I am going to share the experience I had with my pregnancy and completing a Whole30 in the first, second and third trimesters. I have been asked to share my experience for years, and hesitated to do so because it is not right for everyone, but I DO want you to read this and know that for me, it was the best possible decision, and I thrived physically, mentally, emotionally from taking this on. Before you decide what makes sense for you – first, and foremost – please consult with your physician.
Depending on your physical, emotional and dietary needs you can discuss with them if this is a good way to support yourself during pregnancy. It seems weird to say because what Doctor DOESN’T want you to eat a diet high in nutrients and low in processed, sugary foods? Well, if your emotional headspace is in struggle mode, there is no amount of healthy colorFUL food that’ll compensate. The truth is you have to be in a good place already, and then this will add to it. There are modifications for Whole30 during pregnancy and when nursing/ postpartum to keep in mind, and there may be additional modifications as recommended by your medical team.
My Pregnancy Story
Well, Nick and I had a BLAST in November of 2017 at a traditional family Moroccan Jewish Wedding in Toronto. We happily swapped out traditional ‘Thanksgiving’ fare for WAY better food, fun family events, exploring a gorgeous city, drinking lots of libations with cousins, aunts, uncles, and people we rarely see, some that I even met for the first time. It was an affair to remember, marked by an especially notable cozy hotel morning when we made Talus!
At that time, I was 6 months out of Nutrition school, moving to a new state, and still learning so much about my body and balancing my food freedom. I wasn’t feeling great, my energy was low and my IBS was EXTRA irritable. I had planned to go ALL out in Toronto (100% gluten free already at that time) but foodie fieldtrips were part of the daily adventures along with all the Moroccan food feasting I could handle. A Whole30 reset was already on my schedule upon returning home ending right after the holidays and right before the New Year.
Whole30 Before I Knew About Pregnancy
Our Toronto trip was the only ‘plan’ we had for the Holidays that year. No hosting, no more traveling was on the schedule, but we did grab some tickets to see ______ in Portland and decided to make a weekend out of it, staying 2 nights in a hotel downtown that we’d visited 10+ years before. I had a little sniffle and was attributing all the aches and pains I was experiencing to the first 2 weeks of Whole30 after a big celebratory Toronto trip. We were meeting up with some friends for dinner one night, we met up with my cousin at the concert after an epic sashimi feast that we shared in downtown Portland.
I’ve been navigating menu’s a long time and was fairly well versed even then. I had coconut aminos in my purse for the sushi dinner evening. I ordered a big steak, side of baked potato and steamed vegetables for dinner with friends. I had no problem drinking straight americano’s from the coffee bar in our hotel all day. I was feeling tired, but not giving in. Spent hours in Powell’s book store. Walked miles and miles.
My cousin (LOVE YOU) met up with us at the concert. He had just gotten off work and then raced over to catch us. He was smoking cigarettes at the time. The combination of sweat and cigarettes was making me actually gag. Like, not at all subtle or even something I could remotely hide. It was involuntary, frequent and getting worse the more we spoke. The heightened smell had begun, but I had no idea that’s what it was. Poor guy, I felt like such an ass. I was so beat tired, and we cautiously hugged outside after the show and went our own ways.
The next day we had a quick breakfast with him, packed up our car and headed home. My boobs were sore and Nick said jokingly – maybe we made a baby that ONE time in Toronto? I laughed him off but they were really sore. I bought a test on our way into town. Nick was asleep on the couch at 7 pm. I was like “OH, here is a test, and I do have to pee. I guess, why not? I’ll check it out.” Obviously, it was POSITIVE because that was my Talus Rio growing in my body! WHOAH.
We were celebratory the instant after Nick apologized for getting mad at me when I sweetly woke him up. Real life isn’t always like a perfectly curated greeting card, you know? I sulked in the bedroom not sharing the good news until he apologized, haha.
Whole30 During First Trimester Pregnancy
The first ½ of Whole30 I didn’t know I was pregnant. When I found out I was pregnant, I was stubborn and persisted even though I wasn’t feeling it at all. 2 weeks left of Whole30 after I knew I was pregnant felt like an eternity. I didn’t have a lot of nausea. I didn’t feel exponentially poor. I was simply more tired than usual, and more discerning than usual. These two minor changes made Whole30 exponentially more difficult to navigate.
I do NOT recommend doing a first trimester pregnant Whole30 on purpose. My meals got really brown. I was doing eggs and potatoes with hot sauce as my color. I sometimes could stomach spinach. I did do smoothies *(see Whole30 Pregnancy modifications below) because I was getting no color in my diet, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t see the OBGYN until 10 weeks along, and I wasn’t telling ANYONE I was pregnant because, well, it’s scary. Slogging through alone, I finished – just barely. I think I even ate a bowl of rice cereal and almond milk at midnight on day 30. I was absolutely stubborn, and while I can say I did Whole30 during each trimester – this was an example of what NOT to do, and that’s why I want to share it with you.
Everyone experiences pregnancy differently, even differently one pregnancy to another. There is no reason to push yourself to eat “healthier” foods if your mindset will suffer as mine did. I did not to reintroduction, and I spent the next 3 weeks almost exclusively eating Siete tortilla and goat milk gouda quesadillas with hot sauce and occasionally scrambled eggs and spinach. I have no regrets or concerns because my body really wanted plain, bland, white food and I soon recalibrated back into craving the colorful veggies.
Whole30 During Second Trimester Pregnancy
My pregnancy was very enjoyable, all around. My second trimester was moving into spring with beautiful sunshine, all the fun produce and we were moving into our cozy new home. I had traveled to Portland for a conference with the Nutritional Therapy Association, and then down to Los Angeles for Expo West and to celebrate my 32nd birthday with my family.
We ate very well as we often do with my family. We filled up our hearts with lots of great memories, and then headed back home to Oregon. After getting some scans and feeling confident and happy growing this baby I was feeling more at home in my body and I felt ready to tackle another Whole30 on purpose and with grounded intentions around week 24.
It was a breeze. I loved the food I was eating. I felt outstanding eating it. My energy and vitality were great, Talus was growing beautifully. My blood work was phenomenal. My OB was very impressed and she ended up following along on IG to see what I was eating. Here are some of those things I was eating and loving.
Whole30 During Third Trimester Pregnancy (Whole 53)
One of my oldest and dearest friends (we were 11 when we met) said she really wanted to do a Whole30 with her mom in July 2018 and asked for my help. I had officially become a Whole30 Certified Coach that summer, and I was excited to start helping!
We’d been living in our very own home since March and there was so much to do before baby came. I had been having a lot of fears, anxiety and dreams around giving birth, and being in this unfinished space and home with him. My employer at the time had cut my hours from full time to less than ½ time. Great timing, right? Also, Oregon doesn’t have any state funded maternity leave or even protection for employed mothers working for companies with less than 25 employees. I was stressed and feeling overwhelmed.
I figured I would join them, get some tiger blood and that certainly couldn’t hurt anything. My due date was August 15th. I started on July 1st thinking I’d just join them and see how it went. I ended up doing a Whole 53, leading right up to the beautiful Birthday of my baby boy.
There were lots of outdoor events, occasions and barbecues that I had to plan in a more detailed way than if I hadn’t been doing Whole30. That wasn’t too bad though – it was middle of summer, and I could always bring snacks to the party. My go to at the time was baba ganoush, guac, pickles, veggies, nuts, and meat sticks.
I was doing very consistently multiple weekly dips into the Deschutes river. It was a craving all its own, and I felt called to do it very often. Nick and I made a ritual of it, and enjoyed it very much. Talus would kick and squirm more in my belly in the river than at any other time, which is why we felt called to give him a name honoring his instinctual love of nature. His middle name is Rio.
While my birth wasn’t as planned, it was perfect (if you’d be interested to know how it went – leave a comment below). I know I wouldn’t have been as physically or mentally strong without having dug my heels in during things that were much less hard for me, such as eating Whole30 compatible meals while awaiting his arrival.
Would I do Pregnant Whole30 Again?
YES. I would do it emphatically, enthusiastically and would encourage you to, too (with your Doctor’s blessing) and here is why: You’ve never met a more badass, on fire, hardcore version of yourself than the one who is nesting and in tiger blood. That is the Superwoman version of my dreams. Tackling your to do list with the intention and power of 1000 suns while protecting and fiercely guarding your spirit, your mood, and your energy for the things that matter and discarding anything unworthy promptly without a second thought.
The absence of brain fog in the presence of so much uncertainty was a huge saving grace for the classic over thinker/analyzer personality like mine. Does that mean I had zero over thinking, of course not! I was an almost new mama facing birth and anxiety and a baby 7 days past his ‘due’ date. But I was way more chill than I would have been. That much I know for certain.
Finally, I don’t know how I would have managed coming home to the exhausting experience of learning how to feed my baby without sleep had I not done my Whole30 (53) leading up to it. No, I don’t think eating ‘worth it things’ would have made me a terrible mom or anything dramatic like that. Of course, I would have managed no matter what. Whenever I think about this experience or field questions from readers, I can only find gratitude for the sacrifices that pregnant Stephanie took on so that post-partum Stephanie had a little more peace, a little more sanity, and a lot more energy in the reserves.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy and Whole30
In my entire pregnancy I gained 16 pounds. Talus was born weighing 7 pound 14 ounces. I say this with a big fat BUT qualifier. I have always been a larger woman. I have always had extra weight on me to accommodate growing a human. I did not need to gain more weight to have a healthy pregnancy. There were some prenatal visits when I lost weight from a previous visit. Neither my doctor nor I were concerned about this, and while this was completely ok for me – there are many folks that this would not be ok with for physical, mental, or emotional reasons.
Glucose Tolerance Test Whole30 Pregnancy
I told my OBGYN who I’d worked closely with for quite a few months at this point that I didn’t want to drink “the drink” for the glucose monitor screening for gestational diabetes. Call me difficult, call me crunchy, I am not offended because while I identify as a wee bit of both, I don’t necessarily feel like this is an example of either. I don’t understand why it is commonplace to purposefully stress the body to see if it breaks under pressure? Growing a human and navigating pregnancy is already hard enough. I purposefully don’t eat sugar for so many reasons. They tried to sell me on the gummy bears swap. I had to find my voice to insist there be another solution, which of course there is.
My doctor agreed to let me monitor my blood glucose response 4 times a day for a full two weeks. Nick made me a nifty little chart and I picked up a glucose monitor kit through my insurance plan and got to work! For 2 weeks I diligently tested my fasting number, and 1 hour after every meal. My doctor was shocked with my blood sugar levels and enthusiastically replied that she wished all her patients had numbers like mine. I was not on Whole30, and I remember the meal that shot me the highest at 115 was 2 tacos on corn tortillas with an Arnold palmer (1/2 iced tea and ½ lemonade made with sugar).
Cravings During Whole30 Pregnancy
Of course I had cravings. Those are there, pregnant or not, for all us. I had a lot of pickle cravings and almost resented the irony that the most basic pregnancy craving is what I had. I ate a LOT of pickles. Easily 2 jars a week by myself. I also ate a lot of pate, you can find my recipe for Whole30 Pate here.
If you’re thinking I was deprived, I promise you I wasn’t. I didn’t need to eat ice cream, cookies and candy through my entire pregnancy. I eat those things when I want to, when they feel worth it and that they are adding to my colorFULLife experience. Not because I am pregnant and ‘get to’. I can do it anytime I want. I spent 30 days in the first trimester, 30 days in the second trimester, and 53 days in the third trimester on Whole30. That’s 113 days out of an average pregnancy that’s 280 days for a little perspective.
Whole30 Pregnancy and Nursing Modifications
You absolutely want to consult with your Doctor before and even during a Pregnant or Nursing Whole30. Whole30 modifications during pregnancy or nursing can be as unique as your pregnancy or nursing experience. The meal template is always a guide, not a rule especially when you are pregnant or nursing.
The modifications all come down to listening to your body.
You’re not going to push through fatigue, pain, discomfort, hunger or anything in order to be a Whole30 star. If you’re meals must be small because you get full too fast, then you can eat more mini meals than the 3 meals a day recommended for the general Whole30 populace.
You’re going to want to eat the macronutrient breakdown that is appetizing and in line with what you discussed with your Doctor. Many experience protein aversions during pregnancy, or a limited variety of appealing protein. Making sure you eat adequate calories is important, even if it doesn’t look like the meal template with protein, carbs and fat.
Adding fruit to your meals or having higher carbohydrate vegetables may be helpful in ensuring you’re eating a diet high enough in carbs to avoid stressing your system if you were typically eating a standard American diet high in refined carbohydrates.
If you have no appetite for protein and it’s either – eat no protein or drink it, you can try a smoothie made with protein, carbs, and a good dose of healthy fat topped with some pumpkin seeds or cashews that you need to chew is ok. It’s not ideal. It’s not in the template. It’s a backup for the moment when you just can’t face the protein. But if that continues to happen, then consulting with your doctor and coach is important to figure out a next step.
The reason why Whole30 during pregnancy is powerful is to make sure you’re feeling strong, clear headed, fueled and fabulous to receive what’s to come. It’s absolutely not for weight loss, diet mentality, feeling sad, deprived or overwhelmed.
Hiring a Coach For a Pregnant Whole30
As I have done a Whole30 pregnant and a Whole30 nursing, I feel like I am an excellent advocate, confidant and the sharpest tool in your Whole30 tool box. Please feel free to send me an email or a DM to ask what me about whatever is on your mind.
Exercise During Whole30 and Pregnancy
I worked out an average of 2 days a week for nearly my whole pregnancy. The workout intensity shifted, the goals varied. Whole30 enabled me to have the energy to simply move my body and free my mind 30 minutes a few times a week. It really was as simple as that.
Do You, Always.
If Whole30 doesn’t feel right for you in this precious time, please do not do a Whole30. We all must find the ways to support our unique and individual journey. I had a fabulous pregnancy full of good food, family, friends, celebrations and all the colorFULLife things.
I did HIIT style workouts weekly for my whole pregnancy, went to three multiple day work conferences, cooked a feast for a large bachelorette party, rode my bike across Los Angeles with my dad 30 weeks pregnant, was a 30 week pregnant bridesmaid in a floral dress, camped 4 times in the final months of pregnancy, cold plunged 4-5 times a week from May-August and had a BEAUTIFUL sushi and sake baby shower. Am I traditional? No. Am I true to me? Always. Whole30 in pregnancy isn’t for everyone, but it is empowering and a beautiful investment in yourself, your healthy and your colorFULLife.