Food and Nutrition

Food and Nutrition

Eating Advice for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Prenatal Nutrition

  • A woman's nutritional and overall health before and during pregnancy has an effect on her developing baby, especially the brain and other organs.
  • Eating well provides the extra nutrients needed to feel good, have energy and to support a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Nutrient Needs for Women of Childbearing Age

  • Eating the recommended number of food servings per day helps women give birth to a healthy baby.
  • Because many pregnancies are unplanned, all women of childbearing age should take 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid per day.  Women planning a pregnancy should take folic acid for three months before they become pregnant and continue to take it during their pregnancy. 
  • Women who have had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect (or have a family history of this problem) should see their health care provider.
  • Women also need more iron (16-20 mg) than usual due to the increased blood volume of mother and baby.  Prenatal supplements should include vitamin B12.
  • Women should not take more than the recommended doses of supplements without first checking with their health care provider. 

Key recommendations:

  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide for healthy eating during pregnancy.
  • Eat cooked fish at least once a  week. Fish contains Omega 3 fats and other nutrients which are important for the baby’s brain growth and development.
  • Follow food safety advice and avoid foods that are a higher risk during pregnancy.
  • Gaining weight is natural. How much weight depends on body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy.   Weight gain varies but usually most normal weight women gain between 25 – 35 pounds.

For practical tips and information on eating healthy, please read the following:

Or visit: