Most women have probably heard a sister or a female friend complaining about all the restrictions expecting mothers must deal with when they get pregnant. There are a lot of obvious no-no’s, such as alcohol, tobacco products, and many over-the-counter and prescription medications. Doctors and midwives also warn patients to limit caffeine during pregnancy as well. But, what about eating foods with sugar?  Let’s take a look at some extra motivation to limit or restrict sugar in a pregnancy diet.

Top 3 Reasons to Cut Down on Sugar During Pregnancy

Click for Naturally Sweet Recipes

Prevent Unhealthy Weight Gain In Pregnancy   

Don’t misunderstand: weight gain (in moderation) is a normal, healthy, and expected part of pregnancy; however, many women gain too much weight while they are pregnant – and the introduction of all those empty calories from sugar doesn’t help. Gaining too much weight while pregnant introduces another risk factor for your health and your baby’s. Too much maternal weight gain can lead to severe problems like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Back ache, hip and leg pain
  • Complications during labor and birth
  • Cesarean section
  • Headaches

Keep Unwanted Pregnancy Symptoms in Check

Too much sugar can worsen problems that already make pregnant women feel uncomfortable. Moodiness in pregnancy is a real problem for lots of women. The emotional ups and downs caused by surging hormones can often make mother-to-be feel elated one moment and utterly sad or angry about something the next. Pregnancy-related fatigue can be exacerbated by the sugary foods that spike blood sugar levels up quickly, only to leave you feeling exhausted when they plummet just as fast. Some pregnant women find a low sugar diet helps them have fewer bouts of headaches, nausea, and constipation.

Avoid Serious Complications like Preeclampsia and Gestational Diabetes

Weight gain during pregnancy from a high-sugar diet can do more than just increase a woman’s discomfort, however. It can also lead to serious problems like gestational diabetes, where a woman’s body is not able to make enough insulin to keep blood sugars in control. This can lead to issues like extremely large birth weight for the baby, trauma during the birth itself and low blood sugar levels for the baby once it is born.  These are not just problems for the mother-to-be, but also for the baby. If you have complications during pregnancy, labor, or birth, your baby may end up in a special care nursery and separated from mom after birth.

Top Tips for a Low-Sugar Pregnancy Diet

Cutting Processed Foods

Processed foods have loads of sugar and saturated fat and salt. Eating a homemade, whole foods diet is one of the best ways to avoid these unwanted ingredients. The least amount of steps from farm to table is a good guideline to follow. Also less packaging usually means less processing of the food. Think fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean meat, eggs and healthy proteins from foods like peas, beans, and nuts. Increasing your protein intake to 80-100 grams, or 60% more than when you are not pregnant, can help stave off those sugar cravings.

Increasing Naturally Sweet Foods

Not all sugar is bad!  But if you are craving a sweet taste, it is best to try to satisfy those cravings with natural sources like fresh fruits. While these foods do have natural sugars, they also have fiber to slow down the rate at which the sugar hits the bloodstream, and lots of vitamins and minerals to boot. Laura Marquis has written a book with amazing recipes for a healthier version of sweets. There’s no reason to deny yourself when there are healthy and tasty alternatives!

Avoiding Artificial Sweeteners

Some women might be tempted to see artificial sweeteners as an easy way out of their predicament. Unfortunately, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too!  Artificial sweeteners may appear okay on the surface, but there are still not adequate studies on what these sweeteners – or their byproducts – can do to the growing baby. Yacon syrup has a very low glycemic index and is a great substitute for artificial sweeteners.

Getting Help                                                          

Don’t try to do this alone! Talk to your primary doctor, your OB/GYN, Midwife, or a registered dietician about what specific foods you should be loving – or leaving – while you are pregnant and after you begin to breastfeed.

References

  1. Medical Daily. http://www.medicaldaily.com/poor-pregnancy-diet-linked-adhd-too-much-sugar-fat-affects-unborn-baby-395356
  2. My Cleveland Clinic. Http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Diabetes_Basics/hic_Gestational_Diabetes
  3. The Center for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesandpregnancy/
  4. The New Health Adviser. http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Eating-Too-Much-Sugar-While-Pregnant.html

 

Brian Wu, PhD is a 4th year medical student at USC and the founder of Health Stories For Kids, a media company dedicated to using narrative medicine as a patient and family education tool with a focus on wellness with or without illnesses. He is interested in a psychiatry residency and a child psychiatry fellowship while combining his interests in research, advocacy, and entrepreneurship. He is deeply in love with his wife and son and hopes their lives are filled with magic and stories too.