You may already know that Halle Berry stayed on the keto diet while she was pregnant. She is diabetic and has spoken out about how much the low-carb lifestyle has helped her. But was it wise to do the keto diet during pregnancy? Is it safe or are there risks? What are the effects of the keto diet during pregnancy?
- 1 No, the keto diet is NOT safe during pregnancy
- 2 Will the keto diet help gestational diabetes?
- 3 Could the keto diet help a pregnant woman lose weight?
- 4 What does the keto diet do to the body?
- 5 What are the risks of the keto diet for a pregnant woman?
- 6 Have there been any studies done on pregnant women doing the keto diet?
- 7 What about intermittent fasting during pregnancy?
- 8 If you can’t do the keto diet during pregnancy, how should you eat?
- 9 Do you want to learn more about healthy eating during pregnancy?
- 10 If the keto diet is bad during pregnancy, is it okay to eat more protein anyway?
- 11 How can you cut down on carbohydrates during pregnancy?
- 12 Conclusion
No, the keto diet is NOT safe during pregnancy
Unless you’ve developed a specific meal plan with your OB/GYN, no fad diet is safe during pregnancy. Especially not the keto, the Paleo, or the Atkins low-carb diets (1).
High-protein and high-fat diets train the body to use ketones instead of glucose. That’s dangerous for the baby’s development. The fetus needs glucose from carbs to grow.
Moreover, the keto diet means not eating most vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Each of these foods has vital nutrients for your baby’s health and your well-being, too.
Sure, when you’re not pregnant, the keto diet might help you lose weight, avoid diabetes, and feel more energetic. But if you’re trying to get pregnant, currently expecting, or breastfeeding, it’s not healthy to cut out carbs. Instead, you can retool your diet to include healthy carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains instead of processed flour and sugars.
Will the keto diet help gestational diabetes?
In theory, you’d think that the keto diet would help keep blood sugar balanced. Under ordinary circumstances, it might. But there’s no evidence that keto helps with gestational diabetes (2).
Could the keto diet help a pregnant woman lose weight?
If your doctor tells you that you need to lose weight while pregnant, they should help you come up with a proper meal plan and a strategy. Normally, dieting to lose weight is not done during pregnancy (3).
If you’re hungry more often during pregnancy, you might need to incorporate more fiber-rich and protein-packed snacks, like nuts. Weirdly, feeling hungry can also be a sign that you’re becoming dehydrated and need to drink more water.
What does the keto diet do to the body?
Eating a high-fat, high-protein diet with few carbs means that your body starts burning fat instead of glucose. It produces more ketones and enters a state called ketosis (2).
If that term sounds familiar, maybe it’s because you’ve heard of ketoacidosis. That’s an unhealthy situation where the body has too many ketones and the blood becomes too acidic. It happens to diabetics sometimes and it can be life-threatening.
What are the risks of the keto diet for a pregnant woman?
Besides the baby needing carbohydrates to grow, the mother herself faces risks by focusing on a high-protein, high-fat diet. For example, she might consume too much saturated fat and end up with high cholesterol that strains the heart (3).
Then, there’s the dreaded “keto flu” that makes a person feel nauseated, bloated, dizzy, and fatigued. It can cause either diarrhea or constipation, bad breath, and muscle cramps. That’s absolutely awful when combined with morning sickness!
Have there been any studies done on pregnant women doing the keto diet?
Studies done on pregnant mice found that the keto diet had profoundly negative effects on their babies. One group of baby mice had smaller brains and enlarged hearts while another was prone to depression and anxiety (3).
With regards to humans, a recent study checked ketone levels in pregnant women. Women with more ketones in their urine had longer deliveries and their babies were more likely to need forceps or a vacuum to help with vaginal birth (4).
What about intermittent fasting during pregnancy?
Have you heard that intermittent fasting can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight? It may also prevent type II diabetes. But this is all true for people who aren’t pregnant. Pregnant women should not practice intermittent fasting unless it’s done under a doctor’s supervision (5).
Expectant women are more prone to low blood sugar and drops in blood pressure and the combination could cause fainting. This becomes even more likely by the third trimester as expectant women have increased calorie needs. This includes an evening snack before bedtime or breakfast soon after waking (5).
If you can’t do the keto diet during pregnancy, how should you eat?
This is where I recommend that you consult with your OB/GYN or nutritionist. It’s important to understand what both you and your baby need during this important time.
It’s not only about getting enough calories, but also enough nutrients. A prenatal vitamin helps a lot, but it’s important to have enough vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and so on from actual food.
For example, instead of cutting out carbs altogether as you would for the keto diet, you can just avoid junk food. Let ice cream and brownies become a treat. Instead, rely on fruits and nuts to make your sweet tooth happy. Fill up on whole grains, dairy, and vegetables to feel satisfied and you won’t have to worry about constipation.
Here are some healthy low-carb foods to enjoy while you’re pregnant:
Artisana Organics Raw Walnut Butter with Cashews
Walnuts are one of the nuts that have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that the baby needs for her brain, heart, and nervous system. Cashews are also healthy to eat during pregnancy. Together, they make for a super tasty treat on toast, apple slices, bagels, rice cakes, and more. You can also blend it with honey and make icing for muffins.
What’s great about this nut butter is that it’s made with organic walnuts and cashews only. It has no added oils, sugar, or preservatives.
Moreover, the nuts aren’t even roasted so they retain their full potency and all the nutrients. The butter is crafted in small batches for freshness, too.
Happily, this is food appropriate for the keto and Paleo diets so you can keep enjoying it after you give birth. It’s also gluten-free and peanut-free.
The jar is small as there are only approximately 7 servings of 2 tablespoons each. But you might want to cut that in half because if you eat the full serving, it’s 200 calories! On the bright side, it provides a significant amount of fiber, protein, iron, and calcium, with only 2 g of saturated fat and no trans fat.
Taylor Farms Baby Spinach
Spinach is one of Nature’s best foods for pregnant women. And baby spinach is the most nutrient-packed kind of all. I personally can’t resist the tender, fresh leaves!
Each bag holds about 2 cups for a total of 20 calories. What’s amazing is that 2 cups of spinach provide 160% of the daily value of vitamin A and 40% of vitamin C. But that’s not all – it also has 15% of the daily value of iron and 8% of calcium. All of that with 2 g of protein and no fat.
Fresh Brand – Stoplight Bell Peppers
I love bell peppers. Did you know that green are the least ripe and red are the ripest and the sweetest? Yellow is right in the middle. This accounts for the difference in flavor between red, yellow, and green peppers.
Whether you love them in a salad or with fajitas, bell peppers are nutritious and delicious. I’ve found that this particular brand tends to be nice and thick and fresh. Since they are grown in a greenhouse, they are available year-round.
For every serving of 3 ounces of bell pepper, you’ll get about 31 calories with no saturated fat and 1 g of protein. Although there are 6 g of carbs, they are natural and non-refined.
Vitamin C is where the bell peppers really shine. One serving provides 212% of the daily value! Plus, there’s 15% of vitamin B6 and 3% of magnesium to boost mood and help with energy.
Do you want to learn more about healthy eating during pregnancy?
Here are two of my favorite books with plenty of recipes to help plan tasty meals.
Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook: Over 125 Delicious Recipes to Satisfy You, Nourish Baby, and Combat Common Pregnancy Discomforts by Stephanie Clarke & Willow Jarosh
There is no keto pregnancy meal plan here. Instead, a registered dietitian and a certified nutritionist provide recipes for alleviating pregnancy symptoms. You’ll learn how to eat the right things to have energy, diminish morning sickness, avoid leg cramps, prevent heartburn, and more.
The recipes include meals and snacks. Each one has detailed nutritional information to help you customize your diet according to your needs. It even accommodates cravings!
If you’re familiar with SELF magazine, maybe you’re aware of these authors. They’ve also been on numerous TV shows and have social media presences.
What to Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
The Today Show’s nutrition expert loves this book. It’s the newest version written by the creator of WhatToExpect.com. It’s been published in 44 languages around the world.
Much of its popularity is due to its realistic guidance on how to cope with pregnancy symptoms and still eat well. It accepts the fact that some women crave fast food while others are vegan and gluten-free.
Furthermore, it answers burning questions like whether pregnant women can have coffee and energy drinks. It addresses how to get enough calcium if you’re lactose intolerant.
In total, there are 170 recipes and numerous worthwhile tips for making pregnancy easier and healthier for you and the baby.
If the keto diet is bad during pregnancy, is it okay to eat more protein anyway?
The biggest problem with the keto diet during pregnancy is the lack of carbs. Forcing your body to burn fat and produce ketones isn’t healthy for the baby. On the other hand, eating a high-fat diet isn’t healthy, either.
It’s natural and expected that you’ll increase your protein intake during pregnancy. After all, you’re eating for two people. If you have questions about how much protein you and the baby need, please talk to your OB/GYN.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, there are ways to work with the lack of meat in your diet to ensure that you still get what you need.
How can you cut down on carbohydrates during pregnancy?
Please don’t cut down on carbs unless your doctor says to. Instead, change the type of carbs you eat. Instead of eating processed foods and refined sugar like white bread, sticky rice, cake, and so on, choose whole grains.
If you love bread, try eating whole wheat or rye. Switch to bulgur and brown rice. Eat more oatmeal made with whole rolled oats.
Instead of eating candy, try snacking on dried fruit. If you love ice cream, try freezing natural yogurt mixed with berries or nut butter.
There are all sorts of changes you can make to your diet to ease out the bad carbs. Think of your pregnancy as an opportunity to improve your well-being and establish healthy habits for your baby in the future.
I hope I answered your questions today about the risks of doing the keto diet during pregnancy. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about your concerns. I’m sure they want you and your baby to be healthy and happy.
If you have other pregnancy-focused questions, feel free to leave me a comment below.
1. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/your-health/keto-diet-pregnancy Is the Keto Diet Safe During Pregnancy? by Charlotte Hilton Andersen, Medically Reviewed by Aaron Styer, M.D. on May 25, 2021
2. https://www.webmd.com/baby/are-keto-diets-safe-for-pregnant-women Are Keto Diets Safe for Pregnant Women? Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors, Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 03, 2021
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/keto-while-pregnant#risk-deficiencies What You Need to Know About Keto While Pregnant (or Trying to Get Pregnant) Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D., Nutrition — By Noreen Iftikhar, MD on January 16, 2020
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7701151/ Qian M, Wu N, Li L, Yu W, Ouyang H, Liu X, He Y, Al-Mureish A. Effect of Elevated Ketone Body on Maternal and Infant Outcome of Pregnant Women with Abnormal Glucose Metabolism During Pregnancy. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2020 Nov 25;13:4581-4588. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S280851. PMID: 33268998; PMCID: PMC7701151.
5. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a30646710/intermittent-fasting-while-pregnant/ Everything You Need To Know Before Doing Intermittent Fasting While Pregnant, By Mara Santilli, published: Jan 29, 2020