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Nutrition During Pregnancy: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Healthy eating when you are pregnant is important for you and your baby. It can help you feel well and have a successful pregnancy and delivery. During pregnancy your nutrition needs increase. Even if you have excellent eating habits, your doctor or midwife may recommend a multivitamin to make sure you get enough iron and folic acid.

Many pregnant women wonder how much weight they should gain.

Women who are pregnant with one baby

  • Underweight (body mass index (BMI) less than 18.5): Try to gain about 12.5 kg to 18 kg.
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9): Try to gain about 11.5 kg to 16 kg.
  • Overweight (BMI 25.0 to 29.9): Try to gain about 7 kg to 11.5 kg.
  • Obese (BMI 30 or higher): Try to gain about 5 kg to 9 kg.

Women who are pregnant with twins

  • Normal weight: Try to gain about 17 kg to 25 kg.
  • Overweight (BMI 25.0 to 29.9): Try to gain about 14 kg to 23 kg.
  • Obese (BMI 30 or higher): Try to gain about 11 kg to 19 kg.

If you are having twins or more, your doctor or midwife may refer you to a dietitian.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. Include a variety of orange, yellow, and leafy dark-green vegetables every day.
  • Choose whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta. Good choices include whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal.
  • Include milk and alternatives each day. Good choices include low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you cannot eat milk products, you can get calcium from calcium-fortified products such as orange juice, soy beverage, and tofu. Other non-milk sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts.
  • If you eat meat, pick lower-fat types. Good choices include lean cuts of meat and chicken or turkey without the skin.
  • Limit how much liver and liver products (such as liverwurst or liver sausage) you eat. Liver is high in iron, folate, and vitamin A. Too much vitamin A may cause birth defects. If you eat liver, ask your doctor about how much is right for you.
  • Limit how much high-mercury fish you eat.
    • Do not eat more than 150 g of high-mercury fish in a month. These include fresh or frozen tuna (not canned "light" tuna), shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, and escolar.
    • Do not eat more than 300 g of canned (white) albacore tuna each week.
  • Eat two or more servings of fish a week that are lower in mercury. These include salmon, rainbow trout, pollock, herring, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, and canned "light" tuna.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, or seafood. Heat all deli meats, hot dogs, refrigerated meat spreads, and refrigerated smoked seafood to 74° C before eating. Do not eat or drink raw or unpasteurized dairy products and fruit juices. Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. Avoid all sprouts, even if cooked.
  • Do not eat pasteurized or unpasteurized soft, semi-soft, or blue-veined cheeses, such as havarti, brie, camembert, and Mexican-style cheese (like queso fresco or queso blanco). They have a bacteria that could harm your baby.
  • Avoid caffeine, or limit your intake to 300 mg or about 2 cups of coffee or tea each day. Caffeine is also found in soda pop.
  • Do not drink any alcohol. No amount of alcohol has been found to be safe during pregnancy.
  • Do not diet or try to lose weight. For example, do not follow a low-carbohydrate diet. If you are overweight at the start of your pregnancy, your doctor will work with you to manage your weight gain.
  • Tell your doctor about all medicines and natural health products you take.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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