One of the first things you’ll be told when you’re pregnant is that you have to increase your water and fluid intake. Water is easily the best drink for pregnant women; it does its job to hydrate you and your growing baby whilst containing no calories, carbs or anything else harmful. You should be drinking around 8-10 cups a day, or approximately 2-2.5 liters.
Many pregnant women don’t realize that water and fluid intake can take many forms – it doesn’t just have to be plain water. If you are desperate for variety or water is making you feel nauseous, then here are ten pregnancy-safe suggestions for drinks other than (or including) water that are safe to drink when you’re pregnant:
1. Herbal Teas
Herbal teas belong to a separate category from leaf teas as they are often fruit or herb-based, and are normally caffeine-free. Since pregnant women should cut down on caffeine during pregnancy, they’re a good option if you still want a reviving hot drink. However, the Food and Drug Administration in the USA cautions against some types of herbal tea, so it’s important to choose the right ones.
Choose commercially-made teas rather than any homemade remedies as the amounts of each ingredient are controlled in commercial tea bags. Homemade or loose-leaf teas mixed yourself may accidentally contain too much of one ingredient.
Double-check for caffeine content – most herbal teas are caffeine-free, but they’ll usually state this on the label. Many people enjoy herbal tea with a slice of fruit in it, such as lemon, but ensure this is thoroughly washed first, especially the skin.
Three teas that are widely regarded as being safe in pregnancy are:
- Ginger Tea – This is a good choice if you’re feeling nauseous or have morning sickness. Ginger can also help with indigestion and can relieve stress.
- Lemon or lemon balm tea – also good for nausea and stress-relief.
- Peppermint tea – can reduce digestive discomfort, bloating and also prevents nausea.
There is some debate about whether pregnant women should consume drinks that are very hot or very cold, but there’s no evidence to support this being dangerous in pregnancy. However, very hot or cold drinks may cause you to have an upset stomach so it’s better to have drinks that are warm or cool, rather than icy or scalding.
2. Sports Drinks
First, it’s important to distinguish between ‘sports drinks’ and ‘energy drinks’. Sports drinks are often isotonic, are designed for consumption after exercise, and usually contain electrolytes designed to rehydrate the drinker. Energy drinks usually contain ingredients such as guarana, Taurine, tea or caffeine, and they’re often high in sugar.
Energy drinks, therefore, are largely unsuitable for pregnant women., whereas sports drinks are usually safe in pregnancy, in moderation, if they’re not high on artificial sweeteners/sugar and are caffeine-free.
Many women have found them useful if they are having a hard time with vomiting and sickness if they can’t keep water down. Common brands that are usually safe include Lucozade, Gatorade, and Powerade, though there are many own-label brands too. Always check the label and avoid any with caffeine or the artificial sweetener saccharin.
You can also buy electrolyte powder from pharmacies (ask the pharmacist for its suitability in pregnancy) or water existing sports drinks down to moderate the amount of sugar, sweeteners or color dyes.
3. Milk and Flavored Milk
Milk is a great option for pregnant women. In fact, it’s recommended that pregnant women drink around three glasses of about 8oz / 240ml per day.
If you’re used to drinking skim, semi-skimmed or low-fat milk, there is no need to make a switch to whole milk. Whole milk contains more fat, so there’s no real benefit of making a switch when all milk types contain the calcium, protein, and nutrients you need. If you’re used to whole milk, then, by all means, stick with it, but it’s better to switch to a lower fat version if you can.
Any milk consumed in pregnancy should be pasteurized. All commercial milk in the USA and UK is usually pasteurized. That’s the type you buy in cartons or large bottles at supermarkets. However, some independent shops or dairies sell unpasteurized or ‘raw’ milk – avoid this, as it’s unsafe to drink in pregnancy due to the potential contamination with bacteria or other harmful microbes. (Source: FDA)
If drinking so much milk gets boring, you could mix up some flavored milk at home, with products such as Nesquik or by using cocoa powder. Bear in mind that raw cocoa powder may contain small amounts of caffeine, which is something to watch out for. Commercial flavored milk will be pasteurized, but keep an eye on how many additives and sugar are also in there – plain milk is better overall, but the occasional flavored milk may help you change things up a little.
Milkshakes are a different consideration – they should always be made with pasteurized ingredients and often are high in sugar and artificial flavorings, not to mention having unhealthy toppings.
Infusions are a brilliant way of drinking flavored water as an alternative to plain water in pregnancy. They’re like tea, but cool and refreshing, which is perfect if that’s what you’re craving. The ingredients in an infusion are often the same as those in herbal or fruit tea.
You can sometimes buy ‘infusion teabags’ designed for leaving steeped in water overnight. However, for extra safety, it’s better to boil the infusion and then leave it to cool, removing any risk of microbes or bacteria.
Herbs and flavorings that are pregnancy safe include fruit (if it’s washed thoroughly first) such as lemon, lime, watermelon or orange, or herbs like mint or rosemary. Wash a handful of fruit slices or herb leaves thoroughly and boil them in water for a few minutes. Then leave to cool and store in the fridge. Add a little sugar if it makes it more palatable.
Essentially this is a little like making homemade lemonade, but using a variety of different ingredients instead. Drink the infusion within a couple of days of making it so that it’s fresh. Try to drink infusions cold, but not ice cold.
Smoothies can be enjoyed safely in pregnancy if they’re homemade. Smoothies or juices made in a store with pre-cut fruit (e.g. in a juice bar) may not be safe in pregnancy due to the potential hazards of improperly washed fruit (particularly the skins) containing bacteria, as well as the potential for improperly washed machines.
If juice is used in your smoothie rather than fresh fruit, this should be pasteurized – check the label if using juice in a homemade smoothie. All unpasteurized juice products in the USA will have a warning label on them. Most other countries will declare on the label whether the juice is pasteurized or not.
Since you need to up your protein, calcium, and nutrients from fruit and veg, smoothies can be a good alternative to water. There are absolutely loads of pregnancy-friendly smoothie recipes out there. Try to include some thoroughly washed greens to increase nutrients, use pasteurized yogurt as well as milk for protein, and opt for unsweetened recipes if you can.
6. Alcohol-Free Beverages
Feel like a cold beer on a summer day but don’t want to drink alcohol? A white wine spritzer with non-alcoholic wine? If you’re pregnant, then you’ll be avoiding alcohol completely for a long time. Some women miss it, some don’t, but it’s worth knowing that it’s another option available to you.
It’s only very recently that “alcohol-free” drinks have come along in leaps and bounds, flavor-wise. They used to be horrible, but now I drink them often because they taste almost like the real thing without any of the drawbacks of alcohol.
My favorite “NA” (Non-Alcoholic) beer brands in the USA are Becks Blue, Heineken 0.0% and O’Douls NA. I found a couple of them for sale in grocery stores (such as Publix in the South Eastern States) but you may have to order them online. There are plenty of options for alcohol-free wine. In fact, the website winesformothers.com specializes in alcohol-free wines for pregnant women.
Britain has been undergoing a bit of an alcohol-free craze lately and there are lots of options. The best beers (to my palate anyway) are Flat Tyre, Brewdog Nanny State and Beck’s Blue. These are in many supermarkets these days, which usually have an alcohol free section.
There’s an alcohol-free gin doing the rounds, too. It’s called Sipsmith and although it’s made in London, you can get it in the States by special order, too. I tried one and it’s not quite the same as a gin and tonic, but it’s certainly refreshing and different. Since pregnant women should avoid quinine, which is often found in tonic water, it should perhaps be used to make an alcohol free cocktail or seltzer instead.
As always, check the label when you’re getting an alcohol-free drink as sometimes the labels are very similar to their alcoholic counterparts!
7. Decaf Tea and Coffee
Pregnant women can drink caffeine, but only in small amounts. Therefore many women switch to decaf tea and coffee if they want to continue to enjoy their morning coffee or after-dinner pick-me-up.
Research is inconclusive about whether decaf coffee is safe to drink in pregnancy. A 199 Study found no link between the processes used in decaf coffee and miscarriage risk, and other studies were also inconclusive. In conclusion, the general advice at present is that yes, you can drink decaf coffee and tea, but it’s probably better in moderation.
Decaf coffee can contain small amounts of caffeine, too (roughly about 7mg) as it’s not completely eliminated during the decaf process. However, when you compare this to a regular coffee coming in at 70-150mg caffeine, it’s a much safer choice. Decaf coffee and tea can be acidic, so bear this in mind if you tend to suffer from indigestion.
Coffee and tea, of course, are rarely consumed in their plain form. If you have a decaf espresso or black Americano or filter coffee, then you’re avoiding all the fat, sugar and additives that appear in lattes, cappuccinos, and other similar drinks. If you order decaf tea or coffee, have it with low-fat, skim or soy milk, and try to avoid syrups, sprinkles or other sugary additives to keep the calorie and sugar intake low.
8. Seltzers and Spritzers
A seltzer is a carbonated or sparkling drink, similar to soda but often without the masses of sugar and additives (which is why soda isn’t recommended in pregnancy). A spritzer is carbonated water mixed with something else, usually alcohol, but obviously this isn’t suitable if you’re pregnant unless you use alcohol-free wine (mentioned above). Sometimes the word ‘seltzer’ and ‘spritzer’ are used interchangeably, too.
Commercial seltzers, particularly in the USA, are flavored sparkling waters. In the UK they’re known as flavored water, or they use the French term pressé.
Seltzer, spritzers and pressé drinks vary so much in their ingredients that it’s impossible to recommend (or warn against) a particular brand. Most of them are safe to drink in moderation and are better for you than drinking soda.
However, as usual, common sense applies. Read the label and if it’s full of unnatural ingredients, sweeteners (particularly saccharin, which should be avoided in pregnancy) and dyes, then it’s probably not the best option for drinking when you’re pregnant. Instead, look for:
- Natural ingredients (and pasteurized fruit, if it contains juice)
- Fewer artificial colors, sweeteners or flavorings
- Check that it doesn’t contain caffeine
Also note that the gassy nature of seltzers and spritzers may give you indigestion, which is something that you’ll be tackling pretty often in pregnancy anyway, so it’s not a good idea to aggravate it.
9. Fruit & Veg Juices – if Pasteurized
Fruit juice seems to be a great idea to drink in pregnancy instead of water because you’re encouraged to increase your intake of micronutrients from fresh fruit and veg. However, juices, particularly commercially-made ones, can sometimes contain a lot of sugar, flavorings and other ingredients that aren’t as good for you as plain fruit and veg.
Fruit and veg juices prepared at home are the healthiest option as you can control what goes into them. Veg and fruit should be thoroughly washed and peeled and you should try not to add sugar if you can help it. Also, keep your machine sparkling clean to avoid any potential for bacteria to grow.
If you’re buying fruit or veg juice, choose a 100% version that has been pasteurized (unpasteurized versions will often have this stated on the label). Whether homemade or store-bought, drink the juice within a couple of days as fresh juice doesn’t have a long shelf life.
Remember that fruit juice is higher in calories and natural sugar than water, so if you’re going to drink it as a water alternative, you can perhaps have a happy medium where you add fresh juice to plain or sparkling water (see seltzers and spritzers, above) to make it more interesting. Veggies are naturally lower in sugar, so given the choice, opt for beetroot, carrots, kale and other similar juices that are naturally sweet without being high in fructose or other natural sugars.
When you’re dealing with hunger pangs AND the need to hydrate more, many pregnant women forget that soup can make an excellent alternative to water in pregnancy.
Commercially-made canned and tinned soups can be high in salt/sodium and artificial ingredients, but there are many natural or wholesome brands available these days, including fresh soups in the chilled section of the supermarket or grocery store.
Always check that fresh soups have been pasteurized, as ones that aren’t are not safe to consume in pregnancy. Read labels and avoid any high in salt/sodium or artificial ingredients.
If it’s a hot day, don’t forget that some soups such as gazpacho or vichyssoise are both full of nutrients from fresh veg and are designed to be enjoyed cold. Thinner, non-creamy soups are a good option for hydration such as miso soup or chicken broth.
Homemade soup is even better, as you can control which ingredients to into it or bulk it up with extra veg. Always peel and wash the veg you’re putting into any soup to avoid the potential contamination with listeria. Chicken broth is also a great, safe alternative to drinking water if you’re feeling a little under the weather and want a natural pick-me-up.
Overall, there are many things women can drink besides water when pregnant. If you’re vigilant about checking labels or enthusiastic about making your own beverages, then I hope the above opens up some more interesting options for you to enjoy in pregnancy.