If your pregnancy is anything like mine, you just can’t seem to satisfy your sweet tooth. While my sweet tooth cravings are often satisfied by snacks like apples and peanut butter, sometimes candy and cookies are just too irresistible. As someone who is very worried (borderline paranoid) about gaining a lot of extra fat during my pregnancy, I decided to look into what sweeteners are safe to use while pregnant. Although there is very little research to prove/disprove the safety of sweeteners during pregnancy, there is enough information on the effects of these substances on our own bodies to make some decisions for yourself and your baby.
Many women may assume that nutritive sweeteners, such as table sugar, are safe to use while pregnant. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems nutritive sweeteners safe for pregnant women, there are some things you need to consider. Nutritive sweeteners are empty calories. That is, they add calories to your diet that provide little-to-no vitamins or minerals. Sugar triggers fat storage, which can lead to excessive weight gain. Women who are overweight are at a higher risk for health issues especially during pregnancy. Also, for women with conditions such as gestational diabetes, it is even more important to limit use of nutritive sweeteners.
Non-nutritive sweeteners, otherwise known as artificial sweeteners, add sweetness to foods and drinks without adding a significant (if any) amount of calories. Based on my research, the following non-nutritive sweeteners are ones that I would consider using:
- Stevia (Rebaudioside A) has been given the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) rating by the FDA for use during pregnancy.
- Splenda (Sucralose) contains no calories and does not effect blood sugar levels. It has been deemed safe by the FDA for use by everyone, including pregnant women.
The following non-nutritive sweeteners are ones that I found to be questionable, and will therefore be avoiding them as much as possible:
- Equal or NutraSweet (Aspartame) should definitely not be used by women who have been diagnosed with PKU or liver disease. Although it has been deemed safe by the FDA, it is recommended to limit consumption during pregnancy.
- Sweet ‘N Low (Saccharin) can cross the placenta to your baby. Although there is no research that shows that it causes any major issues with pregnancy, it is probably best not to take the risk.
Obviously, it can be difficult-to-impossible to eliminate these completely. Hopefully this gives you enough information to make the safest and healthiest choices for satisfying your sweet tooth!
Information from americanpregnancy.org and Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade B. Curtis, OB/GYN and Judith Schuler, M.S.