Prenatal Health and your Baby

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This program is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Abbott.

If you are reading this, you may be embarking on one of the most exciting times in your life – motherhood. Your nutritional and overall health, before and during pregnancy, influences the health of your developing baby. That is why we have partnered with Abbott Nutrition.

First things first, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy has benefits for both you and your growing baby. Your first job as a mom is making healthy and informed nutrition decisions. Some nutrients are critical for the healthy growth and development of your baby.  

You may be asking yourself if there’s a magic formula for a healthy pregnancy or adopting a diet that can provide the best nourishment for your baby. The answer is no. In fact, during pregnancy, the basic principles of eating healthy remain the same. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, Canada’s Food Guide lists a variety of foods that offer benefit and balance to you and your growing baby. Essential nutrients to consider are:  

Folic acid (also known as folate)  

  • Role/Benefits: Folic acid during pregnancy is necessary for the development of your baby’s spinal cord and brain. In addition to naturally occurring folic acid found in food, health care professionals recommend all women trying to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding, take a multi-vitamin containing 0.4 g of folic acid every day.  
    • Main sources of folic acid include:  
      • Green vegetables 
      • Dried peas, beans and lentils 
      • Orange juice 
      • Nuts and seeds 
      • Folic acid fortified bread, cereals or pasta  


  • Role/Benefits: Protein intake during pregnancy is important. Proteins are the building blocks of your baby’s cells and your placenta. During the second trimester, protein demand increases significantly.
    • Main food sources of protein include:  
      • Meat 
      • Fish 
      • Seafood 
      • Poultry  
      • Eggs 
      • Legumes (dried peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) 
      • Nuts 
      • Peanut butter 
      • Tofu 
      • Milk products 

*Canada’s 2019 Food Guide recommends choosing protein from a variety of sources, including plant-based proteins. Plant-based protein can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than traditional types of protein sources.  


  • Roles/Benefits: Iron intake during pregnancy is very important. Your body produces more red blood cells to supply oxygen and nutrients to your developing baby and to support your baby’s brain growth and development. In the 3rd trimester, your baby will be stocking up their iron stores to make sure there’s enough for the first months of life.  
  • If you are not getting enough iron, you may feel tired.
  • A daily supplement containing 16 to 20 mg of iron is recommended during pregnancy. Ask your health care professional about a dosage that is right for you.  
    • Main food sources of iron include: 
      • Meats 
      • Seafood 
      • Poultry 
      • Fish  
      • Iron-fortified cereals 
      • Iron-fortified pasta 
      • Nuts and Seeds 
      • Dried fruits 
      • Prune juice 
      • Eggs 
      • Dried Beans  
      • Dark green leafy vegetables 

*When choosing non-meat sources of iron, serve them alongside vitamin C-rich foods to enhance iron absorption.  


  • Roles/Benefits: Eating calcium rich foods during pregnancy is essential for your developing baby to build strong bones and teeth and help protect your bone mass. 
    • Make sure you are getting enough for the both of you by eating some of the following foods: 
      • Milk
      • Cheese 
      • Yogurt  
      • Sardines or salmon with bones 
      • Calcium-fortified beverages (fortified orange juice, fortified soy and rice milk) 

Vitamin D 

  • Role/Benefits: Vitamin D during pregnancy is important for maintaining and building strong bones for both you and your baby. It also enhances the absorption of calcium.  
  • Be sure to include two (2) servings of milk or fortified soy-based beverage (or other fortified beverages) to meet your vitamin D needs. 
    • Main food sources of Vitamin D include: 
      • Vitamin D-fortified milk
      • Yogurt 
      • Fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.), and fish oils 

Omega-3 fats 

  • Role/Benefits: During pregnancy, omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA are transferred across the placenta and have an essential role in the healthy physical development of the baby’s brain and eyes, such as fish, seafood and omega-3-enriched foods such as milk and eggs. There are also some plant sources of omega-3 fats like nuts, seeds and soy, although these do not provide DHA, they still are known to be heart-healthy. 
    • Main food sources of Omega-3 fats:  
      • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, etc.). Choose fish that is low in mercury more often.  
      • Walnuts 
      • Ground flax seeds (pro tip: add flax seeds and flaxseed oil to your smoothies!)  
      • Chia seeds  
      • Soy products 
      • Canola oil 

Vitamin C 

  • Role/Benefits: Vitamin C promotes healthy gums and helps your body absorb iron. Reach for fruits and vegetables to get your vitamin C.  
    • Main food sources of Vitamin C: 
      • Red and yellow peppers 
      • Guava  
      • Papaya  
      • Oranges  


Water is your best friend during pregnancy! It is SO important that you hydrate. Early in pregnancy, fluid needs will increase to support your changing body and developing baby. Drinking enough fluids helps fight fatigue and even helps with constipation.  

Key messages on healthy eating during pregnancy: 

  • Eat according to Canada’s Food Guide. 
  • Take a daily multi-vitamin that has 0.4 mg of folic acid and 16-20 mg of iron. 
  • Include an extra 2 to 3 of Canada’s Food Guide servings each day. For example, add a fruit and yogurt for a mid-day snack. 
  • Be active every day as part of a healthy pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about pregnancy approved exercises and how to increase your activity level. 
  • Consider adding a nutritional beverage to your diet when pregnant or breastfeeding. When you breastfeed your baby, your body requires more calories each day. Similac Mom® is a product that will complement your healthy diet, packed with protein, vitamin D, folic acid, iron, and calcium – all of the essential nutrients we talked about in this article!

Note: These general guidelines are not meant to replace healthcare professional advice. Talk to your doctor or dietitian for more information.