The information included in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation, or if you have any questions regarding conception, pregnancy, or your prenatal treatment plan.
Dear Stephanie, Is it safe for me to do a Whole30 during my pregnancy? I’m nervous that my baby might not get all of the nutrients he/she needs, I’m not sure how to combat morning sickness without crackers and ginger ale, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to not snack! Help! – Pregnant Women on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope and the Internet
Dear Pregnant Women, You are not alone in wondering if a Whole30 is safe to do while pregnant. We (Whole30 co-creator Melissa Hartwig and myself) get questions every day about the safety and feasibility of completing a Whole30 during pregnancy. In fact, this is the primary reason we created the Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program.
Your Whole30-while-pregnant concerns are common, and they also show me how serious you are about your health and the health of your baby. As a registered dietitian, I’m happy to say that a Whole30 is perfectly safe for most pregnant women. And as a mom, I can lend you my support and encouragement because I did a Whole30 during my pregnancy. During pregnancy, it’s possible to complete a Whole30 exactly as outlined in The Whole30 program guidelines. However, I have a few additional recommendations to make those 30 days as smooth and stress-free as possible:
- Listen to your body
- Make sure you are eating enough
- Enjoy smaller meals and snacks, if desired
- Consider your protein and carb intake
We hear the following concerns over and over again:
Concern #1 I’m afraid I’ll LOSE too much weight if I do a Whole30.
When you embark on a Whole30, you remove foods (grains, legumes, and dairy) that may be accounting for a large percentage of your total calorie intake. This is especially true if you’re coming to the program from a standard American diet. Now, not only are you potentially eliminating significant sources of calories, but you are replacing those foods with foods that promote satiety (non-starchy vegetables, healthy fat, and protein). This is all happening during a time when your body needs an additional 300-500 calories to promote the health, growth and development of you and your baby. Do you see how this scenario can set us up for potential weight loss or under-consumption of calories?
Pregnancy isn’t truly a time to eat for two, however, your body does require additional calories and you want to make sure these additions come from nutrient-dense sources. Ideally, your meals and snacks should contain plenty of healthy fat (such as avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, and coconut products), protein, vegetables (starchy and non-starchy) and fruit. If you’re coming to the Whole30 from a low-fat or calorie controlled diet, you may have to make a conscious effort to include enough healthy fat with each meal. If you’re exercising during your pregnancy, you’ll need to make sure you purposefully include enough starchy vegetables (like potatoes and winter squash) and fruit to support your activity level. This will ensure that you are providing yourself with the nutrients and energy required to grow a tiny human.
At any point during your pregnancy, if you’re losing too much weight, or are feeling under-fed and exhausted, it may be time to take a break from your Whole30. Now isn’t the time to “push through it” or “Whole30 harder.” Listen to your body, take a break, and do whatever you need to do to get through the rough time. This may include eating a gluten-free bagel or some full-fat, grass-fed yogurt. As your energy levels increase and you feel better, check in with your healthcare provider, and consider restarting your Whole30 at a later date.
Our Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program addresses this in depth, and we include sample meal plans to give you plenty of ideas on how to eat well during pregnancy.
Concern #2: There’s no way I can eat that much protein, fat, and non-starchy vegetables at each meal!
While the recommendations of the traditional Whole30 program say to avoid/minimize snacking, you may need to ditch this recommendation during your pregnancy. This is especially true if you are dealing with morning sickness or are in your 3rd trimester. Having smaller meals every three hours may help alleviate some of the nausea you experience, which can be triggered by an empty stomach or low blood sugar. As your baby grows, you may not have the physical space in your stomach to eat larger meals. Do the best you can with the issues that pop up and remember that everything you’re eating is nutrient-dense and healthy for your baby, which is the most important thing.
In our Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program, we give you meal plans, tips, and tricks designed to help you comfortably modify the Whole30 to account for these exceptions.
Concern #3: Should I modify the recommended portion sizes in the Whole30 Meal Planning Template?
Pregnancy is not the time to follow a very low-carbohydrate diet or go heavy on protein. You’ll want to add some form of starchy vegetables and/or fruit to most of your meals. This will ensure you and your baby receive a wide-variety of nutrients while reducing any additional stress on your body as a result of going too low-carb. You’ll also want to consider sticking to the lower-end of the recommendations for protein (one palm-sized portion per meal) as your body’s ability to safely convert protein by-products is less efficient during pregnancy.
Many women experience protein aversions during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, so you may naturally find yourself consuming less throughout the day. If a palm-sized amount of protein at each meal seems impossible, you can try having smaller meals, use a plain, unsweetened egg-white protein powder or collagen peptides in smoothies, have a cup of bone broth mixed with collagen peptides, or whatever you need to do to make it work. Don’t stress about it too much. You’ll likely feel much better once the second trimester hits, and can resume eating your normal protein staples.
In addition to tossing out the “no snacking” recommendation, you may also choose to ditch the Whole30 recommendation to limit fruit to two servings a day, eaten with your meals (and not on their own as a dessert or snack). I found myself craving fruit during my pregnancy and enjoyed it a few times a day. Just make sure to pair fruit and starchy vegetables with protein or fat to reduce the impact on your blood sugar levels. The more we can prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, the better you’ll feel and the less likelihood you’ll have of developing pregnancy-related complications!
Know that Melissa and I would never advocate for doing a Whole30 for your entire pregnancy. In fact, if you choose not to do an official Whole30 while pregnant, you can still focus on the main principles outlined by the program and have a fantastic pregnancy. Lastly, know that there is no such thing as a perfect Whole30 while pregnant. Your version of a a Whole30 may be very different from another pregnant mama’s, and that’s totally fine! The key is finding a balance of nutrient-dense, whole foods that works for your unique needs.
Pregnancy is a time to listen to your body, do your best with the curve-balls thrown your way, and enjoy the journey. I know you probably still have a million questions and that’s why I’m here! We provide tons of information, tools, and tricks in the Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program. I’m happy to answer any additional questions or concerns you may have. Follow us on Instagram @Whole30HMHB, or find my personal account @rockyourhormones.