During pregnancy it’s important to be mindful of what you’re eating, after-all you’re eating for two! It’s very common to have concerns about what to eat and what to avoid. There are so many facts and myths about what foods are safe, harmful, or beneficial. A very popular diet right now is a low-carb (sometimes called Ketogenic) diet. Is it healthy to be on a low carb diet during pregnancy?

A common reason for folks who adhere to a low-carb diet is because it helps your body get adjusted to burning fat for energy instead of carbs, and in some cases leading to weight-loss. However, this isn’t a recommended diet when you’re pregnant. Although you’re eating for two, you don’t always need to eat more but you need to eat intentionally. You are your baby’s only source of nutrients, and you need the proper balance of proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and carbohydrates.

That being said, most prenatal dieticians strongly advise against a strict no-carb diet. Without sufficient carbs, your body will produce a by-product called ketones in your bloodstream, which can put your baby’s brain health at risk. 

There are other aspects of a low carb diet that can worsen the discomforts of pregnancy. For example, low carb diets tend to have low levels of dietary fiber, which exacerbate constipation that many pregnant moms suffer because of the required iron supplements. Many prenatal dietitians recommend eating plenty of fruit because of its rich vitamin content. Most fruits are generally high in carbs, another reason to avoid a low-carb diet.

Doctors recommend a modified low carb diet if you are overweight or obese, suffer from gestational diabetes or have low blood sugar. All three conditions have been proven to have adverse effects on the baby (including prematurity, birth defects, and early rupture of the membranes) so losing weight or controlling intake may actually be beneficial in this case. However, if you have any of the conditions listed, it’s best to go over a nutrition plan with your doctor.

If you are not allowed to go low-carb, but still need to control your weight, there are some options open to you. First of all, eat small but frequent meals. If you want a snack, instead of junk food or processed meats, substitute for salads, fruits, nuts, or crackers. Choose lean cuts of meat, and minimize salt and rich sauces during cooking. While you do need carbohydrates, take in moderation.

The most important thing to remember is that before you go on any diet during pregnancy consult your doctor and/or nutritionist. Your doctor can properly determine the best course of action given your particular medical history and the condition of your baby. Do not go on any weight management program without the advice and the approval of your doctor. Whether its low carb, Ketogenic, Mediterranean, or any other diet, understand that there is a proven link between prenatal nutrition and the baby’s health.