Eating Habits for a Healthy Pregnancy

Eating Habits for a Healthy Pregnancy

  • Healthy Eating

  • By Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian

    If you’re pregnant, then you’re probably being flooded with the advice of family and friends—everyone begins to recommend food tips to protect the health of your child. With some helpful (and not-so-helpful) advice floating around, this article aims to shed some light on the dietary choices for a healthy pregnancy.

    How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy

    Eating for two is a bit of a misconception, but it is true that women have different energy needs at different stages of pregnancy. During the second and third trimesters, women need to eat the equivalent of two to three extra servings per day. To give you an idea of what this means, consider that simply a piece of fruit and a glass of milk is equivalent to two servings.

    You’ve probably also heard a lot about the importance of dietary supplements. But which ones are actually key? Folic acid and iron are two nutrients that you should supplement during pregnancy. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent certain deformities at birth, and iron is essential for the healthy growth of the foetus. Lack of iron is the most common dietary deficiency during pregnancy.

    What to Eat When You’re Pregnant

    During pregnancy, it is often recommended to have a varied diet. Try to incorporate all four food groups into your meals.

    For fruits and vegetables, choose the most vibrant and colorful pieces. These are an excellent source of vitamins. Bread, rice, and pasta all have a higher nutritional value if they’re made of whole grains (something to keep in mind even if you are not pregnant!). Eating the entire edible part of the grain helps you feel satiated faster, plus, you benefit from the maximum amount of nutrients.

    When it comes to milk and other dairy products, opt for those that are low in fat. They have the same amount of protein, calcium, and vitamin D as milk products that are higher in fat. If you don’t drink milk, you can drink fortified soy beverages.

    It’s also important to eat lean meat and meat substitutes (e.g. peas, dried beans, tofu and lentils) every day.

    Fish: Yea or Nay?

    Fish is an excellent dietary choice for a healthy pregnancy, but some women are reluctant to incorporate it in their diet because of mercury level concerns. To help you resolve this dilemma, read lists of the types of fish you can eat without putting your health, or the health of your unborn child at risk, from Health Canada (Canada) and the Food and Drug Administration (United States).

    Foods that Pregnant Women Should Avoid

    When you’re pregnant, both you and your baby have immune systems that are more susceptible to food poisoning. A good thing to keep in mind is that most of the foods to avoid during pregnancy are raw, such as: non-dried deli meats, tartare, salad dressing made with raw eggs, etc. Always opt for cooking methods that reduce the risk of ingesting food that could be contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

    When it comes to cheese and juices, it’s best to stick with pasteurized options. The process of pasteurization, which consists of heat-processing foods or liquids, and then quickly cooling them, significantly limits the amount of pathogenic bacteria.

    For more information about eating healthy during pregnancy, consult publications from: Canada’s Food Guide and Health Canada (Canada); ODHP Dietary Guidelines and Department of Health and Human Services (United States). Remember that drinking alcohol, even in small quantities, is not safe during pregnancy. All it takes is a little patience amd you’ll be able to indulge in wine and salmon tartare soon enough!


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    Jef L’Ecuyer Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    After her nutrition training at McGill University, Jef specialized in gastrointestinal health with a special interest in the microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With Bio-K+, she continues on this path by making the world of probiotics more accessible to all.
    View all articles by Jef L’Ecuyer
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