An expecting mother eating a nutritious meal.

Nutrition During Pregnancy with Allergies

This article was written by Noelle Martin, MScFN RD

Nutrition during pregnancy is an incredibly important topic. As you likely know women need more carbohydrates, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, folic acid, and many other micronutrients as they grow a new human inside of them. This can be challenging at the best of times, but as soon as a mom has a food allergy the challenge can rise to be even greater. Here are a few strategies to ensure that nutrient needs are met if you are pregnant and have Celiac Disease, a Milk Allergy, or an allergy to Fish and Seafood.

Celiac Disease

1. First and foremost, you are always best to stick to your dietary restrictions. Allowing for even a small portion of gluten could interfere with the absorption of nutrients, especially that of iron which is in high need by both mom and baby.

2. It can be difficult to find gluten-free bread that is fortified with iron and folic acid (which are added to mainstream bread and cereals). Focusing on getting these nutrients elsewhere in the diet becomes an important area of nutrition to focus on. Oranges and cantaloupe are great sources of folic acid. Meat, pork, fish, poultry, oatmeal, and leafy greens are sources of iron. Consuming a vitamin C source with your iron food source helps with absorption while calcium can interfere. So adding strawberries or mandarin oranges to your iron-rich meal can be quite advantageous.

3. Adequate fiber intake is a common concern among pregnant women who have Celiac Disease and many gluten-free flours are low in fiber. Meeting your fiber needs with psyllium husks, gluten-free oats, and a regular intake of fruits and vegetables all day long can really help. In addition, ensuring daily activity such as a walk or swim and adequate water can help prevent or relieve constipation.

Casein Intolerance

1. Remember to choose fortified milk alternatives to ensure that you are meeting your vitamin and mineral needs. Ensure that calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and vitamin A have all been added.

2. Ensure adequate protein. Women who are pregnant need an additional 25 grams of protein per day on top of their base needs. If you are choosing fortified soy milk, then you will have a complete protein option which is equivalent to the protein in cow’s milk. If you are choosing fortified coconut or almond milk (or another plant-based milk other than soy), then you will need an extra serving of meat and alternatives to make up for the protein lacking in those kinds of milk. Two cups of cow’s milk or soy milk offer 16-18 grams of protein. About 2.5 oz. of meat, fish, or poultry would offer the same protein content but with a different selection of micronutrients which is why point number is equally important to this one. A plant-based protein powder or use of hemp hearts can also help meet lacking protein plant-based milk.

3. Create nourishing dairy-free snacks such as:

  1. Coconut milk yogurt with hemp hearts and berries.
  2. Soy yogurt with granola and sliced banana.
  3. Soft tofu mixed with frozen berries that have been warmed stovetop.
  4. Veggie cheese (such as the Daiya brand) with crackers and sliced apple.
  5. Cucumber and carrots with hummus or a bean dip.

Fish & Seafood Allergy

Omega 3 fatty acids are incredibly important in the growth and development of an infant’s eyes and brain. The form of omega 3 fatty acids available in fresh fish is a form that the body can use right away. These are called EPA and DHA. Omega 3 fatty acids from plant-based products are in a form that needs to be converted to EPA and DHA for the body to use creating the need for extra attention to consuming adequate amounts. Here are a few ways to meeting omega 3 fatty acids needs “fish-free”:

1. Add hemp hearts to banana slices, yogurt, baked goods, salads, and/or cereal.

2. Use ground flax seed mixed with water as an egg replacement in your favorite muffin recipe or add ground flaxseed or flax oil to a smoothie, salad dressing, and/or bowl of hot cereal.

3. Make chia pudding by adding 3 Tbsp. chia seeds to 1 cup of any plant-based milk. Let sit for 1-2 hours in the fridge and enjoy!

Meeting nutrient needs in pregnancy in the presence of a food allergy or intolerance is 100% doable, but a little extra attention to detail is needed.

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