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Food choices for a healthy pregnancy

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard.

Make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-dense foods, in other words get more bang for your calorie buck. By choosing a variety of food from all food groups, you can be assured of a well-balanced diet. But what if you have no appetite some days or occasionally feel nauseous? Remember, a quality diet over several days is what counts, not meal by meal.

Watch this video to learn what is considered normal pregnancy weight gain and what types of foods you should be including in a healthy pregnancy diet.

What’s the right plan for me?

These food group recommendations, are an easy way to get started on a healthy pregnancy. Of course, your beginning weight, height, age, stage of pregnancy and the number of children you are carrying will determine how many calories and how much food you will need.

Typically a woman’s energy requirements don’t increase during the first 3 months of pregnancy. She will need about 350 extra calories per day during the second trimester and 450 extra calories per day during the third trimester. Including an extra 2 to 3 Food Guide Servings each day helps meet these energy requirements.

 

 

Nutritional recommendations during pregnancy

Vegetables and Fruit

7-8 servings daily

  • At every meal.
  • Raw or cooked.
  • Fresh, frozen or canned.

During pregnancy, make sure that fresh vegetables and fruits are carefully washed before cooking or consuming raw.

  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
  • Choose vegetables or fruits prepared with little or no added fat, sugar and salt.
  • Have vegetables and fruits more often than juice.

Grain Products including breads, cereals, potatoes, rice and pasta

6-7 servings daily

  • Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day and choose high fibre varieties.
  • Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar and salt.
  • Go for a variety of grains: rice, wheat, oats, barley, quinoa and corn.

Milk and Alternatives

2 servings daily

  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day.
  • Select low fat milk alternatives such as fortified soy or almond milk.
  • Milk and fortified milk alternatives are a main food source of vitamin D.

During pregnancy, only eat pasteurised dairy products. Cheese: avoid soft cheeses unless served cooked and hot. Instead opt for hard cheeses (cheddar, Monterey Jack, parmesan, etc...).

Meat and alternatives including lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds

2 servings daily

  • Meat: select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.
  • Have meat alternatives such as lentils and tofu often.
  • Fish: at least two Food Guide Servings of fish each week. Choose fish such as char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout.

During pregnancy:

Fish: avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury (shark, swordfish, fresh or frozen tuna, marlin, orange roughy and escolar), smoked fish and seafood, and fish from contaminated rivers. 2-3 servings /week of low-mercury, fish or seafood (salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sole, flounder, anchovy, char, lake white fish, etc...) are safe.

Meats: avoid deli meats, cold cuts, pates and liver. When cooking meat and fish, check the temperature to ensure the meat is well done.

Fats and oils

Include only a small amount of unsaturated fat each day

  • Try to eat a variety of soft, non-hydrogenated margarines and vegetable oils (olive oil, canola oil etc.).
  • Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.

Beverages

Make water your drink of choice

  • Satisfy your thirst with water.
  • Limit beverages that are high in calories and low in nutrients (fruit flavored drinks, soft drinks and energy drinks).
  • Limit caffeine intake to 200 mg per day.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding it is recommended to not drink any alcohol at all.

Be active
During pregnancy, maintain your normal physical activity, except those which represent a risk of falling or injury. You should avoid any contact or competition sports. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, do not begin any new physical activity. 

 

SURPRISE! Healthy fats, in moderation, are good for you. Choose food high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important during pregnancy and a good source of these is fatty fish, like salmon.

What's on your plate?

Here is a quick reference table which summarises what these key nutrients and other components do and in which foods to find them

NutrientForFrom
ProteinHelps build strong muscles (and bones)Meat, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy
CarbohydratesSupply energyPasta, rice, bread, cereal, legumes, potatoes
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)Contributes to baby’s brain and eye developmentFish, DHA-containing supplements
ProbioticsContribute to a healthy gut floraProbiotic products, such as probiotic yoghurts, supplements
VitaminForFrom
Folic acidHelps prevent neural tube defects when taken daily prior to becoming pregnant and during early pregnancyDark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, nuts, enriched pasta and bread, breakfast cereals
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)Important for energy production and carbohydrate metabolismMeat, potatoes, whole grain products
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Factor in energy metabolism and tissue formation. Important for  energy production and carbohydrate metabolismDairy products, enriched pasta and bread, breakfast cereals
Vitamin B12Important for red blood cell formationFish, meat, poultry, dairy
Vitamin CImportant for immune system, collagen synthesisCitrus fruit, kiwi fruit, broccoli and sprouts
Vitamin A Supports the immune system, healthy skin and night visionCarrots, spinach (as beta-carotene)
Vitamin DHelps build strong bones and teethSunlight, fish, eggs yolks
Vitamin EA dietary antioxidantWheat germ/canola/olive oils, in the fats of meat, poultry and fish
Minerals and trace elementsForFrom
CalciumHelps build strong bones and teethMilk, cheese, dairy products, bony fish, legumes
MagnesiumContributes to normal muscular functionsNuts, green vegetables, legumes
IronImportant for oxygen transport and blood formationMeats, wholegrain cereals, fish, poultry, spinach, lentils
IodineFactor in the normal function of the thyroidFish, iodized salt
SeleniumDietary antioxidantSeafood, poultry, eggs, asparagus
ZincHelps support the normal function of the immune systemMeat, poultry, dairy products, fish

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