There’s no question about it – healthy eating plays a major role in a healthy pregnancy. Experts at the Public Health Agency of Canada recommend Moms-to-be eat foods from a variety of sources – to ensure you and your growing baby are getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need1. Feeling tired? A wholesome diet will also help you feel best, give you more much-needed energy and help you gain a healthy amount of weight.
During your second and third trimesters, it’s crucial to increase your daily calorie intake to support your baby. They say one extra snack each day is often enough2. For example, have an apple or a pear with a small piece of cheese as an afternoon snack.
Maybe you’re eating a healthy variety of foods, or maybe you need to make a few changes to your pregnancy diet. In our experience, planning meals can help give you the confidence to integrate the nutrients you need into your meals. Canada’s Food Guide is a great place to start.
What your body needs right now
We can’t say it enough – eating a variety of foods can help ensure you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need most. When you plan your meals, consider the following choices:
- Instead of saturated fats, choose unsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil, nuts, and fish.
- Carbohydrates from whole grain foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils).
- Lean protein such as fish that are low in mercury, poultry without skin, low-fat milk products, and legumes3.
What you should avoid right now
It’s important to note that some foods come with a bit of risk when you’re pregnant. Nutrition experts recommend you steer clear of the following, which have been known to become contaminated by bacteria:
- Raw fish (especially shellfish like oysters and clams).
- Undercooked meat, poultry and seafood.
- Hot dogs, non-dried deli-meats, refrigerated pâté, meat spreads and refrigerated smoked seafood and fish.
- All foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs.
- Unpasteurized and pasteurized soft cheeses (Brie or Camembert) and unpasteurized semi-soft cheeses (Roquefort or Stilton).
- Unpasteurized juices (unpasteurized apple cider).
- Raw sprouts (especially alfalfa sprouts)4.
The importance of folic acid
Why is folic acid so essential? Folic acid, or folate, is a B vitamin that helps contribute to your unborn baby’s healthy growth and development. In short, it helps reduce the risk of your baby being born with neural tube defects (NTDs). Good sources of folic acid/folate include:
- Beans and lentils
- Dark green vegetables (peas, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts)
- Foods fortified with folic acid (white flour, ready-to-eat cereals, enriched pasta and cornmeal)
Dietary sources of folic acid alone will not provide 100% of the folate required to protect your baby against NTDs. The prenatal multivitamin you take every day should contain 0.4 mg of folic acid5.
Are you getting enough iron in your diet?
Iron is vital at every stage of life, but even more so during pregnancy. Your body will need significantly more iron to supply your growing baby and placenta while supporting normal brain development in the fetus and building up baby's iron supply after birth. These foods are known to be rich in iron:
- Whole grain foods
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Lean meats and poultry
Just like folic acid, diet alone will not provide enough iron during pregnancy. That’s why you’ll need to take a daily multivitamin with 16 to 20 mg of iron before and during pregnancy6.
Drink lots of water every day
You’re not only eating for two, you’re also hydrating for two. Water helps carry nutrients to your growing baby and helps carry waste products away. It can also help prevent constipation while controlling swelling and keeping you cool. Wherever you go, make sure you’ve got a reusable container filled with water.
Are you taking a multivitamin?
It’s clear that you need more nutrients when you’re pregnant. In addition to eating a variety of healthy foods, a multivitamin is essential. Make sure you and your baby are getting exactly what you need by choosing a multivitamin with 0.4 mg folic acid and 16 to 20 mg of iron.