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Healthy Eating for New and Expecting Mothers

Healthy eating is important before, during and after pregnancy. There are certain nutrient needs that are increased during this time


Planning for Pregnancy

Eating habits can influence your future baby's health even before you are pregnant. That is why it is important to eat well when you are planning for pregnancy.

You will improve your health and the future health of your baby by following Canada’s Food Guide.

The time to make sure that you are getting enough folic acid is before you get pregnant. Take a daily multivitamin that has 0.4 milligrams of folic acid to help prevent serious birth defects in the spine and brain.

For information about healthy before pregnancy, visit Preconception Health and read the Folic acid fact sheet.


During Pregnancy

Healthy eating during pregnancy is important. What you eat directly affects your baby. The nutrients your baby needs come from the food you eat.

Following Canada’s Food Guide is one of the easiest ways to make sure you include the nutrients that help create a healthy baby. Even if you are vegetarian, Canada’s Food Guide can work for you.

There are other things you can do to support a healthy pregnancy:

  • Take a daily multivitamin that has 0.4 milligrams of folic acid and 16 to 20 milligrams of iron
  • Eat regular meals and snacks including breakfast
  • Include an extra two to three Food Guide Servings each day
  • Limit caffeine to 200 mg a day. This is about one to two cups of coffee
  • Drink water when thirsty

Most Important Nutrients

Iron

  • Develops your baby's muscles and blood
  • Sources include beef, lamb, pork, dark meat turkey, chicken, tofu, eggs, beans, chickpeas, lentils, some nuts and seeds, spinach and some breakfast cereals
  • Take a multivitamin that contains 16 to 20 milligrams of iron during pregnancy
  • Include food with vitamin C (most fruits and vegetables) when eating non-meat sources of iron
  • For more information on iron, see our Iron and your health fact sheet

Folic Acid

  • During the first four weeks of pregnancy, folic acid plays a key role in the growth of a baby’s spine, brain and skull
  • Most women do not get enough folic acid from food alone. In addition to a healthy diet based on Canada’s Food Guide, take a daily multivitamin with 0.4 milligrams of folic acid
  • Many foods contain folate, the form of the B vitamin found in food. Sources include green vegetables, orange fruit like mango or papaya, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, eggs and grain products like pasta, bread and naan
  • For more information, see our Folic acid fact sheet

Calcium and Vitamin D

  • Build bones and teeth
  • Sources of calcium include milk, fortified soy beverages, yogurt, cheese and other non-milk sources such as firm tofu, canned salmon, broccoli and kale
  • Food sources of vitamin D include milk, fortified soy beverage, fortified yogurt (check the label), margarine, fatty fish like salmon and egg yolks
  • For more information, seee our non-milk sources of calcium and vitamin D fact sheet

Omega-3 Fat (DHA and EPA)

  • Build eyes, nerves and brain
  • Eat at least two Food Guide Servings of fish each week. Choose fish that is low in mercury.
  • Some foods are fortified with omega-3 fats. Since some fortified products only have a small amount of omega, read labels carefully

Food Safety During Pregnancy

It is important to wash your hands well and often, follow safe food handling at home and avoid certain high risk foods.

For more information about eating safe foods during pregnancy and for a list of high risk foods to avoid during pregnancy, read the Food safety during pregnancy fact sheet.

Drinking Water Safety

Municipal water is regularly tested to ensure that it is safe.  While you are pregnant, do not drink water from lakes, streams, natural springs, dug wells and wells of unknown safety unless water has been treated. To treat water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute or find an alternate source.

You should test your well water at least three times per year to ensure the water is not contaminated with bacteria and is safe to drink. Water sample bottles are available at York Region Public Health offices.

Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy creates a healthy environment for your baby to grow and develop.

Most weight gain will happen in the second and third trimesters. This is when important things like your blood volume, uterus size, breast tissue, placenta and amniotic fluid are all increasing to help support your growing baby. It is important to discuss your personal weight gain needs with your doctor or midwife.

When Baby has Arrived

A new baby brings many changes. Taking care of yourself will give you energy to keep up with your baby. Continue to eat well and be active. For more information, read our Taking care of YOU after baby arrives fact sheet.

There is no special diet that you need to follow while breastfeeding. Eat a variety of foods based on Canada’s Food Guide and drink to your thirst.




Related Resources

Talk to a Registered Dietitian
For free and confidential information on nutrition, call TeleHealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000

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