Menu

Eating Gluten Free During Pregnancy

5 truths to bust the myths on your gluten-free prenatal diet.

Eating Gluten Free During Pregnancy

When I was pregnant, I ate gluten free. Friends were concerned: was I getting enough of the right nutrients for my baby to grow? Could “not eating carbs” lead to unfavorable pregnancy outcomes?

There are several misconceptions about gluten-free diets that lead people to believe that eating gluten free during pregnancy can be dangerous and should be avoided unless you suffer from Celiac Disease. But I believe that if you do it right, a gluten-free diet can actually help you get all of the necessary prenatal macro- and micro-nutrients, maintain optimal blood sugar levels, and have the energy to remain physically active during pregnancy, if you choose to and your doctor approves.

To help put an end to those myths, here are 5 things you should know about eating gluten free during pregnancy.

1. A gluten-free diet may help you keep gestational diabetes at bay. Yes, pregnant women need carbohydrates! But guess what? If you eat gluten free, you’re likely to consume superior carbohydrates, such as nutrient-dense green vegetables, quinoa, and sweet potato. Breads, cereals, and pastas are high-glycemic, meaning they will raise blood sugar quickly. This can be detrimental for those at risk of gestational diabetes. Gluten-free whole foods offer carbohydrates that will not raise blood sugar excessively and offer a wide variety of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.

2. A gluten-free diet can help you avoid constipation and heartburn during pregnancy. Fiber is a pregnant mama’s best friend. It keeps everything moving through the intestine, helping fight those all-to-common pregnancy symptoms: constipation and heartburn. Many people think that you need to eat whole wheat bread, cereals, and pasta to obtain fiber. But that isn’t the case. In fact, foods such as artichoke heart, raspberries, pears, split peas, lentils, broccoli, flaxseed, and Chia seeds have exponentially higher amounts of fiber per calorie than whole wheat bread.

3. Your baby will get the folic acid it needs. Synthetic folic acid is not the same as folate. For your fetus to reap the benefits of folic acid, your body must convert synthetic folic acid into the biologically functional form 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. Many people cannot make this conversion, which may lead to insufficient levels of folic acid for your developing fetus, and folic acid deficiency can lead to serious birth defects. For this reason, you want to get the most natural folate possible, and gluten-free foods like lentils, beans, asparagus, spinach and cauliflower can help you do that!

4. The foods with the best iron are gluten free. When you are expecting, you need more iron than you usually do. But the fortified iron that is found in breads and cereals has an absorption rate that is as little as two percent and does not exceed 20 percent. So instead of going for fortified gluten foods, try clams, chicken, beef eggs and fish, which have an iron absorption rate that ranges from 15 to 35 percent.

5. Opt for natural, unprocessed gluten-free foods to get the most prenatal benefits. Though they are void of gluten, processed gluten-free foods are made with cornstarch, potato flour, and sugar, which can raise blood sugar, even more than gluten-containing items. Also, most processed foods (gluten-free or not) contain unhealthy ingredients and additives like high fructose corn syrup, sugar, xanthan gum, soybean oil, and soy lecithin -- all of which are best to avoid during pregnancy. The healthiest gluten-free diet consists of whole foods that do not have long ingredients lists, such as green vegetables, berries, avocado, eggs, wild salmon, nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans, lentils, and organic meats and poultry.

Keeping these five points in mind will help you have your healthiest gluten-free pregnancy. Whether you decide to completely eliminate or limit gluten from your pregnancy diet, keep a primary rule of thumb in mind--stick to nutrient-dense whole foods. Eating unprocessed meals and snacks, with naturally occurring nutrients and no additives or preservatives, is the best choice for mother and baby.

Aimee Aristotelous is a certified nutritionist, specializing in prenatal dietetics and gluten-free nutrition. She is the author of The Whole Pregnancy: A Complete Nutrition Plan for Gluten-Free Moms to Be.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less
Life