During pregnancy, a healthy diet along with a few tips can help keep you and your unborn baby healthy.
Nutrition during pregnancy: a question of quality!
Eating well during pregnancy is necessary for your unborn baby, who depends on you entirely for all the nutrients needed to thrive. This also helps to:
- reduce energy drops
- decrease the risk of pregnancy diabetes
- promote healthy weight gain
To determine what you should eat, Canada's Food Guide remains a valid source, even if you are pregnant. It is also recommended that you take a folic acid supplement during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. The suggested dose depends on various factors. Ask your pharmacist, who can tell you what dose of folic acid you should take.
For various reasons, your diet may not include foods from every food group:
- allergies or food intolerances
- vegetarian or vegan diet
- religious beliefs
Therefore, it is important to ensure that there aren't any nutritional deficiencies. To do this, the restricted foods can be replaced by other foods, containing similar nutrients, or vitamin and mineral supplements can be taken. In either case, it is preferable to consult a nutritionist to determine if your diet meets the needs associated with pregnancy.
Products that should be avoided
Certain foods should be banned during pregnancy to maintain your health and that of your baby. Thus, you should avoid:
- undercooked or raw meats and seafood, including sushi and tartar
- fish containing high levels of mercury—it is best to limit your consumption of predatory fish such as tuna and swordfish to 150 g a month and, instead, choose salmon, sole fish, trout, haddock, herring, and canned tuna. Health Canada recommends the consumption of at least 150 g of cooked fish per week for pregnant women
- unpasteurized cheeses, such as brie, camembert, roquefort cheese, and stilton cheese
- raw or partially cooked eggs
- raw sprouts, such as alfalfa
Although these products may be tempting, it is important to know that they carry a risk of bacterial contamination. Because of this risk, it is preferable to refrain from eating them during pregnancy to maintain your health and that of your baby.
Some foods provide little nutritional benefit―this is often the case with high-fat or sugary foods such as chocolate, pastries, chips and poutine. These may contribute to excessive weight gain.
It is recommended to have a maximum of 300 mg of caffeine per day for pregnant women. This includes not only coffee (180 mg of caffeine or less a day), but also tea (between 15 and 50 mg of caffeine per cup), soft drinks (between 40 and 50 mg of caffeine per can), and chocolate (roughly 20 mg of caffeine per serving).
Although most energy drinks contain less than 300 mg of caffeine, Health Canada does not recommend their consumption during pregnancy. These drinks often contain other ingredients (such as taurine), for which the effects on pregnant women are not well-known.
Alcohol should be avoided throughout pregnancy. Alcohol is directly transferred to the foetus through the bloodstream and can cause birth defects, learning disabilities or behavioural problems, and intellectual impairment. Because scientists do not know with certainty what quantity of alcohol can cause these effects, it is better to avoid consuming alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
What about medication?
Medication must be taken with caution during pregnancy. Don't forget to mention your pregnancy to your pharmacist, who can assess the safety of the medications you take according to your health and, if necessary, suggest changes or a specific follow-up with your doctor.
Always ask your pharmacist for advice before taking new medication, even if it is sold over-the-counter or if it is a natural health product. Pharmacists are medication experts.
Nutrition during pregnancy can and must remain interesting and varied. It should not be complicated. To keep healthy nutritional habits, don't hesitate to ask for advice from the various healthcare professionals around you!