Healthy eating plays a very important role for you and your baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
On this page
- Why healthy eating matters
- Healthy eating habits
- Food safety during pregnancy
- Weight gain during pregnancy
Why healthy eating matters
What you eat and drink during your pregnancy can support a healthy pregnancy.
Healthy eating can help:
- your baby’s healthy growth and development
- you get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you and your developing baby need
It can also can help you:
- feel good
- increase your energy
- gain a healthy amount of weight
Healthy eating habits
It is very important to have healthy eating habits while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Eat a variety of healthy foods each day
Vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods:
- are all part of healthy eating during pregnancy
- contribute to the nutritional health of you and your baby
Try making half your plate vegetables and fruits at meals and snacks.
Choose foods that have little to no added:
- saturated fat
If you are not able to eat a variety of foods due to nausea or vomiting, speak to your health care provider.
Choose foods with healthy fats instead of saturated fat
You need more healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids when you are pregnant. They support the growth of your baby’s brain and tissues. You can get healthy fats from foods like:
- fatty fish
- vegetable oils
Choose fish low in mercury
Fish can provide important nutrients like protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed for healthy growth and development. However, some types of fish contain mercury, which can harm your baby’s brain development. Vary the types of fish you eat and follow advice from Health Canada to limit your exposure to mercury in fish. Check with your local, provincial or territorial government for any advisories on local fish.
Eat a little more food each day than you would normally
During your second and third trimesters, you need more calories each day to support the growth of your baby. Just a little more food each day, such as an extra snack or small meal, is enough.
This is about the same amount of extra food you need to continue to eat while you are breastfeeding.
Choose healthy snacks
Healthy snacks help keep you energized and can support good health for you and your baby.
You can prepare snacks in advance to save you time. Try:
- keeping fruit on the counter
- chopping extra vegetables when cooking
- making muffins or granola bars and storing them in the freezer
- keeping roasted chickpeas and nuts in your bag for when you get hungry on-the-go
Make healthy drink choices
It is important to drink plenty of water while you’re pregnant.
- keep you cool
- help control swelling
- help prevent constipation
- carry away waste products from you and your baby
- carry nutrients through your body and to your growing baby
Make water the easy choice by carrying a reusable water bottle.
White milk and unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages are also healthy drink options.
Being mindful of your eating habits is also important during pregnancy. It can help you make healthier food choices. Be mindful by:
- taking time to eat
- planning your meals and snacks
- decreasing distractions during meals
- including culture, food traditions and taste preferences
Get enough iron
Iron is important for healthy blood. You need to get enough iron so your baby can:
- develop properly
- build up iron for after the birth
To increase your iron intake, eat foods rich in iron such as:
- whole grain foods
- beans, peas and lentils
- lean meats and poultry
When your meal doesn’t include meat, poultry or fish, include a source of vitamin C to help your body absorb iron from foods. Sources of vitamin C include:
- citrus fruits
- sweet peppers
The amount of iron absorbed by your body decreases if you:
- drink coffee or tea with meals
- take calcium supplements or calcium-containing antacids with meals
To avoid decreasing the amount of iron your body absorbs, wait 1 to 2 hours after a meal to:
- drink tea or coffee
- take calcium supplements
Take a daily multivitamin
You need more nutrients when you are pregnant. In addition to eating a variety of healthy foods, a multivitamin can help make sure you get enough of these nutrients.
You need a multivitamin with 0.4 mg folic acid everyday if you:
- are pregnant
- could become pregnant
This can reduce the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect.
While you are pregnant, make sure your daily multivitamin also contains 16 to 20 mg of iron.
A health care provider can help you find the multivitamin that is right for you.
Food safety during pregnancy
You are at higher risk of food poisoning when you are pregnant. Food poisoning can be dangerous to you and your developing baby.
Learn more about food safety and foods to avoid during pregnancy.
Weight gain during pregnancy
The pregnancy weight gain calculator will help you determine how much weight to gain for a healthy pregnancy.
What you eat on a regular basis matters for your health.
- Choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
- Compare the nutrition facts table on foods to choose products that are lower in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.