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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Healthy Eating Before Pregnancy

Eating well before, during and after pregnancy will help keep you and your baby healthy. It is important to speak to your healthcare provider about your current eating habits.


The Benefits of Healthy Eating

  • Healthy eating can increase your chances of getting pregnant
  • Healthy eating before pregnancy will help your baby get the best start possible
  • Babies often start to grow before most women learn that they are pregnant
  • The foods you choose to eat will affect how well your baby will grow
Woman eating an apple.


Key Recommendations from Health Canada

  • Eat cooked fish each week
  • Health Canada has special advice for choosing fish to limit the amount of mercury you consume
  • Take a multivitamin that has at least 0.4 mg of folic acid every day
  • The amount of weight you should gain depends on your Body Mass Index (BMI) before you became pregnant

Healthy Eating Guidelines

  • Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat
  • Healthy eating is also about where, when, why and how you eat
  • Be mindful of your eating habits
    • Take time to eat
    • Notice when you are hungry and when you are full
  • Cook more often
    • Plan what you eat
    • Involve others in planning and preparing meals
  • Enjoy your food
    • Culture and food traditions can be a part of healthy eating
  • Eat meals with others

Make it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, whole grain foods and protein foods
  • Protein foods come from meat, poultry, milk, yogurt, cheese and plants
  • Choose protein foods from plants such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu more often
  • Include healthy fats daily at your meals and snacks
  • Healthy fats include non-hydrogenated margarine, avocado, vegetable oil based dressings or vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil
  • Make water your drink of choice

Limit highly processed foods

  • If you choose processed foods, eat them less often and in small amounts

The Importance of Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin. It is important for the growth of the brain, spine and skull of your baby.

Much of the growth and development of the brain, spine and skull of the baby happens in the first four weeks of pregnancy, when many women do not know that they are pregnant

To ensure proper growth and development, all women who could become pregnant should take a multivitamin with at least 0.4 mg of folic acid. Some women may need more folic acid.

Neural tube defects (NTDs) may happen when developing fetuses do not get enough folic acid. You can lower the risk of NTDs by getting enough folic acid before pregnancy by following Canada’s Food Guide and taking a multivitamin with folic acid in it every day. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the amount of folic acid you need.

Caffeine and Pregnancy

Too much caffeine is not good for a developing baby. Health Canada recommends that all women who may become pregnant consume no more than 300 mg a day. It is a good idea to limit your caffeine intake before you become pregnant. Drinking water, milk and unsweetened, fortified soy beverages are better choices.

Date of creation: December 1, 2012
Last modified on: January 24, 2020


1Health Canada. (2019, Jan22). The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Retrieved from
2Best Start Resource Centre. (2017). Health before pregnancy workbook. Retrieved from
3Health Canada. (2017, February 3). Mercury in Fish- Consumption advice: Making informed choices about fish Retrieved from
4Health Canada. (2018, January 29). Folic Acid and Neural Tube Defects. Retrieved from
5Health Canada. (2019-03-11 ). Canada’s Food Guide. Retrieved from