Canada’s food guide

Healthy eating when pregnant and breastfeeding

Healthy eating plays a very important role for you and your baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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:

  • sodium
  • sugars
  • 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:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • 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. 

Water can:

  • 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.

Be mindful

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:

  • tofu
  • fish
  • eggs
  • 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:

  • kiwi
  • broccoli
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • citrus fruits
  • strawberries
  • 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.

Make a healthy choice

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.