelines for pregnancy
- Dietitians of Canada: Pregnancy
- Free and low-cost meals directory
Listings for free and low-cost meal programs in Fraser Health