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Are Diet Foods Safe During Pregnancy?

Katlyn Joy |27, June 2011


Eating for two is not meant to be a carte blanche excuse for overeating. In fact, for those who struggle with weight prior to pregnancy, maintaining a healthy weight while carrying baby is a major concern.

However, the use of diet drinks, foods with artificial sweeteners or those which are non-fat or low carbohydrate may not be the most judicious eating choices, either.

Red Light Foods & Drinks

These foods or drinks are no-nos for the pregnant woman as they are known to be a danger to developing fetuses.

Saccharine or Sweet 'N Low: This artificial sweetener is not as popular as it once was due to the emergence of other artificial sweeteners, but it can still be found in a variety of foods and beverages. While the Food and Drug Administration has not linked saccharine definitively with any birth defects or problems, the substance does cross the placenta and remains in fetal tissue. Also, some studies have shown saccharine to be teratogenic, or causing fetal abnormalities so concern is warranted until research proves it safe.

Cyclamate: This sweetener has been banned in the United States and is not considered safe for anyone, including pregnant women due to its link to cancer.

Yellow Light Foods/Drinks

Aspartame or Equal or NutraSweet: This sweetener is added to a wide variety of beverages and foods and is considered safe in moderation by the FDA for pregnant women. However, anyone with the rare condition of PKU must avoid aspartame. This sweetener contains phenylalanine and will not metabolize correctly in people with the condition.

Acesulfame Potassium or Sunett: This sweetener is added to baked goods, beverages, desserts and frozen treats. It is deemed safe in moderation for pregnant women by the FDA.

Green Light Foods/Drinks

Rebaudioside A or Stevia: this sweetener is newer and used primarily in drinks. It is considered safe in pregnancy by the FDA.

Sucralose or Splenda: This sweetener is used as an additive in a wide number of food and beverage products as well as a tabletop sweetener. It is considered safe for all, including expectant mothers, by the FDA.

When choosing what foods to eat while pregnant, consider what effect the food has on the overall nutritional load. If you choose to load up on low calorie or low sugar beverages, you might get full and not eat enough fresh fruits, vegetables or whole grains your growing baby requires.

Furthermore, when looking at sweeteners, understand what type of sweetener they are. For instance, a sweetener like Splenda has benefits in that it will not add calories and it also doesn't raise blood sugar levels. Also, understand that little research has been done on artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners in regards to fetal affects or those on pregnant women. For those newer sweeteners, the research is more limited because they have been in use for a short period of time so long term effects are also less likely to be known at this point.


For women who are especially concerned about pregnancy weight gain or sugar levels, such as those with obesity, or gestational diabetes, foods that make up the pregnancy diet need to be healthy and taken from a variety of foods.

Drinks should mostly consist of water, juices or milk or dairy products. If you drink a lot of soft drinks or sodas, you will be filling up on items that yield little or no nutritional benefit. Or even worse, they may contain excessive sugars, caffeine or sodium.

While low fat options in food items may not be harmful, and may be wise, look to the labels when grocery shopping. You still need protein in your diet and healthy carbohydrates for a good pregnancy diet. If you want a sweet smooth dessert, opt for a frozen yogurt over a rich ice cream. Or try a bowl of strawberries with vanilla yogurt instead of a candy bar or cookie. Think of everything you eat as having a nutrition punch. Do you want a weak little nutrition punch from a diet soda that may not contain sugar but lacks the calcium and Vitamin D that a glass of milk supplies?

Because a food choice is not dangerous does not necessarily mean it's healthy, either. Go for foods and drinks that deliver plenty of vitamins, minerals and nutrients important for your pregnancy and growing baby.

Related Articles

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Is Caffeine Safe During Pregnancy?



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