Healthy Eating for Women’s Health- Pregnancy

by Hannah Jackson
Healthy Eating for Pregnancy

Nutritional needs change with pregnancy. Moms face a lot of pressure as the main provider of nourishment for their little ones. Knowing what to eat for optimal energy while pregnant provides both confidence and comfort for mom and baby.

Here are 4 top nutrition tips for expecting moms:

1. Be on track with weight gain

Weight gain is essential to support the development of the fetus, especially in the second and third trimesters! However, gaining too much or too little weight can have health consequences for you and your baby.

In fact, the amniotic fluid, fetus, and placenta make up approx. 35% of the weight gained during pregnancy with increases in the uterus, blood, breasts, and other tissues and fluids also contributing to overall weight gain.

By eating a little extra food than normal each day, whether that’s an extra snack or an additional small meal, you should be able to meet your additional caloric requirements while pregnant.

Adding foods that contain healthy omega-3s can be a great way to increase your calorie intake. Foods like nuts/seeds, fatty fish, and vegetable oils all contain omega-3s which will go on to support the growth and development of your baby’s brain and other tissues.

Be on track with weight gain

Determining how much weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight.

Check out the table below adapted from Health Canada regarding approximately how much weight should be gained during pregnancy.

Click here to calculate your BMI.

Pre-Pregnancy BMI Recommended Weight Gain Per Week Recommended Total Weight Gain
kg/week lbs/week kg lbs
<18.5 0.5 1.0 12.5-18 28-40
18.5-24.9 0.4 1.0 11.5-16 25-35
25.0-29.9 0.3 0.6 7-11.5 15-25
≥30.0 0.2 0.5 5-9 11-20

2. Ensure you are getting enough iron and folic acid

Iron is important for the maintenance of healthy blood and since blood volume increases during pregnancy, the need for iron does too!

Health Canada recommends a total iron intake of 27 mg/d during pregnancy. These needs can be met through the use of prenatal vitamins containing 16-20 mg of iron in addition to dietary sources.

Vitamin C can aid in the absorption of iron so try to have sources of iron and vitamin C together when possible.

Food sources of iron include whole grains, tofu, legumes, fish, eggs, and lean meats and sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, and tomatoes.

Ensure you are getting enough iron and folic acid

Folic acid (folate) is important for the proper development of your baby’s skull, brain, and spine. By ensuring you are getting enough folic acid, the risk of your baby being born with a neural tube defect is reduced, especially in the first month of pregnancy.

Health Canada recommends that all women of childbearing age consume a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. During pregnancy, these needs increase to 0.6 mg per day.

Dietary sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, legumes, and citrus fruits.

3. Avoid high-risk foods during your pregnancy

While pregnant, you want to avoid foods that contain a higher risk of carrying food-borne illnesses.

Your immune system is compromised during pregnancy due to all of the changes occurring within it. This increases your susceptibility to contracting food-borne illnesses that could put you and your baby at risk.

Check out the list below adapted from Health Canada on foods to avoid during pregnancy to help keep your risk low.

●      Uncooked hot dogs

●      Non-dried deli meat (e.g., turkey breast, bologna, etc.)

●      Eggs that have not been fully cooked

●      Alcohol

●      Raw/undercooked meats

●      Raw and/or smoked seafood

●      Unpasteurized dairy products

●      Tabaco and cannabis

●      Raw sprouts

●      Pates and meat spreads

●      Unpasteurized fruit juices and ciders

●      Fish high in mercury

4. Stay hydrated!

As often as possible, make water your drink of choice. An adequate fluid intake ensures that all the necessary nutrients are being delivered to the baby while all waste products are being removed as well as preventing constipation and swelling for the mom.

Additionally, try to limit your caffeine intake to 300 mg (~16oz or ~474 ml) per day. This amount is considered safe by Health Canada.

All and all, the most important thing is balance and eating regularly.

If you would like to learn more about how a Dietitian can help you eat right during your pregnancy, head to our Directory, where you can find Registered Dietitians who practice in pregnancy!

About the Author: Hannah Jackson is a third-year Dietetics student at the University of Alberta.

Contributor: Jenny Kim

Reviewed by: Lindsey McGregor, RD

Images from Unsplash and Pexels

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