Following a gluten-free diet may not just be a health choice. You may find that you need to do it because it’s best for your digestive system. Gluten has been linked to various issues, including bloating and discomfort or pain.
Other people have found that the gluten free diet helps their weight loss efforts. They don’t have to deal with as many sugar cravings or crashes because they’re making healthier, more filling choices throughout the day.
But now you’ve found out you’re pregnant. Now your diet doesn’t just need to support you but also needs to support the growing baby. It’s a time to enjoy, but you also need to think about that gluten free lifestyle.
Is it still healthy for you when you’re growing a little one? What options do you have to make sure you get everything your baby needs?
If you’ve been following the gluten free lifestyle for some time, I have some great news for you. There are high chances that you won’t need to make many changes. If you’ve only just started to follow the lifestyle, then you may want to consider a non-gluten free diet temporarily just to make sure your baby gets all the nutrients needed. It’s always best to talk to your doctor or midwife to make sure.
Here’s a look at the gluten-free diet for expectant mums and what you should be aware of and can expect.
Are You Gluten Free for an Allergy?
Let’s look at why your gluten free first, as this will affect what most doctors will advise you while pregnant. If you have a gluten allergy, staying away from all things gluten is the best.
You may currently be going through food testing to find out if you are allergic to the gluten or if it’s something else. Some doctors will want to put the testing on hold, while others will make a few changes due to your pregnancy. The focus right now is to keep you comfortable while not putting your growing baby at risk.
Gluten is a protein found in the likes of wheat, pasta, crackers, bread, cereals, and barley. It’s also often added to commercial products like beer, sausages, hot dogs, salad dressings, candy, and vegetarian burgers. You’ll want to check the packaging of anything you eat to make sure you’re not accidentally eating anything that could possibly have gluten in it.
There are certain symptoms that alert individuals and doctors to problems with gluten. They can include fatigue, joint pain, intestinal problems, nasal congestion, and even respiratory problems. The severity will depend on whether you have a gluten intolerance or an allergy.
Whatever you do, make sure your doctor is aware of all allergies that you have. This will often be one of the first questions that come up because your doctor will want to make sure the care given doesn’t hinder your health.
But What If I’ve Chosen a Gluten Free Lifestyle?
We don’t all opt for no gluten because of allergies or intolerances. Some of us choose to go gluten-free because of health and feelings.
Should we now make a change back to including diet in our lifestyles? Well, there aren’t many studies that show us either way of what a gluten free lifestyle does to a growing baby.
In most cases, you will be supported in your gluten free diet. It is perfectly possible to get all the nutrients you need through other foods. You can still get your protein, carbs, fats, and even the vitamins and minerals with all the other food options out there. Chances are you will get everything that your body and your baby’s body need.
There may be some professionals who ask you to consider adding some gluten back into your diet, especially if you’ve recently changed and are struggling with it. This helps you get all the nutrients, and you can make a switch back to the gluten-free lifestyle afterwards.
The problem with a gluten-free diet is that you’re cutting out most of the sources of your essential B vitamins. This includes your folate. You will also cut out some sources of iron, zinc, and fibre. So, you need to find other food groups that will get them or you may need to consider taking other supplements. But then some supplements can include nutrients that you shouldn’t be taking (like the animal form of vitamin A in supplements).
It’s all about finding the right foods. A good doctor or midwife will help you do this. Here are a few options available.
Start Eating More Spinach and Kidney Beans
Gluten products include folate and iron. Both are also found in good amounts in spinach and kidney beans. You can also add a few other legumes like chickpeas and black beans to your diet.
Folate is one of those nutrients that doctors will encourage you to take supplements of. The folate is commonly believed to be folic acid, but this is just one type. However, folic acid is the supplement that you will usually get over the counter. This B vitamin helps to protect and prevent against spina bifida, nerve damage, and other similar problems during the developmental process. It’s highly recommended during the first trimester, although will be encouraged throughout your pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins have 400mcg of folate in them, so you just need to top up with 150mcg through your food. That’s possible through your spinach and kidney beans.
They’ll also give you extra iron, which helps with the development of red blood cells and the push of oxygen in your blood. Your organs don’t just need this oxygenated blood, but baby will too. Expectant mothers tend to be at a higher risk of developing anaemia (iron deficiency) than other women, because of the amount of blood that the baby needs.
You need to get 27mg of iron a day, and most foods will give you 2-3mg. Spinach and kidney beans are among the best options, offering 6mg and between 3-4mg per serving respectively.
The kidney beans are also great for getting fibre, which we’ll move onto more in a minute. It’s just worth noting that kidney beans—along with some other beans—have 10-16g of fibre per serving!
Yes, Your Fruits and Vegetables are Important
Whenever discussing something about the diet, fruit and vegetables tend to come up. There’s a reason for this: they do offer so many great nutrients.
In this case, they get you the fibre that your body needs during pregnancy. This is one of the nutrients that you will likely be deficient in when you cut out gluten because you’re cutting out a lot of foods that naturally have the fibre in them. Just think about the cereals and whole grain bread or pasta.
Contrary to popular belief, rice is allowed on the gluten-free diet. In this case, brown rice is the best for your fibre needs. 1 cup of cooked rice will give you 3.5g of your needed 25g daily amount. Do watch out for taking in too much brown rice as some of it is made with the poison arsenic. In low amounts this isn’t going to do your body any harm, but you don’t want to get all 25g of fibre from this ingredient.
This is where the fruit and vegetables come into play. This could be through raw foods, cooked vegetables, stewed fruits, and even frozen options. Yes, even some smoothies will work out good for you, if you blend up the whole fruit. Juicing gets rid of the pulp, which gets rid of all the fibre!
The amount of fibre you will get from fruit and vegetable will depend on the type that you have. In most cases, it is between 3g and 5g.
Don’t Forget the Gluten Free Grains
Not all grains have gluten in them. There are plenty of others that are full of fibre goodness but without the tricky protein. One of the most popular options for the diet is quinoa (pronounced Keen-Waa). It takes the time to get used to and figure out how to cook, but there are now plenty of recipes involving it now to make sure you meet your fibre needs.
Millet and Teff are also popular grain options when you need to keep the gluten out of your diet. You’ll find these a little harder to find, but they’re worth it when you do!
Ease Your Morning Sickness without Gluten
One of the most commonly recommended ways to get rid of morning sickness is to nibble on crackers just before you get up. Well, crackers contain gluten, so what are your other options?
The main reason crackers are suggested is that they are light and can be stored in the bedside drawer. It makes them easily accessible. Really, you just want to make sure there is something on your stomach before you get up. You can do that with any other type of food.
You may decide to have some dried fruit or some nuts by your bed ready for the morning. They tend to be great for all your morning sickness prevention needs and are gluten free. You could also opt for some of the gluten free crackers available in your supermarket, but do make sure you watch the amount of sugar and salt included in these.
When you’re up, you can also help to ease sickness by drinking some ginger tea or eating more meals with ginger as the main ingredient. Ginger has been known to help settle upset stomachs. If you don’t like ginger tea, why not try some ginger ale in small amounts?
Will I Still Gain Enough Weight?
This is a common misconception since gluten-free diets can be used for weight loss. While you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’re not restricting the calories you eat. Well, you shouldn’t be.
Sure, gluten products tend to have more calories than the non-gluten ones, but that doesn’t mean you must reduce them completely. You can increase the amount of the healthier foods instead.
This will be something that your doctor will want to discuss with you. There are worries that you’re following this diet for the wrong reason. The length of time you’ve been on a diet will also help. If it’s a lifestyle choice, you won’t lose too much weight (unless you’ve needed to) and you’ll have found a balance with your calorie intake.
You’ll still need to gain a healthy amount of weight for your pregnancy. This is something your doctor or midwife will help keep track for you.
Weight loss isn’t recommended at all during pregnancy. Your baby needs you to gain a little extra weight to make sure it gets all the nutrients and is kept protected. Some of the weight will also be your baby, placenta, and extra blood in your system. You should only look at losing weight if your doctor has recommended it and is monitoring your progress.
So, Is Gluten Free the Way to Go for Pregnancy?
If you’ve just found out about your pregnancy, switching right now to a gluten-free diet may not be the best decision you’ve made. You’ll have to deal with the foods that you aren’t allowed to eat because of pregnancy along with the foods that you know can’t eat because of gluten. This is especially the case if the gluten free lifestyle is more of choice than a necessity.
However, if you’ve been following the gluten free diet for some time, most health professionals won’t get to you change back. They will be interested to hear why you’re following this diet but will want you to do what’s best for both you and your baby.
You may just need to make a few changes to get some extra nutrients in your body. There are plenty of great gluten-free recipes to try out to help with this. If you are worried about certain nutrients, you can always discuss this with your doctor. You may find that your doctor wants to do a few extra tests along the way just to make sure that you’re getting everything your baby needs. And remember that there are always prenatal vitamins to help you when you need it.
As long as you’re gaining a healthy amount of weight and getting all the nutrients that your body needs, there are high chances that you won’t need to make a switch. What’s the point when it’s working, and you’re healthy for your growing baby?