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Passing on Good Nutrition: Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Passing on Good Nutrition: Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet has benefits for both you and the baby growing in your belly. Your first big job as a mom is making good nutrition decisions - for both of you. Some nutrients are absolutely critical for the healthy growth and development of your baby. When it comes to knowing what foods to eat during pregnancy, follow Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide each day to make sure you and your baby eat smart, paying particular attention to the following key nutrients:

Folic acid

Role/Benefits: Essential for normal early development of your baby's spinal cord and brain. 

In addition to the folic acid you get in a varied diet, healthcare professionals recommend that all women who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding take a multivitamin containing 0.4-1.0 mg of folic acid every day1. Learn more about the benefits of folic acid and prenatal multivitamins.

Food Sources: Green vegetables, dried peas, beans and lentils, orange juice, organ meats (liver, kidney), nuts and seeds, and folic acid fortified bread, cereals or pasta. 


Roles/Benefits: Building blocks of each and every cell of your baby and your placenta.

During the second trimester of pregnancy your protein needs increase by 40–50% (about 71 grams) daily. Pump up your salad with meat or alternatives and swap jam for nut butters to meet your body’s protein needs.

Food Sources: Meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes (dried peas, beans, lentils, chick peas, etc.), nuts, peanut butter, tofu, milk products.


Roles/Benefits:  Critical to your body’s ability to supply oxygen throughout you and your baby’s body and essential for development of baby's blood system and placenta. Adequate iron can prevent iron-deficiency which can lead to symptoms like fatigue, paleness, lack of energy.

Canadian health experts recommend a daily multivitamin containing iron during pregnancy. Ask your healthcare professional about the dosage that is right for you. Your greatest iron needs are from the fourth month on. When choosing non-meat sources of iron; serve them along-side vitamin C-rich foods to enhance iron absorption.

Food Sources: Meats, organ meats (liver, kidney), seafood, poultry, fish, iron-fortified cereals, iron-fortified pasta, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, prune juice, eggs, dried beans, dark green leafy vegetables.


Roles/Benefits: Essential for building baby’s strong bones.  Protects your own bone mass.

Your greatest need for calcium is during the third trimester. Dairy products are especially rich in calcium but there are many other foods that also contain high levels of calcium such as spinach, collard greens and many varieties of beans.

Food Sources: Milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines or salmon with bones, calcium-fortified beverages (fortified orange juice, fortified soy and rice milk).

Vitamin D

Role/Benefits: Important for maintaining and building strong bones for both you and baby. It also enhances absorption of calcium.

The need for vitamin D does not change during pregnancy. Very few foods contain vitamin D naturally, so you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement to ensure you are getting enough. If you live in Northern Canada with reduced natural sunlight, or do not drink milk you should also talk to your doctor.

Food Sources: Vitamin D-fortified milk, yogurt and margarine, fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.), fish oils.. 

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids

Role/Benefits: Critical for the healthy development of your baby's brain, eyes and nerves. 

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are most important during the last trimester, a time when the brain starts to develop more rapidly. Many foods are now fortified with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA such as some types of milk, eggs and margarines.

Food Sources: Omega-enriched eggs, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.), flax, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, peanut, etc.). 

If you don't find the information you're looking for, please feel free to contact us for additional support.


1Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Motherisk Program. J Obstet Gyneacol Can. 2007; 29(12): 1003-1013.