You and Your Baby
Pregnant? The foods you eat before and during pregnancy help prepare your body to support the growth of your baby. Sensible eating gives your baby the best chance of a healthy beginning. After your baby is born, good nutrition, including being breastfed for most babies, is also important for your baby's growth and development.
Choose Healthy Foods
During your pregnancy you will need extra food and nutrients. WHAT you eat, as well as HOW MUCH is important. The following nutrients are especially important.
IRON is needed for healthy blood, placenta development and growth of the baby.
- Good food sources of iron are red meat, liver, dried beans and peas, dried fruit and fortified cereals.
- Iron from plant foods is best absorbed if eaten with foods rich in vitamin C.
- Good VITAMIN C sources are broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, green pepper, tomatoes and tomato products, orange and grapefruit and their juices, strawberries and melons.
FOLIC ACID or folate is necessary for healthy blood.
- A folate supplement is recommended for all pregnant women.
- Good food sources of folate are dark green lettuce, green peas, green beans, broccoli, dried peas and beans, oranges, and melons.
CALCIUM and VITAMIN D are necessary for strong bones and teeth. In the summer, some vitamin D is made by your body when your bare skin is exposed to sun. In the winter you need to get vitamin D from foods. Fluid milk is fortified with vitamin D and rich in calcium. Cheese and yogurt are good sources of protein and calcium but not vitamin D. If you do not like to drink milk, try the following ideas:
- Use milk in soups, puddings, sauces and casseroles.
- Add skim milk powder to casseroles, puddings and soups for extra calcium and vitamin D.
- Add cheese to casseroles, soups, salads and sandwiches.
- Use plain yogurt as a vegetable dip and fruit yogurt as a fruit dip.
- Blend milk, yogurt and fruit together for a fruit shake.
If you cannot digest lactose (milk sugar), lactose reduced milk is available in most grocery stores. Other food sources of calcium are canned salmon (with bones), sardines, tofu (made with calcium), and broccoli. Ask your doctor, community health nutritionist or registered dietitian for other suggestions.
Canada's Food Guide To Healthy Eating
Choosing foods from each of the four food groups of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating will help you meet your special needs. The food guide gives a range of servings for each group. You need to eat enough servings to meet your extra nutrient and energy needs. It is important to eat regularly and have nutritious snacks.
- Enjoy a variety of foods from the four food groups every day. Choose "Other Foods" in moderation.
- Mark the foods you have eaten by checking the squares in the chart. Use the food lists above the chart to help you.
- Choose more foods to satisfy your hunger by marking your choices in the circles.
Taste and enjoyment can also come from other foods and beverages that are not part of the four food groups. Some of these foods are higher in fat or calories, so use them in moderation.
Very high intakes of caffeine may be harmful to your baby's development.
- Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate and certain drugs.
- Two to three cups per day of coffee or equivalent are considered safe.
Herbal Teas and Herbs
Many herbal teas and herbs can act like drugs. The following herbal teas are considered safe in moderation (two to three cups per day).
- Blackberry leaf, melissa or lemon balm, orange petals, chamomile, peppermint, fennel seed, raspberry leaf, rosehip, linden flowers, and spearmint.
- Check with your doctor, community health nutritionist or a registered dietitian before using any other herbs.
Moderate amounts of the artificial sweeteners aspartame, sucralose (Splenda), or acesulfame K (Sunette) are considered safe during pregnancy.
Well-planned lacto-ovo vegetarian diets that include a wide variety of plant foods along with milk and eggs can meet the nutritional needs of pregnant women.
- Poorly planned vegetarian diets can be low in iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
- Strict vegan diets consist only of plant foods. They can be low in calories, iron, zinc, B12, B6, calcium and vitamin D.
If you have concerns about your vegetarian diet talk to a registered dietitian.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Food is your best source of vitamins and minerals. The nutrients from food are in the right balance and are far better absorbed than those from pills. Even so, supplements may be recommended.
- A folate supplement of 0.4 mg per day is recommended during pregnancy.
- Read vitamin labels carefully. Do not take extra vitamins over what is recommended by your doctor because they may be harmful.
- If calcium supplements are recommended, avoid natural sources such as bone meal and oyster shells. They may contain traces of lead and mercury.
- Your doctor may recommend an iron supplement if your iron stores are low.
If you feel you are eating poorly or missing whole foods groups discuss this with a registered dietitian or your doctor.
Water and Salt
You need plenty of fluids during your pregnancy to help carry nutrients and wastes in the blood and to help keep you cool.
- Drink six to eight glasses of fluid per day.
- There is no need to cut back on salt.
Reproduced with permission from the Capital Health Authority