by Brian M. Williams
If you've been diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten intolerant, or a wheat allergy, questions about nutrition and diet might appear as quickly as the "positive" on your pregnancy test.
Can a gluten-free diet grow a healthy baby?
Which prenatal can I take?
How can I get enough B vitamins when I am not allowed to eat certain grains?
Good news! A gluten-free diet includes lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole gluten-free grains, and unprocessed items. These types of foods contain the nutrients that help you grow a beautiful, healthy baby, even gluten-free.
Eating Well During Pregnancy
Moms-to-be are encouraged to eat a variety of foods to get all the necessary nutrients. Your goal during pregnancy is exactly the same, with two caveats. You'll limit your grain products to those that are gluten-free and check labels for hidden sources of gluten.
For any pregnancy, the World Health Organization recommends that you eat the items in the immediate list below, each day.
- Six-11 servings of breads and grains
- Two to four servings of fruit
- Four or more servings of vegetables
- Four servings of dairy products
- Three servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs or nuts)
- Two or more servings of healthy fats
When you're gluten-free, you learn how to adjust and find the best sources for each of these categories. No matter what, you will become an avid label reader -- your health could depend on it!
Basic Foods for a Gluten-Free Diet
Whole gluten-free grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet and amaranth, are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and contribute to a healthy gluten-free diet.
These grains and starches are allowed and can be used in a gluten-free diet:
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
Other gluten-free foods include:
- Fresh meats, fish and poultry
- Milk and most dairy products
Gluten-Free Sample Menu
A gluten-free diet sounds tough, but it's really a piece of cake -- gluten-free of course! This sample menu can help you get you started. Don't limit yourself to this sample. Because there is a growing awareness of celiac disease and gluten issues, there is a wide variety of cookbooks to download and purchase online.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salsa, orange slices, gluten-free toast, milk
Lunch: Turkey and swiss sandwich on gluten-free bread, red pepper and tomato slices.
Dinner: Salmon with lemon, brown rice, asparagus, milk
Snacks: Fresh fruit topped with Greek yogurt, peanut butter on celery, frozen banana pop coated with plain yogurt and chocolate sprinkles.
Nutritional Challenges During Pregnancy
Being gluten-free can present challenges during your pregnancy. Certain nutrients tend be lower in your diet, especially if you rely on processed gluten-free foods.
Maintaining a gluten-free diet, coupled with pregnancy can seem overwhelming. If you're puzzled and concerned, ask your healthcare provider to suggest a registered dietician who has experience dealing with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Can You Get Enough of These?
According to MayoClinic.com, following a gluten-free diet can result in low levels of some vitamins and nutrients. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting enough iron, fiber, calcium and folic acid.
Some common deficiencies associated with a gluten-free diet include:
Eliminating gluten allows your intestinal villa to heal so that you absorb nutrients better, but it doesn't guarantee your diet will meet basic requirements.
"The problem with a lot of the gluten-free products on the market right now is, historically, most of the gluten-free products are frequently made from four major starches and flours: white rice flour, tapioca starch, corn starch, and potato starch. And unfortunately, these ingredients are lower in iron, B vitamins, and fiber," says Shelley Case, BSc, author of "Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide."
More manufacturers are enriching their gluten-free products or using more nutritious gluten-free grains, starches, and seeds such as quinoa, amaranth, flax, buckwheat, millet and teff. "I always encourage my clients to read food labels and look for healthier options to improve the nutritional quality of the diet," Case says.
Since lactose intolerance is common in the celiac population, your midwife or doctor might suggest a calcium supplement with vitamin D to help you get enough of the vital nutrients. Other vitamins or minerals like iron or B vitamins might also be recommended to prevent deficiencies.
Maintaining Your Gluten-Free Diet
Plan your menu: Make naturally gluten-free foods such as vegetables and fresh meat an integral component of your diet. Some meal options include omelets, tacos, salads, as well as the traditional meat and potatoes meal.
Shop gluten-free: Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables; fresh meat, poultry, and seafood; eggs and dairy products; beans, nuts, and seeds; and gluten-free condiments such as herbs, peanut butter, mayonnaise and cooking oils.
Additionally, choose corn tortillas and chips, rice cakes, and corn or rice pasta. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, and Wegman's publish a list of all of the gluten-free products they offer.
Check your medications and supplements for gluten: Gluten is often utilized in medications to bind pills together. Ask your pharmacist or call the drug manufacturer directly to check if any of the medications you are taking contain gluten.
Maintain a gluten-free zone in the kitchen: Cross-contamination occurs anywhere ingredients come together, from cutting boards and counters to grill surfaces. You can also be exposed to gluten by sharing condiment containers. They can touch the bun, or a knife with bread crumbs could contaminate a margarine stick or mustard jar.
When dining out: Some restaurants offer a gluten-free menu. If this is not the case, feel free to ask your server which items are gluten-free. They're usually always happy to oblige.
Your gluten-free diet CAN provide the nutrients your baby will need to build an amazing body and complex brain.
Are you following this diet? Do you have a favorite recipe or tip that could help another mom through her pregnancy? Share and share a like in this case!
- Mayo Clinic: "Gluten-free diet: What's allowed, what's not." Accessed March 13, 2012.
- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: "Maximizing Nutrition for Pregnancy." Accesssed March 13, 2012.
- USDA: "Health & Nutrition Information for Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Women." Accessed march 13, 2012.
Copyright © Pregnancy.org.