Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy – Top 5 Tips for Reducing Sugar

Maintaining a healthy pregnancy is top of mind for most mamas. But what does a healthy pregnancy diet look like? You know the drill, eat more fruits and vegetables, consume good fats and appropriate levels of dairy, fiber and water. Equally important- avoid processed food and sugar intake. The categories are not much different that when you aren’t pregnant, just a few changes in nutrient amounts to support growth and development for your baby.

reducing sugar intake while pregnant

When it comes to sugar intake here’s the truth. There is no good way to ‘replace’ sugar, except training your body to need less. Research suggests that it takes about 60 days to change a habit. When it comes to nutrition, and sugar in particular, that’s especially true. Why? Because sugar intake triggers a series of hormonal responses that give you that feeling of pleasure- hello stress chocolate! And just like drugs, (yes, I said drugs) you need more and more overtime to get the same response.

You’ll need to make a commitment to yourself and your sweet growing baby to actively reduce your intake until it starts to become easier. And give yourself some grace. It’s ok if you mess up. We aren’t looking for perfection, just healthy choices most of the time. You will be giving your little one a gift that will set them up for a lifetime of better health. Learn more about the first 1000 days here.

Now for the good news. There are clean switches that will help you get to a comfortable place, and keep your sugar intake in check during pregnancy. Here are 5 quick tips to cut the sweets from your diet.

Tip 1: Eliminate sugar sweetened beverages

Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs), as a category, are the single largest contributor of calorie and added sugar in the US.  Controlling intake of SSBs- for many- is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It has been well established in research that regular consumption of SSBs are significantly associated with chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and premature death. 

During pregnancy, it can lead to excess weight gain, obesity, metabolic syndrome and gestational diabetes. Perhaps even more concerning; consuming SSBs during pregnancy is associated with childhood obesity. Yep. What you drink while pregnant affects your child later in their life. The Harvard School of Public Health ranked food for its association with health. SSBs were on the bottom of the list. If that doesn’t tell you how bad it is to consume sugary beverages, I don’t know what will.

Quick Tip: maintaining a healthy pregnancy

Switch it up with a bright and bubbly drink! You can purchase these already flavored (try to look for those without chemical additives), squeeze some lemon or lime in a non-flavored variety of store bought bubbly (we’re talking carbonated water, not champagne if you’re preggo) or have some fun and make it at home with a soda machine.

Tip 2: It’s in the condiments, baby

Do you know how much sugar is really in your favorite condiments? Maybe a better question is did you know that sugar was even in there at all? Ketchup has 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Salsa has 2 grams per tablespoon. You can easily scoop that much up per chip- and who eats just one chip. No one. Salad dressing can be the worst of all, especially fat free versions. A regular serving of dressing can have 11 grams of sugar or more. Mind blown.

Quick Tip: maintaining a healthy pregnancy

I’m not going to tell you avoid condiments all together. In this case, just be mindful of how much your adding on to your food. When it comes to salad dressings, try to make your own. We have a delicious universal salad dressing that is easy to make and you can store it for a week in the refrigerator.  But if you just don’t have time for it, the full fat option may actually be the better choice in this case.

Tip 3: Go plant-based for dessert

When you are pregnant, there’s nothing like ice cream. Snuggling up in some comfy pjs with a pint of chocolate and a good movie. Now that’s a vision most pregnant women get excited about, especially those last months. But if the goal is maintaining a healthy pregnancy, it might not be the best decision every night.

Quick Tip: maintaining a healthy pregnancy

Try fruit instead as an after dinner treat. You’re probably already nesting and starting to cook at home anyway. Experiment with fruit based recipes for dessert, instead of the chocolate cake or ice cream you might be craving. It can be a fun way to include your spouse, too. Just don’t add sugar on top and make sure to share your recipes with me!

Tip 4: Sweeten up your breakfast with fruit or spices

If you’re like me, things like oatmeal and smoothies just taste a little better with something sweet in there. But if you’re adding loads of refined sugar, you’ll want to think about an alternative.

Quick Tip: maintaining a healthy pregnancy

Eating well can be tricky when it comes to breakfast, so I use fruit and spices to give it the kick I need. I love using berries to sweeten up my breakfast. No matter the medium, it works. And berries are naturally lower on the sugar side and rich in all the things from a nutrient standpoint. So as long as you are only using one or two servings (if frozen, pick the ones without added sugar), then you’re good to go.

Keep the fiber and opt for smoothies instead of juicing. Dates can also be a great switch up for sweetener, but you’ll need to get used to the taste. I routinely made myself oatmeal for breakfast with cinnamon and blueberries when I was pregnant. It was the perfect warm, filling breakfast for those cold Philly days. The other option was a veggie egg scramble with a side of fruit. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Tip 5: Snack it out

Full disclosure, sweet snacks weren’t really my thing until after I had my son. It was a habit I picked up at my local coffee stop on my daily walks to the park in Philly. I still dream of my iced La Columbe latte at Talula’s in Philly! I’m a give it to me iced girl, even when in the dead of winter- unless I’m on the slopes in Switzerland. My coffee was unsweetened, but their delicious breakfast pastries were not! 

It really kicked up when he started preschool and was exposed to loads of cookies and treats. Easy access when you are starving, but need to get to the next task without passing out. When you’re hungry and on the go, that small last bite of his cookie won’t hurt. But if you start to do it daily, then it’s a problem.  For others, the habit is already there. A little chocolate with our wine is pretty good, I have to admit.

Quick Tip: maintaining a healthy pregnancy

Controlling your sugar intake for snacks is about preparing. Start packing things that don’t need to be refrigerated. Fruit, veggies and hummus or nuts can be a great way to cover your munchies until it’s time for lunch or dinner. Toss them in your tote alongside your eco-friendly water bottle and you’re good to go!

Nutrition is personal

Maintaining a healthy pregnancy looks different for every person, because nutrition is personal. If you’re reading this, we know you’re interested in building healthy habits. Take a breath and start making small changes that will make a big difference for you and your baby. What you decide to eat should be based on your own personal needs. And your prenatal choice is no different. Talk to your doctor and make a plan together, based on your specific needs. We created Vitamin & Me to make vitamin intake personal and we deliver to your door! So once you’re ready to start your pregnancy journey, let us know or get your custom vitamin match!

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