Eating well when you’re pregnant helps you to:
Healthy Eating Tips During Pregnancy
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink. Healthy eating habits can support a healthy pregnancy.
- Every day choose a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods.
- Drink plenty of water. Keeping hydrated during pregnancy is important.
- Eating well in pregnancy means eating regularly throughout the day, plus adding a little more food than you normally would (e.g. adding an extra snack or small meal). These extra calories will support your baby’s growth in the second and third trimesters.
- Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid and iron every day.
- Avoid foods and drinks that may not be safe to have during your pregnancy.
- Find comfort measures that can help you deal with diet related discomforts during pregnancy such as poor appetite, heartburn, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
- Be mindful of your intake of foods containing sodium, sugars, saturated fats and caffeine. Satisfy your cravings for these foods by eating small amounts less often, without replacing healthier choices.
- Limit processed foods and use food labels to choose foods lower in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.
Enjoy a Variety of Healthy Foods Every Day
Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you plan healthy meals and snacks.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Choose plenty of vegetables and fruits with different textures, colours, and shapes. Include a variety of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits, all of which are good sources of nutrients.
- Eat whole grain foods which are generally less processed and higher in fiber and nutrients.
- Choose oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, teff, millet, and whole grain bread and pasta.
- Eat protein foods at meals and snacks every day.
- Choose protein foods that come from plants such as nuts and seeds, beans, peas, and lentils. Other sources of protein include: eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry, fish and shellfish (fresh, frozen or canned), lower fat dairy products such as milk and yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages, tofu and other soy products.
- Some types of fish contain mercury, which can harm your baby’s brain development. Vary the types of fish you eat, and follow the Guide to Eating Fish to choose fish low in mercury.
- Include healthy fats instead of saturated fats.
- Choose nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and vegetable oils.
- Fatty fish are a source of omega-3 fatty acids which can benefit the growth of your baby’s brain.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Make water your drink of choice and carry a reusable water bottle when you go out.
- Add fruits to hot or cold water for flavour, and enjoy other healthy drink options such as white milk and unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages.
- Avoid drinks not recommended during pregnancy.
Foods to Avoid
Fish High in Mercury
- Avoid fish high in mercury such as shark, swordfish and marlin.
- Choose a variety of fish that are low in mercury such as salmon, pollock and tilapia.
- Large fish which live a long time and eat other fish have the most mercury built up in their tissue.
- The fetus and infants exposed to high levels of mercury may have problems with learning, walking and talking.
- Find more information on mercury content in fish.
Liver, Liver Products and Fish Liver Oil
- Avoid liver, liver products (such as liver sausage, liverwurst or liver spreads and pates), and fish liver oil, especially in the first trimester.
- Liver, liver products, and fish liver oil may contain high amounts of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A from animal sources in the first trimester could potentially cause birth defects.
- Avoid protein supplements, including protein powders, protein bars and soy protein/isoflavone supplements.
- Supplements with high protein content may lead to having a small baby. Isoflavones in soy protein could potentially have a harmful effect on the developing baby.
- Foods made from whole soy beans are safe to eat during pregnancy.
Unripe/Semi-Ripe or “Green” Papaya and Supplements
- Avoid unripe, semi-ripe or “green” papaya and their supplements such as papaya enzymes and papaya extracts.
- Unripe or semi-ripe papaya contains high levels of latex which could potentially cause uterine contractions and be unsafe in pregnancy.
Deli Meats and Hot Dogs
- Avoid deli meats such as ham, turkey, bologna and roast beef, as well as hot dogs that have not been heated up to steaming hot.
- Heat up deli meats and hot dogs before eating them to make sure they are safe to eat.
- Wash your hands after touching hot dogs to avoid spreading juices from hot dog packages onto other foods.
Raw/Undercooked Meat, Poultry, Fish/Seafood, Eggs and Sprouts
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry (such as chicken), fish and seafood (such as sushi/sashimi and raw oysters), eggs, and sprouts (such as bean and alfalfa sprouts).
- Cook these foods thoroughly to make sure they are safe to eat.
Refrigerated Smoked Fish/Seafood
- Avoid refrigerated smoked fish/seafood, such as smoked salmon.
- Cook these foods thoroughly, or choose smoked seafood in cans or those that do not need refrigeration until opened.
Soft, Semi-Soft and Blue-Veined Cheeses
- Avoid all (pasteurized and unpasteurized) soft, semi-soft and blue-veined cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, goat, feta and Havarti, unless cooked to steaming hot.
- Choose hard cheeses or other types of pasteurized cheeses (such as cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, Romano and Parmesan). You can safely eat these cheeses without cooking them.
Cannabis (Marijuana, Pot, Weed) in Foods or Drinks
- Avoid eating and drinking any products made with cannabis.
- There is no known safe limits of cannabis use during pregnancy.
- Cannabis use during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a small baby and preterm birth. Find more information about cannabis and your health during pregnancy.
Drinks to Avoid
- Avoid alcoholic drinks and foods containing or cooked with alcohol.
- There is no safe amount of alcohol and no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. This includes beer, liquor, wine, coolers, and foods containing or cooked with alcohol. Alcohol can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy and cause developmental harm to the baby.
Energy Drinks and Vitamin Waters
- Avoid energy drinks and vitamin waters.
- Energy drinks and vitamin waters may contain high levels of caffeine, herbs, vitamins and minerals, which can be harmful during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They also often contain high amounts of sugar, giving you extra calories you may not need.
- Avoid unpasteurized juices/smoothies/ciders which may be sold as ‘raw’, ‘freshly squeezed’, or ‘freshly juiced’ drinks at juice bars and farmers’ markets.
- Avoid kombucha drinks because they may be unpasteurized and contain very small amounts of alcohol, which may not be on the label.
- Choose pasteurized drinks instead.
- Unpasteurized drinks may contain harmful bacteria, which can cause serious illness in pregnancy and harm to the baby.
- Limit your caffeine intake to less than 300 mg each day.
- Caffeine is found in coffee, teas (black, green and white), cola, energy drinks, chocolate and some medications.
- Caffeine passes from mother to baby during pregnancy. Having too much caffeine when you’re pregnant may lead to having a small baby or miscarriage.
- Caffeine also decreases the amount of iron and calcium your body absorbs.
Herbal Teas (Caffeine-Free) and Herbal Supplements
- Avoid all herbal teas and herbal supplements (tablets, capsules, extracts) except the safe herbal teas listed below and ginger supplements.
- Limit the following safe herbal teas to 2-3 cups (500-750 mL) a day and choose a variety: ginger, peppermint, bitter orange/orange peel, echinacea, red raspberry leaf, rose hip and rosemary.
- Most herbal teas are not recommended during pregnancy because there are not enough studies to prove their safety.
Meal Replacement Drinks/Nutritional Supplements
- Consult with your health care provider before taking any meal replacement drinks or nutritional supplements.
- These drinks are not necessary when you’re pregnant unless recommended by your health care provider.
- Many of these drinks contain high levels of sugar, vitamins and minerals, which give you extra calories you may not need or cause harm to the developing baby.
Eating the Foods You & Your Baby Need
- If you are having difficulty eating foods during pregnancy due to discomforts of pregnancy such as poor appetite, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and constipation, learn more about how to manage these common discomforts.
- Every effort you take to do your best to eat well can help protect your health and your baby’s health.
- Being mindful of your eating habits can help you make healthier choices, and be more conscious about your everyday eating decisions.
- Eating well can help improve your mood and how you feel.
- If you are struggling with your mood, stress or substance use during pregnancy, talk to a health care provider and call 211 to find out about community supports.
Healthy Eating on a Budget
Making healthy food choices during pregnancy doesn’t have to cost more. Some ideas to make healthy eating on a budget easier include:
- Cook at home more often. Eating out or take-out can cost two or three times more per meal.
- Reduce food waste at home by planning meals around the foods and leftovers you have on hand in your fridge or in your cupboards. For example, make a soup or casserole with extra vegetables and meat.
- Go meatless two or three times a week to lower your food cost. Try new recipes that use eggs or plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, lentils or other legumes as their main ingredient.
- Check what foods you have on hand in the fridge or cupboards and make a grocery list of what you need before going to the store.
- Give yourself a challenge to minimize your trips to the store- the more you go to the store, the more you spend.
- Eat before you shop, being hungry at the store can make you buy more!
At the store
- Look for healthy options that are on sale and find vegetables and fruit that are in season.
- Stretch your food dollar with healthy options like canned or frozen foods which can cost less and last longer. You can find many canned or frozen varieties of vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils, fish and seafood, etc.
- Compare the unit price for similar items. The unit price tells you how much something costs per “unit” or per 100 grams (g) or 100 millilitres (mL). This price can help you compare whether a large or small size is a better buy.
- Stick to your grocery list and be sure to check that the charges in your bill are correct before you leave the store.
If accessing food is difficult, talk to a health care or service provider, and call 211 or visit 211 Central.ca to find out about community supports in your area (e.g. Food Banks and Community Food Programs, low cost or free meals, etc).
Attend Prenatal Nutrition Programs
- Having community supports during your pregnancy is important for the health and well-being of yourself and your baby.
- Find out about Prenatal Programs in your area.