Diet during pregnancy



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A Healthy Pregnancy Diet


Work out your ideal weight gain for this pregnancy!


Body Mass Index (BMI) = prepregnant weight in kgs/ Metres in height squared





Underweight < 20.0 kg/m2 28 – 40 lbs
Normal 20.0 – 25.0 25 – 35
Overweight >27 15 – 25
Obese > 30.0 < 13


Where does the weight go?


Increased breast size: 2-3 lbs                 Mother’s fluid volume: 4-5 lbs

Placenta: 1-2 lbs                                    Increased Blood Supply: 4.5 lbs

Amniotic Fluid: 2 lbs                             Infant at Birth: 7-8 lbs

Mother’s Fat Stores: 7-8 lbs                   Increased Size of Uterus and Supporting Muscles: 2-2.5 lbs




  1. Eat small frequent, nutrient rich meals
  2. Home cooked meals are best
  3. Eat fresh foods as much as possible and don’t overcook
  4. If you eat meat, eat recommended ‘safe’ fish twice a week or take fish oil supplements
  5. Eat yellow/ orange coloured vegetables 5 times a week
  6. Sweeteners such as saccharin and cyclamates are not recommended during pregnancy & lactation — always read the label
  7. Drink tea or coffee between meals & not with meals (try to limit caffeine to 200mg/day, or two 8oz cups)
  8. Cigarette smoking reduces absorption of nutrients (and causes other risks to the baby)
  9. Vegetable sources of iron need a little help to be well absorbed. This can be done by eating meat at the same time as iron rich vegetables, by eating Vitamin C, and by eating calcium at different
  10. Vegetarians need more iron foods in their diets. Eating a food rich in Vit C at each meal
  11. Calcium and Iron supplements should be taken at separate times of the day
  12. Use butter or oil in small quantities
  13. Drink 8 – 10 glasses of water or other fluids daily


Weekly Food Diary


If you like, you can use this chart to track the foods you eat for one week. It is more important to look at the “big picture” of your eating habits than to worry about eating perfectly every day.



4-5 Carbs: Bread, grains, potatoes, sweets

4 Proteins: Meat, fish, nuts, legumes

4 Calcium: Dairy/Non-Dairy

2 Green Vegetables: 1 cooked, 1 raw

2 Fresh Fruit

4-5 Yellow/Orange per week: Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash

8-10  glasses of fluid: Including no more than 200 mg caffeine per day (approx. 2 cups of coffee) [4]





Vegetarian Pregnancy Diet


In ‘Becoming Vegetarian’, Vesanta Melina (registered dietician) recommends that pregnant vegetarians consume each day;


  • 5 – 12 servings of whole grains, such as bread, cereal, pasta or rice
  • 5 – 10 servings of vegetables & fruit, including juice
  • 3 – 4 servings of beans, and bean alternatives (including legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs)
  • 6 – 8 servings of milk (1/2 cup) & milk alternatives such as tahini, almond butter, kale, collards, broccoli, blackstrap molasses
  • 2 servings of omega-3 fatty acid sources, like walnuts, flax seeds or canola oil
  • A reliable source of Vit B12. Lacto-ova vegetarians can have 3 cups of cow’s milk, or 1 egg & 2 cups of milk. Vegans – 1 tblsp of nutritional yeast like ‘Red Star’, Also fortified soy and rice beverages or a daily B12 supplement
  • Vit D fortified food (cow’s milk, margarine and soy milk) or a supplement containing 2.5 to 10 mcg Vitamin D. 10 – 15 mins of daily sun exposure for a light skinned person, or 1/2 hour or more for someone with dark skin



Vesanto M, Davis B & Harrison V (1994) Becoming Vegetarian MacMillan Canada


Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Steady


Reasons for keeping blood sugar levels from getting too high during pregnancy include:

  1. preventing your baby from being excessively large at birth
  2. keeping your baby from having to make an adjustment from high to normal blood sugar levels after birth
  3. avoiding being treated as a higher-risk patient
  4. feeling better during your pregnancy


Blood sugar levels normally go up right after eating, drop several hours after eating, and drop further with exercise. The hormones of pregnancy can cause levels to fluctuate even more than usual. By paying attention to what you eat, when you eat it, and the amount of exercise you get, you can keep your blood sugar levels from getting too high, thus working toward better health for you and your baby.


Here are some suggestions for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels:


  1. Eat small, frequent meals. Five or six meals, spaced evenly through the day, help keep blood sugar constant. If possible, eat right before bed and right after getting up. Don’t skip
  2. Especially if your midwife says you’re growing a very big baby, don’t eat more than you need. Talk with your midwife or nutritionist to figure out how much this is. For most pregnant women, aim for an average weight gain of about 7-10 pounds per trimester. Hopefully your appetite will help you to do this naturally, with help from regular exercise and a low-fat/high-fiber diet. Pregnancy is not a time to severely restrict your food
  3. Eat healthy foods, low in fat, high in fiber, including lots of complex carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables), protein-rich foods (particularly beans and fish), and low-fat dairy foods. Limit sweets, including fruit juices and dried fruit. A diet containing 30-40 grams of fibre, with 20% or fewer of the calories coming from fat (for a total of 50 grams of fat or less) is
  4. Eat foods as whole and as raw as possible. Apple juice causes a greater blood sugar rise than applesauce, which causes a greater rise than a raw apple. Rice cooked until mushy causes a greater rise than when it’s cooked only until chewy. Instant rice and instant potatoes cause an especially high
  5. Eat legumes (dried beans of all kinds, lentils, and peas) every day if possible. The kind of starch they have seems to be particularly effective in keeping blood sugar low and constant for a long time. If you want to eat bread or potatoes or something sweet, do so with or after a serving of beans. Consider Mexican foods made with black beans, chilli with beans, lentil soups or patties, hummus, marinated beans in salads, or tofu in a stir-fry. If you need recipes, try a good vegetarian cookbook such as The New Laurel’s Kitchen or a good basic cookbook such as Anne Lindsay’s New Light Cooking. Remember that soy flour and tofu are bean products and may be added to other foods, including breads, desserts


and salad dressings. Oats (including oatmeal and oat bran), barley and apples have a related kind of fibre, which is similarly useful.

  1. In addition to these basics, there are a few otherwise-healthy carbohydrate foods, which, for reasons that are not completely understood, cause blood sugar to rise more than is desirable. These include wheat bread and crackers (both whole grain and white), most commercial breakfast cereals, potatoes, and carrots. Eat these foods only in small quantities, or with a meal that contains beans, or try substituting these foods: rye bread; wheat bread with added wheat berries; oats, oat bran, soy, or seeds; pasta; buckwheat; bulgur; sweet potatoes and
  2. Almost all other vegetables are fine as are most fruits, especially cherries, citrus, peach, pear, and plum. New potatoes cause less of a blood sugar rise than large ones. Dairy is fine, especially if low

Cereals that are okay include ones with oat bran, wheat bran, or rice bran. Regular oatmeal and muesli are good. Special K is pretty good, but Cheerios, puffed cereals, and instant oatmeal are not. Air-popped popcorn is fine, if you don’t add (much) butter.

  1. Exercise every day. Exercise helps you take the sugar out of your blood and put it into your cells where it can be used, thus preventing high blood sugar. Twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, dancing etc.) can help prevent high blood sugar for the next eight hours. Every time you climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator can contribute to this effect, so practice getting little bits of exercise all day long. Zinc (found in protein and dairy foods, whole grains, and nuts and seeds) is involved in all aspects of insulin metabolism. Chromium (found in whole grains, particularly barley, and in brewer’s yeast, but not nutritional or tortula yeast, which we often mistakenly call “brewer’s yeast”) is a part of the “gate” that works with insulin to put the glucose into cells. Many people are deficient in both of these nutrients, so supplements (125 mg of zinc, 100-200 mcg of chromium) might be in order. Both are toxic in high doses, so don’t take more than recommended, and keep them out of reach of
  2. Several foods have particular components that may help stabilize blood sugar. These include garlic, onions, and others in that family, eaten either raw or cooked, the Asian vegetable bitter melon, and fenugreek
  3. Reduce stress. Take time every day to consciously relax, breathe, let yourself be quiet inside, and tune in to your body and your baby. Practicing relaxation is also excellent preparation for
  • Don’t be afraid to eat! We don’t want your blood sugar to soar, but we don’t want it at zero, either. As always, eating well is one of the most important ways that you can take care of yourself and your baby. Enjoy your food and appreciate it for all that it gives


Acknowledgement: Betsy Walker, Ph.D. 1997


Healthy Eating – Sample Day




Egg, cheese or peanut butter 1 slice whole grain toast

1/2 cup cereal (bran flakes, oatmeal, muesli) 1 cup milk


Mid-Morning Snack

Choose 1 or 2 of these snacks

Small fresh fruit 1 cup milk

1/2 sandwich

2 arrowroot or digestive biscuits

1 slice whole grain toast and peanut butter

cheese and 6 small or 3 large crackers (rice or other whole grain)



Lentil or bean and rice soup Green salad

1 cup milk small fresh fruit


Mid-Afternoon Snack

Select 1 or 2 items from mid-morning snack list



Meat, fish or chicken

1 small sweet potato or 1 cup cooked brown rice or whole wheat noodles raw or cooked vegetables

small fresh fruit


Bedtime Snack

Choose one of these snacks with 1 cup of milk:


Cheese and crackers (12 small or 6 large) 1 cup hot or cold high fibre cereal


Good Food Sources of Nutrients


Protein: Alfalfa sprouts (contains 150% more protein than other grains), whole grains, legumes, nuts, yoghurt, avocados, cheese, eggs, whole milk, cottage cheese, meats, fish, poultry, tofu


Iron:     Dark leafy greens, comfrey leaf, raisins, dried fruit & apricots, blackstrap molasses, wheat germ, oats, kelp, seeds, eggs, fish, red meat, yellow dock, parsley, dandelions, nettles


Calcium: Dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, cheese, yoghurt, milk, soybeans, watercress, raw beet juice, molasses, whole grains, alfalfa, nettles, eggs, dried fruit, parsley, dried sea kelp powder, tofu, nettle tea


Vit C: Rose hips, citrus fruits, dark leafy green vegetables, green peppers, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, cantaloupe, strawberries, nettles


Vit D:    Egg yolk, bone meal, sunflower seeds, fish liver oils (*see note below), tuna, salmon, nettles & sunshine


Vit E:    Dark leafy green vegetables, wheat germ, eggs, sunflower seeds, nuts, molasses, sweet potatoes and yams


Vit B6: Green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, blackstrap molasses, prunes, nuts, cabbage, sunflower seeds


Vit B12: Meat, eggs, cheese, milk, soybeans, wheat germ oil, comfrey, fish, pickles, spirulina


Vit K:    Alfalfa, nettles, kelp, shepherd’s purse, egg yolk, safflower oil, cauliflower, kefir, leafy vegetables


Folic acid: Uncooked dark green leafy vegetables, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, milk, cheese, dates, dried beans (fava, kidney, pinto, romano, soy, white, chickpeas, lentils), cooked spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, fortified products including orange juice


Niacin: Legumes, nutritional yeast, milk products, rice bran, seeds, whole grains, lean meats, poultry


Riboflavin: Leafy greens, mushrooms, brown rice, blackstrap molasses, nutritional yeast Thiamin: Brown rice, nutritional yeast, whole grains, blackstrap molasses, meat, fish, poultry Phosphorus: Nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, eggs, yellow cheeses, fish, meat, tofu, poultry Iodine: Kelp, dulse, leafy greens, iodized salt, sea salt

Magnesium: Honey, green leafy vegetables, nuts, dried beans


Zinc:    Soybeans, spinach, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, comfrey, whole wheat, oysters, bran


  • Always look for a Drug Identification Number (DIN) on fish oil & other supplements which indicates that Health Canada has deemed it safe from contaminants. Never exceed the dosage indicated & avoid fish oils high in Vitamin