Healthy eating

What does it really mean to eat healthy?

Navigating the nutrition world is not easy. It’s a challenge to know when nutrition information is backed by science and when it is just one person’s opinion. Nutrition in pregnancy has been the focus of a lot of research. Canada’s Food Guide is one resource pregnant Canadian women can use to help figure out how best to eat. A varied, nutrient-dense diet, as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, will help ensure the nutritional requirements of both you and your baby are met.

How much more do I need to eat?

We know that the requirements for almost all nutrients are higher during pregnancy than when a woman is not pregnant. This means that special attention to y our dietary intake is needed. This doesn’t always mean eating more, but it does mean being conscious of the quality of your diet. ‘Eating for two’ might feel like a tempting reason to eat a lot, but actually the caloric demands of pregnancy are not as high as you might think. Instead of “eating for two”, eat “twice as smart”. During the first trimester, you likely don’t need any extra calories. In the second trimester you need about 340 extra calories per day. In the third trimester, you need about 450 extra calories. This generally equates to 2 or 3 additionally servings from any of Canada’s Food Guide’s food groups during the second and third trimester. Here are some examples of 2 or 3 extra servings look like:

  • 1 apple and ¾ cup yogurt
  • 1 piece of toast and a cup of milk
  • ½ english muffin with a slice of cheese, half of a sliced pear
  • Pasta salad made with ½ c pasta, ½ cup vegetables and 75 g chicken

What if I have a special diet?

If you have a dietary restriction (e.g., food allergy, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.) you may have to pay a bit of extra attention to be sure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need. A well-planned vegetarian diet is healthy during pregnancy, with careful attention to protein intake. Nutrients of concern for strict vegetarians (vegans) include protein, zinc, iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you are concerned about your diet, your health care provider can refer you to a registered dietitian for guidance.