Eating when you are pregnant

By: Andrea Godfeyson, RD

When we are pregnant, everything we do seems to come into question. The amount of food to eat, what vitamins to take and whether or not you can eat sushi or Caesar salad are suddenly important things to consider. The good news is that HealthLink BC is a free 24/7 service that provides advice and information on your health, including pregnancy. Here are answers to some commonly asked nutrition questions:

I’m pregnant and looking forward to eating for two. How much extra food do I need every day?

Eating well during pregnancy is important for both you and your baby. Getting the energy and nutrients you need will help you feel well and give your baby the nutrients needed to grow and develop. Some people think that eating for two means that you need to eat twice the amount as usual, but really, the additional energy you need when pregnant is small. In the first trimester you actually don’t need any additional food. In the second and third trimesters, one extra snack a day is enough. Try to eat foods that you may not be getting enough of. For example, if you haven’t eaten many vegetables in a day, try veggies and Greek yogurt dip or hummus. If you are craving fruit, have a pear and a piece of cheese. Choosing one serving from two of the food groups from Canada’s Food Guide will help ensure a balanced snack with the extra energy you need. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement will help meet your other nutrient needs.

What kind of prenatal multivitamin should I take?

There are many prenatal vitamin-mineral supplements on the market. Some are name brand and some aren’t, but they are usually very much the same. Sometimes the main difference is cost. Look for a daily prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement that provides 0.4 mg (400 mcg) of folic acid, 16-20 mg of iron, some vitamin B12 and less than 10,000 IU (3000 mcg) of preformed vitamin A. If your doctor has recommended that you need additional iron, or have any other needs, then follow his or her advice. Talk to the pharmacist at your local store to help you choose a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement that meets your needs.

If you are trying to get pregnant, you should start taking a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement now (or another daily multivitamin with 0.4 mg folic acid) to increase the chance your baby will develop normally, and reduce the risk of infant neural tube defects.



Is it safe to eat sushi when I am pregnant?

Some kinds of sushi are safe to eat when pregnant, and some are not. Raw seafood and refrigerated smoked seafood (like smoked salmon) are not as safe as they may contain food borne pathogens such as Listeria, a bacteria that can make you and your baby very sick. Women who are pregnant are at higher risk of becoming sick from Listeria than other people. Because of this, imitation crab found in California rolls and other sushi is also not considered safe to eat when pregnant (unless it has been heated to 74’C).

The good news is that there is a variety of non-seafood or cooked seafood options that you can choose.. Vegetable (exception: raw sprouts are not as safe), egg, cooked prawn and any of the cooked meat options are typically safe bets.

What other foods do I need to avoid now that I am pregnant?

There are a number of foods to avoid during pregnancy. Food-borne pathogens such as Listeria can be found in some of the foods that we may commonly eat like Caesar salad dressing (made with raw egg), brie, feta and deli meats. The HealthLink BC website has resources that provide information on pregnancy including foods to avoid. Just type “pregnancy food safety” into the search function to learn more.

8-1-1 is a free-of-charge health information and advice phone line operated by HealthLink BC. By calling 8-1-1, you can speak to a representative who will help you find health information and services, or connect you directly with a registered nurse, a registered dietitian or a pharmacist for assistance. You can also visit us online at to get the information you need to manage your health concerns or find health services near you.