Dear Stephanie, I read your post about the benefits of doing a Whole30 while pregnant and am trying to decide if it’s the best option for me. I’m in my first trimester and am really battling the sugar dragon. Is a Whole30 appropriate for all pregnant women? – an HMHB mama on Instagram
The short answer is no. In fact, if you ever hear someone claiming that one specific program is perfect for everyone, you should run far away. We’re all so different; any dietary or lifestyle plan needs to account for these individual differences.
All women experience pregnancy in their own unique way. Some have no complaints during the first trimester, while others can barely gather the courage to drink water or choke down a few crackers. As a Registered Dietitian and woman’s health expert, it is never my intention to communicate that the only way a woman can have a healthy baby and pregnancy is by following a specific diet. That approach is harmful both physically and psychologically. I prefer to take a more gracious, thoughtful approach during the vulnerable phases of pregnancy and postpartum. Moms need encouragement and support during these times, not finger-pointing, guilt, and shame. There’s already far too much of that aimed at women.
One of the biggest misconceptions women have about the Whole30 Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program is that we are promoting a nine-month-long Whole30. We actually discourage you from being that strict throughout your pregnancy. In fact, following the Whole30 rules isn’t a requirement of the program at all. Many of the mamas in our program have never done a Whole30. They simply follow our Whole30-inspired guidelines of eating whole food as much as possible. Our goal is to support our mamas and help them make the decisions that are right for them.
So please, don’t feel like you must do a Whole30 during your pregnancy in order to have a healthy baby. In fact, I can think of three situations in which a pregnant Whole30 may not be the best idea. This week I’ll address the first situation, and next week I will dive into the other two.
The three situations are:
- You’re dealing with severe morning sickness or Hyperemesis Gravidarum
- You’re having difficulty gaining weight or experiencing significant weight loss
- You have a history of disordered eating behaviors
Severe morning sickness or Hyperemesis Gravidarum
If you’re dealing with mild to moderate morning sickness, you may find it possible to stay Whole30 compliant by using some of the strategies we’ve outlined previously to manage your morning sickness. In fact, structuring your meals to include a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates will likely help you manage your morning sickness much better than if you were eating refined, processed foods alone.
Even if you can’t stomach the protein and fat, just replacing the processed refined grains with whole food sources of carbohydrates (like starchy veggies and fruit) may help you feel better as you’ll experience less blood sugar fluctuation. However, if you feel like you’re uncomfortably forcing yourself to the rules of the Whole30 just because you’ve committed to it, we encourage you to give yourself the option to back out of your Whole30. You can still follow the principles of eating nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods at meals whenever you feel like you can stomach those foods.
If you’re struggling with moderate to severe morning sickness or possibly Hyperemesis Gravidarum (a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance), then you’re probably laughing at the idea of structuring your meals to include a balance of the macronutrients or the idea that you can survive without crackers, bagels, and ginger ale during this time. That’s where we draw the line.
With mild to moderate morning sickness, you may be able to navigate the nausea with the tricks we outlined, but if those strategies aren’t working, please don’t try to just “Whole30 harder.” There’s no trophy at the end of completing a 30 days of Whole30 eating. You need to do what’s best for yourself and your baby during your pregnancy and that may mean stopping your Whole30 or not doing one at all during these rough times. Please seek assistance from your provider and take care of yourself however you need to! With both of these situations, you can choose to restart your Whole30 when you’re feeling better and you get the okay from your provider.
Check back in next week, when I’ll tackle about the two other situations in which a #PregnantWhole30 might not be the best option for you!
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.