Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Eating well when you’re pregnant helps you to:
- Support the growth of your baby
- Get the nutrients you and your baby need
- Have more energy
Making healthy food choices can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
- Read food labels to compare the nutrition facts (Health Canada) and choose foods lower in fat, sugar and salt.
- Satisfy your cravings for foods high in fat and sugar by eating small amounts less often and don’t allow them to replace healthier choices.
- Avoid food and drinks that may not be safe to have in your pregnancy like alcohol, liver, and raw foods. The caution foods and drinks that should be eaten in moderation or avoided.
- Drink water when you’re thirsty.
Include a variety of foods in your diet by eating foods from the following 4 food groups.
Vegetables and Fruits
Choose products made from whole grains that are less processed. Try whole wheat breads, pastas or cereals, oats, quinoa, bulgur or brown rice. Whole grains are higher in fibre and B vitamins.
Milk and Alternatives
Meats and Alternatives
Include eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds often. Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry as well as a variety of fish in your diet to get the protein, iron and vitamin B12 you need. Avoid high mercury fish and shellfish which can be harmful. Get clear advice about eating fish in the Guide to Eating Fish.
Alcohol passes from mother to baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There is no known safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy. Alcohol can cause birth defects and brain damage to your baby.
- Avoid all alcohol (cooking and drinking) during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- See Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) for more information.
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, cola and some medications. Caffeine passes from mother to baby. High amounts of caffeine in the diet can lead to a low birth weight baby or even miscarriage.
Caffeine also passes to baby through breast milk. This can make it hard for mom or baby to fall asleep, and baby can be fussy and very alert.
- Limit caffeine to 300 mg a day (equal to 2 cups of coffee).
Most herbal teas are not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are not enough studies to prove that they do not harm the baby.
Avoid any herbal teas and supplements that are not safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
When used in moderation, the following herbal teas are considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding:
- Bitter orange or orange peel
- Red raspberry leaf
- Rose hip
Please note that supplements of the above herbs (tablets, capsules or extracts) should be avoided.
Fish is an excellent source of protein, vitamin D and healthy fats. However, some fish and seafood have a high amount of mercury, a toxin that can harm you and the baby. You can still enjoy the benefits of fish by limiting fish that is high in mercury and by choosing a variety.
- Avoid eating fish high in mercury. Choose low mercury fish instead.
- Get clear advice about eating fish in the Guide to Eating Fish.
Liver and Fish Liver Oil
Liver and fish liver oil have high amounts of Vitamin A. Getting too much Vitamin A in pregnancy may cause birth defects.
- Avoid liver and fish liver oil during pregnancy.
- Raw or undercooked foods may contain bacteria. They can make you sick and affect the baby.
- Avoid raw or undercooked foods during pregnancy.
- The following foods must be fully cooked to kill bacteria:
- Meats and poultry
- Fish and shellfish
- Sprouts, such as bean or alfalfa
- Take a prenatal or multi vitamin every day that includes both folic acid, and iron.
- Add an extra 2 to 3 food guide servings a day in your second and third trimester. Follow Health Canada’s Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide to ensure your needs are met.
- Avoid skipping meals. Eat meals and snacks every 2 – 3 hours during the day. See Your Pregnant Body for more suggestions on how to deal with common discomforts such as, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
Consider registering for one of our free individual and/or group based Prenatal Programs to support you during your pregnancy.