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I talk a lot about protein powder for breastfeeding mothers, and recommend protein shakes for weight loss, but are protein powders safe during pregnancy? The short answer is yes. The more extensive answer is yes, protein powder is safe during pregnancy if you choose the right protein powder. Pregnant women need to ensure they are getting enough protein, and protein supplements like shakes are a great way to do that. However, not all protein powders are created equal, and many of them are hiding chemicals, fillers and artificial sweeteners that completely outweigh the benefits of the added protein. On the other hand, there are some amazing protein powders that offer additional nutrients, clean ingredients and lots of protein that I consider safe and effective for pregnancy. I’m going to walk through what makes a safe protein powder, and why a protein powder is very beneficial for pregnancy nutrition.
What Makes A Protein Powder Safe For Pregnancy?
- Clean, organic and natural ingredients
- No artificial sweeteners or artificial flavours
- No chemicals or fillers
- No allergens like corn, soy and gluten
- Tested for heavy metals
When looking at a protein powder, you can determine whether it is safe or not by thoroughly going through the ingredient list. Can you recognize the ingredients as whole foods? Are there any chemicals? Are most of the ingredients organic? What does the label say? By asking all of these questions, you can determine how clean and safe the protein powder is. Do not go for any protein powders that have sucralose or aspartame in them because these are tricky, artificial sweeteners. Many have trouble digesting sucralose, including me, and can find themselves unexpectedly running to the bathroom. Protein powders sweetened with Stevia, Monk Fruit, Organic Cane Juice, Pure Sugar and/or honey are great options.
I also look for plant-based protein powders sourced from pea protein (which has all the essential amino acids), oat protein, organic brown rice protein, seed proteins and more. These do create a grittier texture overall, but whey protein can be sourced from cows eating grain, which is not good. If you want a clean whey protein powder, go for one that is sourced from grass-fed cows and cold-pressed.
What are the protein needs during pregnancy?
The University of California San Francisco states that During pregnancy, you should get a minimum of 60 grams of protein a day, which will account for approximately 20 percent to 25 percent of your calorie intake. If you are working out and super active, your daily protein intake goals could be higher, closer to 70 grams. Depending on your body (height and weight), you are going to want to watch your diet and ensure 20/25% of your calories are coming from lean protein. This is actually harder to do than you would think, so a protein shake is a good idea for breakfast. Starting your day with 16-20 grams of lean protein puts you in a good position to hit your protein requirements. I have more foods you can add at the end of this post, to help you put together a high-protein, healthy diet.
What Is The Best Protein Powder For Pregnancy?
I specifically created Bump Dust, a sister product to my Milk Dust, a vegan protein powder with lactation-boosting herbs and labour-helping herbs. Bump Dust is newly formulated to take the place of your prenatal vitamin (with your Doctor’s consent), and fills the nutritional needs during pregnancy. It is also formulated to combat sugar cravings and help you manage your weight gain. The reason my protein powder is different from those on the market is because of the additional nutrients added for pregnancy. These nutrients include L-Methylfoate (not folic acid!!), B12 (methylated), Potassium, Chromium, Magnesium and Iron to name just a few. Bump Dust is a great plant-based protein source, as well as omega-3s from chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. As a firm believer in nutrition as your medicine, fuel and key to thriving as a mother, I am so passionate about providing a product that offers a solution to nourishment and hormonal function. I included Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, which has been shown to increase uterine health and strength (hello fast labour!). Also, Fenugreek, fennel, milk thistle and brewers yeast have all been used for centuries to increase lactation. As a nutrition coach and pre/post-natal fitness specialist, I coach and preach nourishment.
Another reason Bump Dust stands out is the blood sugar/craving control blend of herbs and minerals. THIS IS SO HELPFUL FOR WEIGHT LOSS!! Many mamas struggle to manage their weight gain during pregnancy. Sugar cravings are the hardest roadblocks to overcome, and Bump Dust helps a mother do this by supplying the nutrients that often are the root of the sugar cravings themselves.
Why Is Protein Shakes Beneficial For Pregnancy Health and Weight Management?
One of the reasons I suggest protein shakes to manage weight gain during pregnancy, as well as lose weight after baby is their ability to help you feel full on lots of nutrients – not calories. Protein shakes are also very fast and efficient for a tired, pregnant woman. If you start with an awesome, safe protein powder, and add in fruits and veggies, you are getting a complete meal or snack full of fiber and protein. Fiber and protein make you feel super FULL!! This will help you keep your blood sugar stable the rest of the day, as well as full length. You can keep cravings at bay because of all the nutrients you are consuming too.
Protein shakes are easy to make one-handed if you have toddlers or other children running around, and you can also pre-freeze smoothie packs for even faster mornings for snacks. Not to mention the speed at which you can clean up! No prepping, cutting, chopping or cooking is necessary.
Protein Shakes Can Help With Sugar Cravings!
If you get a sweet, and nutrient-dense protein powder, you can make some awesome protein smoothies that will satisfy that sweet craving. For some reason, during all my pregnancies, I craved ice cream at night. I just loved something cool and sweet. Rather than indulge in ice cream every night, I would replace that craving with yummy protein smoothies! I added ingredients like fresh strawberries, bananas, avocado and even frozen cauliflower to get a creamy, delicious treat that was also healthy. I believe using protein shakes for dessert replacements really helped me keep from gaining too much weight with each pregnancy.
Protein can help with morning sickness:
Morning sickness in the first trimester can make it really difficult to consume the needed amount of protein each day. I know all I could eat was chips, bread and crackers all day. But, if I could get down my Bump Dust smoothie in the morning (made with a banana and milk), I felt so much better as the day went on. The best way to combat morning sickness is to keep your blood sugar stable with healthy carbs and protein, rather than lots of carbs. It can be super hard to do, but if you do, you will feel a lot better. A balanced diet will really help with morning sickness if you can manage it. If not, don’t stress. Just survive until you start feeling better.
Protein can help prevent gestational diabetes:
Eating a diet focused on lean protein can help tremendously to prevent gestational diabetes. Protein will keep your blood sugar steady, rather than spiking like a roller coaster. Not only does this help keep gestational diabetes away, it also helps with weight gain. Your blood sugar levels will remain stable, which keeps insulin levels stable as well.
How Much Protein Do I Need While Pregnant?
The American pregnancy association suggests at least 75 grams of protein per day for pregnant mamas. This is a relative, general guideline, and there are a lot of factors that go into really understanding how much protein you and your growing baby need. For example, if you aren’t active at all, or don’t do any weight lifting, you are probably on the lower end. If you are following a healthy pregnancy program, you may need more protein to help build and repair your muscles. Staying active during pregnancy is super important to managing your weight and preparing for labour. The more muscle you can maintain now, the easier it will be to get back in shape after the baby. You can also do preventative work for diastasis recti while pregnant, and I go over all of this, plus workouts, plus a nutritional guide and recipes in my Belly-Only Pregnancy program.
What do 75 grams of protein look like? Well, let’s go over what one day of eating 75 grams of protein entails (with protein-rich foods):
Breakfast: Milk Dust or Protein Smoothie: 20 – 22 grams (fruit and veggies have protein too!)
Snack: Fat-free cottage cheese and strawberries: 15-18 grams
Lunch: Salad with two hard-boiled eggs: 14 grams
Dinner: Turkey burger (4oz) wrapped in lettuce – 20-22 grams
If this was your meal plan for a goal of 75 grams of protein, you would be at just about 70-75 grams of protein for your day. If you added cheese to your turkey burger, and some cheese on top of your salad, then you would definitely be there. Imagine if you didn’t include a protein shake in your day. You would have to start your day with three eggs instead. I find a protein shake a really good way to get something sweeter in, and not feel like you are eating tons of eggs, or all protein all day. You actually get something sweet! This is really helpful for those of us who love our sweet treats (especially if you are breastfeeding!).
The last thing to mention is that your protein powder can also be a meal replacement. If you blend it properly with amazing ingredients like avocado and frozen berries, you are getting a complete meal of healthy fats, healthy carbs and lean protein. If you use Bump Dust, this will be an all-plant-based meal, which is an easy way to consume lots of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
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