Pregnancy Diets

Here are some great pregnancy diets for you to consider both prior to and during your pregnancy.  For any diet that you are considering, we recommend eating only organic fruits and vegetables along with free range or wild caught protein and fat sources.  

The toxins, hormones and additives in conventional food should be avoided at all costs. You can read our own pregnancy diet suggestions as well as look up easy to prepare recipes and other easy to implement tips for eating a healthy diet while pregnant.

Key philosophy here is understanding what we have eaten for millions of years, or what works and has been proven to result in healthier babies.

Our Favorite Pregnancy Diet Resources

Diets that should never be considered during pregnancy

  • Vegan Diet
  • USDA Food Pyramid Based Diet

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Our Favorite Pregnancy Diets

Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet to prevent Pre-eclampsia

Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet to prevent Pre-eclampsia

Dr. Brewer studied pregnant women and tested a variety of pregnancy diets on women.  He felt strongly that toxemia of pregnancy (also known as pre-eclampsia) was caused by poor diet.  His goal was to prove that a good diet was essential to a pregnant woman’s health to that of her unborn baby.  

He conducted studies and published his results in an effort to get the Obstetric community to routinely check into the diet of their patients and make recommendations.  

His findings proved conclusively that women can lower their risk of developing pre-eclampsia by consuming at least 80 grams of protein per day.  

Pre-eclampsia is a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure.  Preeclampsia occurs when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and protein in her urine at any point after her 20th week of pregnancy. This condition is also called toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). It only occurs during pregnancy, although in some cases, it can occur earlier than the 20th week.

Preeclampsia can cause your blood pressure to rise and put you at risk of brain injury. It can impair kidney and liver function, and cause blood clotting problems, pulmonary edema (fluid on the lungs), seizures and, in severe forms or left untreated, maternal and infant death.

There are three main symptoms:

  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling of hands and feet
  • Protein in urine

Dr. Brewers diet prevents pre-eclampsia by ensuring women get at least 80 grams of protein per day.  Since Dr. Brewer passed away, other diets have continued to evolve that build upon Dr. Brewers findings.  Still, out of all the pregnancy diets, it was the most pivotal.

For more information and to incorporate his diet principles into your own pregnancy diet.

Low Carbohydrate Diet

Dr. Atkins is best known for his low carbohydrate diet.  You probably have never thought about how his diet principles provide tremendous value during pregnancy.  

We aren’t talking about his induction diet where your goal is to keep your carbohydrate intake under 20 grams per day.  

Rather we are speaking about following the Lifetime Maintenance Phase where he recommends that you keep your carbohydrate intake under 100 grams a day.  See page 12 in the “New Atkins for a New You” book for Traci Marshall’s success story losing her pregnancy weight using Atkins and how she wished she had known she could have used the Lifetime Maintenance stage while she was pregnant as it would have prevented a host of medical issues. Out of all the pregnancy diets, the low carb diet is the one that most comprehensively prevents blood sugar swings.

So why do we recommend it?  We have seen over and over that too many carbohydrates, particularly carbs coming from processed wheat, white rice, simple starches (like potato) cause sharp rises in blood sugar.

While you are pregnant, your body is under alot of pressure and many women have trouble regulating their blood sugar.  This causes a slew of health problems both for the pregnant women and is bad for the baby.

Gestational diabetes is on the rise. The problem is that most women don’t realize that the damage from high blood sugar levels and high blood insulin levels occurs much earlier than diagnosis.  

For a healthy pregnancy, you want to ensure your blood sugar levels stay stable by eating a diet that will not spike your blood sugar.  This means being mindful every time you eat.  

At the very least you can help yourself by always eating carbohydrates with healthy protein and fat sources, you will slow down the rise in blood sugar.  

At the other end of the spectrum, you really do both your body and your baby a favor by making free range and wild caught protein sources the focus of your diet along with healthy fats and plenty of green vegetables. The New Atkins diet gives you an easy way to do just that.

Paleo / Primal / Ancestrial Diet

The idea behind eating a Paleo diet is that you are consuming foods that your body is genetically optimized for.  This means foods that humans have been eating for more than 50,000 years.

Many digestive disorders and food allergies are a result of eating food that your body is not optimized for processing.  

When you are pregnant it is especially important to eat healthy food that your body can readily assimilate and which will not add any additional burden.  Your body is busy enough working to make a healthy baby.  It needs you to provide building materials that it can use without having to modify.  Out of all of the pregnancy diets, an ancestral diet is the one that is most likely to prevent harm due to food allergies and food intolerances. 

Our favorite book about the Paleo diets is The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.

Traditional Diet

Traditional diets are similar to Paleo diets in that they focus on foods that humans have been consuming for a while.  For traditional diets that means foods that humans have been consuming for hundreds of years.

While Traditional diets include grains, the grains are soaked using traditional methods to make them more digestible.  In addition, fermented foods, raw milk and fermented milk products are also encouraged.  Incorporated into traditional diets are foods that pregnant women have been encouraged to eat for hundreds of years.  

Read more about why a traditional diet is important

We really like Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for all the great information that is included.  Although it is full of recipes and foundational procedures for preparing food traditionally, our favorite part is the information provided in the side bars and in the first two chapters of the book.  Also, check out the special diets section for specific recommendations for what to eat while you are pregnant.  

The author, Sally Fallon is also one of the founders of the Weston A Price Foundation.  Their website has tons of well researched articles about nutrition, traditional diets, and tips for raising healthy children.  You should definitely read their women’s health section for great nutritional information for all stages of your life, before, during and after pregnancy, as well as their Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers page.

Out of all of the pregnancy diets, a traditional diet is the one that is most helpful if you desire to consume grains and other more modern foods safely.

Real Food Diet

The Sears Family, which includes William Sears MD and Martha Sears RN has been providing pregnancy, childbirth and attachment parenting advice for many years.  Their most current book, The Healthy Pregnancy Book, reflects all of the most recent research into what is needed to make a healthy baby.  It details what a mother can do to safeguard her child’s health.  

Diet and nutrition are cornerstones to better births, healthier babies and better maternal health.  They advocate that pregnant women follow the Real Food Diet which is based on food quality and nutrient density… that is, the most nutrition in the smallest volume.  Included in this diet are 12 essential foods that make up the core of what they refer to as the “right-fat” and “right-carb” diet.  

They also discuss the importance of preventing unstable insulin and blood sugar metabolism.  We really like how they explain how what you eat effects you health as well as the future health of your baby at the same time they provide simple strategies for eating the right foods to ensure you set you baby up for lifelong healthy.  

For example, did you know that if a baby in utero is not given enough of the right nutrients or exposed to too much of the wrong nutrients, a strong adaptation mechanism clicks in so that baby’s tissues are programmed to conserve sugar and fat?  This causes the baby to be born a calorie storer instead of a calorie burner, predisposing it to childhood an adult obesity!  You can read all of the details in the up-to-date version of The Healthy Pregnancy Book

Out of all of the pregnancy diets, a real food diet will give you the most nutrition with the smallest amount of food consumption.

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The worst pregnancy diets

Vegan Diet

Following a vegan diet is detrimental for both you and your baby. Even if you have been able to tolerate a vegan diet without serious health repercussions before getting pregnant, you certainly don’t want to follow one while you are pregnant.  Here is why.  

Vegans are almost universally deficient in Vitamin B12.  This can be rectified to some extent by taking a Vitamin b12 supplement, and there are vitamin b12 supplements available made by bacterial fermentation that fit within the vegan philosophy.  

Your body really does need 80-100 grams of protein per day in order to have the essential building blocks (amino acids, b vitamins, cholesterol) it needs to build a healthy baby.  Both you and your baby’s brain is made up of 25% cholesterol.  

Cholesterol is what holds every cell in your body together so that they don’t leak.  Cholesterol is vital to all of the pregnancy hormonal functions that are necessary to make a healthy baby.  Cholesterol is essential to nerve development and the meylan sheaths that cover and protect nerves so that they can signal properly. 

Unlike you have probably heard, cholesterol is not in the adipose (fat).  It is found in connective tissue.  

At the very least, you need to adopt a vegetarian diet and eat a lot of eggs (cholesterol, leutin for eyes, vitamin A) and wild caught salmon (omega 3 oils) while you are pregnant so that your body has the nutrients it needs.  Also, you need to limit your consumption of simple starches like white rice, refined wheat,and potato since blood sugar problems are often much worse with vegetarian and vegan diets.  For all your grains, you need to prepare them properly by soaking / sprouting them so that more of the vitamins and minerals are available to your body.  

Often when pregnant, lack of enzymes and other digestive issues cause women to have trouble digesting and assimilating the food they eat.  Therefore, if you are following a vegetarian diet, you should also eat naturally fermented foods with every meal to provide the digestive enzymes. When you think about it, this makes sense.  

Cows and other animals that are naturally vegetarian have multiple stomachs, very long intestines all of which allow their food to ferment and be broken down at various stages. For cows, they even chew their cud, meaning they project the food that has been fermenting in their first stomach back up into their mouth where they chew and break it down some more before swallowing it down into their second stomach.  It is a lot more work to extract nutrients from grasses, seeds, and other vegetarian sources.  

Following a 100% vegan diet is one of the most dangerous pregnancy diets in terms of potential for damage to mother or baby.  

Herbivores consume pounds and pounds of food each day since they need much larger volume of matter to extract the nutrients.  We on the other hand are able to benefit from all of this work because, when we eat the meat of herbivores, they have already done the work for us.  The vitamins and minerals present in their flesh are much more concentrated and easy for us to digest and assimilate.  

I think it is most interesting to know that our chimpanzee ancestors brains stayed small (600cc). It wasn’t until some of our primate ancestors decided to try their hand at carnivore that their brains received the energy and nutrition necessary to fuel our current brain size (roughly twice as big).    Before the Dawn is a fascinating read and it goes thru all of the stages of past development using the latest information from fossil records, archaeological records, as well as the latest DNA technologies - which has provided a slew of new insights. 

Did you know that over half of the energy from what you eat goes to fueling your brain?   According to Dr. David Perlmutter, while your brain represents around 2-3% of your total body weight, 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain.     

Cholesterol is not the bad guy that big pharma would like you to believe it is!  Pregnancy diets that recommend reducing cholesterol are dangerous!

Cholesterol plays an important role in  membrane function, acts as an antioxidant, and serves as the raw material from which your body is able to make vital pregnancy hormones like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and even vitamin D.  That’s right, the hormones vital to your pregnancy and ability to make a healthy baby depend on cholesterol so that they can work effectively.  For all the details about how to heal and protect your brain as well as help your body create a healthy brain for your baby, read Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Brainmaker.

If you are a vegan and unwilling to at least incorporate some animal protein and fat into your diet, at the very least read Planning a Baby? by Dr. Sarah Brewer.  She does provide a slew of tips which will give you the very best chances of having a healthy baby while vegetarian. As well as Dr. Brewer’s suggestion for safe vegetarian diets

USDA Food Pyramid Diet

The USDA food pyramid (link to our page about why it is awful) provides the worst diet recommendations around.  Did you know that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support it …and there never was?  

For more information regarding how it was created and a detailed explanation for exactly why it is almost exactly backwards read about a truly healthy diet pyramid

Of all of the pregnancy diets, following the diet recommended by the USDA food pyramid is the most likely to result in gestational diabetes.  

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