Healthy Diet During Pregnancy

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View Stages of Pregnancy Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuidePregnancy: What Not to Eat When Pregnant

Pregnancy: What Not to Eat When Pregnant

Vegan and vegetarian diets

Pregnant women can absolutely follow vegan or vegetarian diets during pregnancy. In fact, doing so may help them avoid some of the added hormones that are common in non-organic animal products. However, there are some nutrients that are commonly deficient in vegetarian diets. Pregnant women who are vegan or vegetarian should be extra careful to ensure they are getting enough calcium, iron, and B-12. Protein intake needs to be monitored too. Vegetarian protein sources include:

  • beans,
  • lentils,
  • nuts and nut butters,
  • seeds,
  • quinoa,
  • peas, hemp/almond/soy milk,
  • yogurt,
  • cheese, and
  • eggs.

B-12 is needed for proper DNA expression in the growing embryo and fetus. Deficiencies cause anemia and are associated with low birth weight, pre-term delivery, preeclampsia, and neural tube defects8. Pregnant women need 30mcg a day and the sources are all animal-based; vegan women may want to ensure they get enough by taking a methylcobalamin supplement.

Low carb diets

Low carbohydrate diets can be healthy during pregnancy, as they are for any life phase, but the devil is in the details, as they say. More precisely, a low glycemic load diet is beneficial during pregnancy (and throughout life). Glycemic load is a term that measures how quickly a carbohydrate is digested and turned into blood sugar. Carbohydrates with lots of fiber, or combined with fat or protein have lower glycemic loads and raise blood sugar slowly, providing steady energy and preventing a spike in blood sugar and the subsequent low blood sugar drop. How do you follow a low glycemic load diet? Stay away from processed carbs such as:

  • flour,
  • sugar,
  • breads,
  • pastas,
  • soda, and
  • pastries.

Instead, choose foods in their unrefined form:

  • fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • brown rice, or
  • quinoa.

An easy way to do this is to stay away from "white" foods:

  • White sugar
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • White potato, etc.

White foods are also low in micronutrients.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Pregnancy & Newborns Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

  • Healthy Diet During Pregnancy - Goal Setting

    Please share your experience for goal setting for a healthy diet during pregnancy.

  • Healthy Diet During Pregnancy - Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

    Please share your experience and any helpful information in regard to a vegan or vegetarian diet during pregnancy.

  • Healthy Diet During Pregnancy - Morning Sickness, Hearturn

    What foods helped relieve morning sickness, heartburn, or other trouble physical symptoms during pregnancy?


Health Solutions From Our Sponsors