I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts that I’m mostly grain-free and pregnant. A lot of pregnant women out there are on a special diet, for a variety of reasons. Some are dairy-free; some are gluten-free; some have to avoid any number of other foods due to allergies. Many women are worried about eating an adequate diet when they are pregnant, and having food restrictions makes it even more difficult.
But eating a good diet that is perfectly healthy, even with restrictions, is totally possible. I’m doing it right now!
A couple months ago, we realized that our family needed to be grain-free. My husband has a lot of allergies and we needed to go on a special diet, the GAPS diet, to help him out. I’m not nearly as strict as he is. He is almost entirely dairy-free, while I eat cheese, yogurt, and drink raw milk (yes, raw). I also eat the occasional sourdough bread. But I don’t cook pasta, rice, corn, oats, etc. We don’t rely on grain-based snacks either.
So that’s where we are.
I took a look at the specific issue of being on the GAPS diet while pregnant a few weeks back. It’s important to note that a healthy pregnancy diet without grains is entirely possible. And here’s why:
What nutrient is in grains that is not found in any other food? I cannot think of a single one.
Grains (at least whole, properly prepared grains) contain B vitamins, fiber, and carbs. Starchy vegetables, like potatoes and carrots, are carbs; fruit and honey are carbs too. Many vegetables also contain fiber (though I don’t believe you “need” fiber…not nearly as much as people think. I’ve eaten the least fiber this pregnancy of all three…and have not had constipation this time at all, unlike other times). B vitamins? Leafy greens, red meats, beans. There are tons of good sources of all these nutrients. Better sources than are grains.
As a side note, if you’re dairy-free and pregnant (I’m not, but I was dairy-free for a long time), leafy greens and homemade chicken stock are way better sources of calcium than dairy. Also, you really need to balance your calcium intake with magnesium intake. Most women actually get plenty of calcium; they’re low in magnesium and vitamin D. Which, by the way, can cause those leg cramps and restless legs that prevent sleep!
Anyway, this is the trick. When you are looking at eliminating any particular food group, it’s important to look at what nutrients those foods provide that are considered “key.” Then find other sources of those nutrients. I don’t believe in synthetic supplements (more on that another day). But I also don’t believe that any single food is absolutely crucial to health. It is possible to leave out foods and get an entirely healthy diet.
So what do I eat?
I eat a lot of cheese, raw milk, yogurt, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, eggs, various fruits and vegetables. I have salads very often. I have smoothies everyday. I actually crave fruits and vegetables! I have a few glasses of milk (usually chocolate I make my own chocolate milk mix) most days. Ironically, it’s the first pregnancy in which I’ve consistently had milk! I eat eggs and meat for breakfast every morning with a smoothie.
An upside of being grain-free is that I easily get my protein in. My midwives asked me to keep a diet record for a week, and there wasn’t a single day I was under 100 grams of protein. Some days I was as high as 150 grams! (Pregnant women are supposed to get 80 120 grams per day.) I struggled with this a lot more when I was eating grains, because I’d fill up on those instead of focusing on protein-rich animal foods and beans.
It also means I get a lot more fruits and vegetables, and a much wider range in. I know that we can all agree that this is a key part of nutrition!
The only thing that I would recommend against is giving up animal foods. Especially if you are grain-free. Animal foods are the best sources of protein, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Anemia is likely without them, as is protein deficiency. It is unfortunate, but many people who do not consume animal foods rely heavily on grains and soy, two foods you do not want to eat too much of (I do not consume any soy, due to its estrogen-like effects). It is possible to limit animal foods, if you so desire. And it definitely recommended to seek sustainable sources of animal foods, rather than whatever’s at the grocery store (I buy almost all my meat, eggs, and milk from a local farmer).
The point is…if you eat a varied diet, and follow your cravings (unless your cravings are only for sugar and junk!), you will eat a perfectly healthy diet. If you need any supplements, there are great whole foods options. Spirulina, kelp, sea vegetables are all great supplements to take (supplying iron, magnesium, iodine, and more).
Are you pregnant and on a special or limited diet? How do you cope?
Top image by spaceodissey