Including Choline in My Personal Pregnancy Diet

Disclosure: I am thrilled to partner with Balchem, a nutrition ingredient supplier for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.


Happy New Year, y’all! I couldn’t be more excited about this year and all that’s in store. Y’all will continue to find simple recipes here at KISS in the Kitchen (remember, KISS = Keep it simple, Shannon!) with simple/few ingredients, helpful tips and tricks to make cooking and life a bit easier, and up to date nutrition info that’s important for you and your family! It’s always my goal to be transparent and share all of this in the context of my own life- with celebrations and struggles alike! 

This past August I wrote about the importance of choline for maternal and fetal health, but little did I know I’d get some incredibly exciting and relevant news just one month later- yep, those 2 little pink lines appeared and the reality began to sink in that this family is growing!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Pflug

And can I just be REALLY honest about something? Just because I’m a dietitian doesn’t mean I have it all together, that my diet is perfect, that I don’t experience nausea to where the only first trimester goal is just survival (more on this in a bit) or that I automatically feel confident in all my food/nutrition choices. Just like every mom-to-be, I second guessed everything and also turned to some of my closest friends/colleagues to make sure I was selecting the best supplements, setting realistic goals and for confirmation on a variety of decisions because pregnancy brain- yeah, it’s a thing. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Pflug
I’ve had a lot of women ask me over the years if prenatal vitamins are really necessary in pregnancy and the answer is YES. There are some vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, like folic acid, Vitamin D, iron, DHA and choline, that can be either very difficult or almost impossible to achieve from diet alone during pregnancy. Choline was on my radar for most of 2017, especially after learning that only 8% of Americans AND only 8.51% of pregnant women meet the Adequate Intake for Choline!* And did you know that…

Although I’m quite familiar with choline containing foods and the goal of consuming the recommended daily intake of 550mg, meeting that goal was much easier said than done. I normally love eggs, salmon, beef, edamame and a handful of other choline-abundant foods, but when morning (all-day) sickness hit hard, and crackers, ginger ale and cereal were all I could possibly consider eating, I knew it was time to add in supplemental choline. This personal realization also happened to be very consistent with current research findings- that unless you’re eating 2 eggs daily or taking a dietary supplement, it’s incredibly difficult to meet the Adequate Intake for choline*.

​​Choline actually wasn’t recognized as an essential nutrient until the late 1990’s, but it has many important functions throughout the lifespan. During pregnancy, it helps support overall fetal growth, but especially supports a baby’s growing brain and also potentially protects against neural tube defects. In fact, new research from choline expert Marie Caudill provides compelling evidence that pregnant women may need nearly double the currently recommended amount of choline each day, particularly in the last trimester, to support improved cognitive function in their infants, including improved information processing skills.**
Photo courtesy of Lisa Johnson
I’m now well into the second trimester and fortunately most of the nausea and food aversions have subsided. I’m actually able to eat AND enjoy some of my favorite foods, like eggs and beef, that happen to be choline-containing foods!
One of my favorite easy lunch or dinners to whip together has been this Pregnancy Power Salad. It’s loaded with fiber, protein and choline- a big nutrition win for pregnancy or even if you’re just looking for some New Year’s menu inspo!
Although I really enjoy this salad, there are days where because of time or energy, healthy and homemade options aren’t always a reality. Taking supplemental choline, in addition to my prenatal vitamin, gives me the peace of mind that both myself and my baby girl are getting all the choline we need for optimal health. Choline is also just as important during the postpartum period, especially for breastfeeding mommas, so I’m grateful I found a supplement and eating pattern that is working so well now!


I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts on today’s post! So many women (myself included until last year) aren’t too familiar with choline. I’d be happy to answer any other questions and I want to wish you all a wonderful start to the New Year and a blessed 2018! <3 Shannon


*Wallace, T., & Fulgoni, V. (2017). Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 9(8), 839. doi:10.3390/nu9080839
**Caudill, M., Strupp A., et al. (2017). Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study. The FASEB Journal, published ahead of print December 7, 2017, doi:10.1096/fj.201700692RR

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22 Responses

  1. Happy New Year to you! And I’m so glad that your appetite and enjoyment of food has returned for the most part.
    I had no idea about choline until your blog post in 2017! It’s the new folate! I’ll definitely keep this post in mind for any expectant and post-parturition mothers I know or counsel!
    Thanks again for keeping me informed!!

    1. Thanks so much, Brittany! I’m really glad also and way to go for spreading the word on choline to all the mommas!

  2. I am pregnant also and have become so aware of the importance of choline – thanks for sharing!!

  3. If it wasn’t for social media (namely fellow RD bloggers) I would have no idea about choline!

  4. Happy New Year Shannon! Congrats on the pregnancy & thanks for posting about choline. It’s been popping up in my regular reading lately, and glad to add this post to my learning!

    1. Thanks so much, Maggie! And really glad to hear you’re hearing more about choline lately- it’s definitely buzz worthy!

  5. Interesting to learn that most prenatal vitamins don’t actually contain Choline. This post is a great resource for pregnant women.

    1. Thank you, Lauren! I was so surprised when I found that out myself last year, but I think that will change in the years to come with the recent AMA recommendations!

  6. I had no idea that most prenatal vitamins don’t contain choline! You are and have the curve as I just saw a Cornell study writeup today on this topic!

    1. Thank you, Marie! I couldn’t believe most prenatals don’t have choline when I first found out. With more and more studies coming out, that hopefully won’t be the case in the near future!

  7. I’ve just realised that my pregnancy multi vitamin and the recent mega 3 supplement Ive started taking both contain choline. I’m bearky 17weeks pregnant and for the last 3 days my choline intake has been 900mg Im pretty sure double what it should be. Im worried how this could have affected the baby. My diet is very very low if not nil intake of choline atm with my appetite changes. Any thoughts on the above would be greatly appreciated

    1. Hi Lisa. Congratulations on your pregnancy and thanks so much for your question. First of all, I would talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have as my advice shouldn’t substitute for medical advice/care. I don’t feel concerned about you taking that amount of choline for a few days. There’s actually a study that shows around 900mg of choline (especially in the 3rd trimester, which I know you aren’t quite there yet) is beneficial for infant processing speed. The recommended intake of 550mg is the minimum recommendation so I wouldn’t be too concerned about the extra for the past few days. Wish you all the best in your pregnancy and again, if you have any concerns I would chat with your doctor!

    2. Im curious to see how the baby turned out cognitively because I believe 900mg is actually good for the baby but theres not many studies on it. Can you tell me how it went?

      1. Hi Bret. Yes, our daughter is an incredibly bright almost 4 year old now. I did similar supplementation for our second daughter as well!

  8. As a fellow dietitian, I really appreciate the time and energy that went into this research-based post! I’ve had several midwives and nurses question why I take a choline supplement, which is really shocking considering all of the research that’s available now on the importance of choline. I was introduced to its importance at the Shopping For Health Conference in 2018 and have been obsessed ever since. I’m currently 17 weeks pregnant and have been supplementing with Solgar 350mg since before conceiving, but recently came across your article and you reminded me of Swanson- which is the brand we received at the conference. So I switched back to this supplement mainly because of the vitacholine and how much it’s been researched. Thanks again for your post!

    1. Kilene, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment- sorry I’m just now seeing it! I’m so glad you’re aware of choline needs during the prenatal/postpartum period and that you switched back to Vitacholine. Thanks so much for letting me know! I also think we have pretty similar due dates- I’m currently 21 weeks :).

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