What Diets Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy isn’t the time to go on extreme diets that limit entire categories of food (unless, arguably, sugar), but for many women diets aren’t about weight loss – they’re about patterns of eating. To find out which diets are recommended and which aren’t during pregnancy we turned to Dr. Nicole Avena, author of  What to Eat When You’re Pregnant and What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant, and asked her for her expert insight about what diets are safe during pregnancy.

Vegan 

“A plant-based diet can be healthful while pregnant or breastfeeding, but you do need to be attentive to your nutritional needs. During pregnancy, you need to consume more vitamins and minerals than you do normally such as iron, calcium, folate and vitamin B-12. You also need to make sure you’re getting 70 grams of protein per day. It’s easy while on a plant-based diet to slip into the habit of eating a high carb diet that is low in protein, so make sure you always have plant-based protein sources like tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils and chickpeas on hand. While iron can be found in many plant-based foods like dark leafy greens, it can be beneficial to take a supplement for this anyways. You should also take a B-12 supplement if you’re eating a plant-based diet since vitamin B-12 is seldom found in plant foods. Also, if you’re following a vegan diet, make sure you are opting for healthy snacks. GimMe seaweed snacks are a great lower-calorie snack option that contain vitamins, minerals and iodine (which is important for proper thyroid functioning).”

Vegetarian

“Much of the same applies to a vegetarian diet as a vegan one. A vegetarian diet can provide more protein options with eggs and whey protein. Cow’s milk is also high in vitamin D, calcium and is often fortified with other important nutrients.”

Keto

“Studies have shown that keto diets can have negative impacts on embryonic growth and brain development. The keto diet is very restrictive and often weight-loss oriented. This is not appropriate for expectant mothers because it can result in nutrient deficiencies. An animal-based study has also shown that maternal blood-glucose levels become extremely low on a ketogenic diet which changes the energy source that the developing fetus uses, especially in the later trimesters.”

Atkins

“Atkins is also a low carbohydrate diet that is often used for weight loss. It’s not recommended during pregnancy for its reputation as a weight loss diet and its lack of grain products, along with the keto diet reduces the amount of folate a woman can get from her diet, which is one of the most important nutrients during pregnancy and aids in the development of neural tubes.”

Mediterranean

“The Mediterranean diet can be a good choice during pregnancy and breastfeeding because it is varied and not restrictive. It is geared towards improving and maintaining health long term as opposed to losing weight. The Mediterranean diet consists of high amounts of fruits vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains and fish. This is the framework for a healthy diet that will provide an expectant or breastfeeding mother with all of the nutrients she needs. The Mediterranean diet also includes healthy unsaturated fats from olive

oil and nuts and omega-3 fatty acids from fish, both of which are good fats for fetal development. If you’re avoiding gluten, there are a lot of gluten-free options out there for meals and snacks. Feel Good Foods has a line of all natural and gluten-free frozen snacks that can fit nicely into the Mediterranean diet when you need something fast.”

Weight Watchers

“According to the Weight Watchers website, their diet is not geared towards pregnant women and they do not recommend that pregnant women follow the Weight Watchers diet. This diet is specifically tailored for people to lose weight and therefore is not a good option for women who are pregnant.”

Paleo

“There is not much evidence about the impacts of a paleo diet during pregnancy, but it is a low carb diet and thus lacks folate from whole grains. The paleo diet does emphasize whole foods, lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lean meats. All of these foods are nutrient-rich, but in essence, the paleo diet is restrictive and may lead to an unhealthy and limited view on eating during pregnancy.”

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