If you're reading this, it's probably because you're pregnant, so CONGRATULATIONS!
Now, let's get serious – we all know that eating nutritious meals lies at the core of staying fit and healthy.
Pregnancy is one of the crucial stages of a woman’s life. And women and health are a way bigger issue. Pregnancy is tough for every woman, mostly because when a woman is pregnant, her body goes through a lot of changes.
We know you’re trying to be healthy while you’re passing through this, so you might be wondering, 'is it safe to follow a keto diet during pregnancy?
The short answer: No, pregnant women shouldn't go keto. Keto diets can be extremely limiting, and for most pregnant women, doctors suggest a diet with a variety of foods.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet generally requires consuming roughly 70 percent of your daily calories from fat, 20 percent from protein, and just 5 to 10 percent from carbohydrates.
Unlike some low-carb diets that recommend nixing sugar and processed grains (like white bread and pasta), going on the keto diet means eliminating nearly all carbs from your diet, including most fruits, whole grains, and some vegetables.
Why? Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source; when the body runs out of carbs to burn, it turns to fat and produces ketones, inducing a state called ketosis. This can lead to weight loss.
Risk for pregnant women: Nutrient deficiencies 👩🏻⚕️
Reaching the fat-burning state (ketosis) isn’t as simple as it sounds. Carbs are a huge NO in this diet — including fruits and most vegetables, which have natural sugars.
But pregnant women need fruits and vegetables — rich in vitamins, iron, and folate — to nourish their growing baby.
What nutrients are needed during pregnancy?
What you eat during your pregnancy is important because your body is working overtime to maintain a healthy weight, while supplying the nutrients needed for a fetus to develop. On average, a fetus will require 340 calories daily for healthy development. The nutritional makeup of these calories is extremely important and include the following recommended nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Folic Acid
Following a keto diet during pregnancy poses two specific risks 🚨 :
- Folic acid is key to brain and spine development and is found in carbohydrate-rich foods like fortified cereal, enriched bread, and beans. Removing these from an expectant mother’s diet can be dangerous.
- Most doctors recommend limiting fats to control pregnancy weight gain. This also helps avoid complications like pregnancy-related high blood pressure.
A keto diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, making it difficult for pregnant moms to follow these guidelines and get enough nutrients. Instead, doctors recommend a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein, and dairy products to ensure that the nutritional needs of mom and baby are met.
What is a healthy pregnancy diet? 🍎
Now that you know the keto diet is off the table, what should you be eating during pregnancy?
First off, make sure you’re eating enough calories. Calorie needs vary quite a bit depending on your starting BMI, height, age, and activity level, but it’s generally recommended that you add an additional 300 to 350 calories per day in the second trimester and about 500 more calories than your pre-pregnancy diet in the third trimester.
When it comes to the form those calories come in, focus on eating a mix of nutrient-dense foods, including eggs, lean meats (think chicken, pork tenderloin, lean beef cuts), calcium-rich foods (cheese, milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified soy milk), fruits and veggies (avocados, red bell peppers, mangoes, spinach, kale, bananas, and sweet potatoes are all good options), seafood (low-mercury fish like salmon and sardines are particularly good choices), and whole grains and legumes.
Instead of eliminating carbs, a healthier approach is to remember that not all carbohydrates are equal. Experts recommend avoiding simple carbs from junk foods like cookies, sugary cereals, candy, chips, soda, and ice cream, but keeping complex carbs like berries, apples, beans, sweet potatoes, and squash on the menu.
And, of course, continue to take your prenatal vitamins throughout your pregnancy while drinking plenty of water.
Also, we recommend checking with your doctor about any significant diet changes you're considering — especially if you're pregnant or hope to be soon. They can help you make the best decision for you and your future bundle of joy.