It’s no secret that women need more nutrients during pregnancy. This leads many women to wonder whether or not drinking Ensure is a necessary or even safe addition to their diet in order to keep them and their baby nourished.
Marketed as a food instead of a supplement, Ensure brand nutrition shakes are all perfectly safe to drink when pregnant. They do contain a moderate amount of vitamin A, so it’s best to moderate your intake based on how much of the vitamin you get from other sources, such as prenatal pills.
While all of the Ensure drinks are safe during pregnancy, with so many different styles there’s a lot to consider. I’ve also created a simple guide to their most popular versions, complete with nutrition and safety information.
Is It Safe to Drink Ensure During Pregnancy?
Ensure, produced by the company Abbott, makes many different styles of nutrition products. They are maybe best known for their protein shake, but also sell nutrition shake powder, nutrition bars, and rehydration drinks.
You may have read in the protein shake article that not all protein or nutrition shakes are marketed as foods. If you haven’t already read this article, head over and check it out for the overall safety of protein shakes during pregnancy.
Luckily for Ensure drinkers everywhere, all Ensure products are marketed as foods. This means the ingredients are all FDA approved as food-safe (source: Ensure). This also means Ensure is safe when pregnant.
Further, albeit anecdotal, evidence of their safety comes from their use in hospitals. Ensure has long been a brand used in medical settings where it’s ordered for patients who are unable to eat enough food during the day. I frequently use Ensure shakes with patients at my day job.
Regardless of the style of Ensure shake, they all include some vitamins and minerals. For women who are not able to eat enough during the day (for example, with extreme morning sickness), these added nutrients can be a big help, especially since many vitamins and minerals are needed in greater amounts during pregnancy.
Since there are so many different styles of Ensure products, I’ve broken down the safety and nutrition considerations for some of the most popular versions:
|Recently revamped to give you more protein, Ensure Plus now has 16 grams of protein per bottle plus enough calories to make it a well-rounded choice for women who have accidentally missed a meal.
|Ensure Original provides 9 grams of protein and a moderate amount of energy, making it a balanced snack choice. Their original shake also boasts the largest array of flavors, including a latte flavor.
|Ensure Enlive packs the biggest nutritional punch. With protein and energy comparable to Ensure Plus, Enlive also offers 2 extra grams of fiber and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
|Ensure Max Protein
|Of all of Ensure products, Ensure Max offers the most protein at 30 grams. The 11 ounce carton is slightly larger than other Ensure drinks. This drink is less energy dense, so it’s best used when you’ve eaten enough food during the day but are still lacking in protein. Be aware that the mocha flavor, while delicious, contains 100 mg of caffeine.
|Simply the powdered version of Ensure Original, the two products are nutritionally equal. Ensure Powder does give you extra flexibility to add other ingredients during prep, which can help change the flavor as this one is only available in vanilla.
Tip: From my personal experience, Ensure shakes taste best cold. While they’re completely shelf-stable and don’t need to be refrigerated until opening, try one of the shakes poured over ice.
Is Ensure Good During Pregnancy?
There is a difference between what is “safe” during pregnancy and what helps you meet optimal nutrition.
Beyond a quality prenatal vitamin, most women don’t need any additional supplements to meet their nutritional needs, even while pregnant.
That said, there are a few situations where Ensure shakes can be beneficial.
If you’re having frequent cravings for low-protein foods, such as white bread or chips/crisps, then you may be missing out on protein. One or two servings of Ensure daily can help you meet your protein needs while still honoring your cravings.
Morning sickness and nausea are another time when Ensure can give you a much needed nutritional boost. I’ll give a more in-depth look at morning sickness later on in this article.
If you’re concerned that you aren’t eating enough, first and foremost, have an honest discussion with your medical provider. They’ll likely want to be sure there isn’t an underlying medical concern.
Can Ensure Help with Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness and nausea can turn many pregnant women off from food. If you are vomiting after a meal, are unable to keep solid foods down, or if you’re so nauseated that no food sounds appetizing, drinking an Ensure can be a great safety net and keep your nutrition up.
Sipping on the shake is often easier than sitting down to a full meal, especially if nauseous or if the smell of food is off putting. Choose a style higher in energy to help make up what you’re missing from food.
Drinking an Ensure won’t stave off morning sickness, but having a very empty stomach can also lead to nausea. Aside from staying hydrated with water or electrolytes drinks, drinking an Ensure can “buffer” a too-empty stomach and might help you feel a bit less sick.
How Much Ensure Can I Have Daily if I’m Pregnant?
According to the official Ensure website, 48-64 fluid ounces (or 6-8 bottles) of Ensure Original/Plus is the maximum recommended amount for healthy adults. However, during pregnancy, overconsuming vitamin A can lead to birth defects.
Each 8 ounce serving of Ensure Original contains 1,250 international units (IU) of vitamin A (source: Abbott Nutrition). Compared this to the maximum limit of 10,000 IU vitamin A recommended by the World Health Organization (source: Nutrients). You would need to drink 8 bottles of Ensure Original daily to hit this amount of vitamin A!
More than likely, however, you’ll be getting vitamin A from other sources as well. Both foods and prenatal vitamins contribute vitamin A. The amount of vitamin A in prenatal vitamins ranges from around 2000-5000 IU, which can be a significant part of your daily total. For a deep-dive into vitamin A toxicity in pregnancy, read this article.
Note: If you do choose to drink Ensure, it is safest to limit yourself to 6 bottles or fewer per day. For women taking a prenatal vitamin that’s higher in vitamin A, you will likely need to use more caution and limit yourself to no more than 2 bottles daily.
While Ensure is a perfectly safe complement to your pregnancy diet, the shakes are designed to supplement your diet and are not intended as your sole source of nutrition for an extended period of time.
If you’re relying on Ensure for a short period of time, choose Ensure Original or Plus, as these products are designed for complete and balanced nutrition.
As far as nutrition shakes go, Ensure has long been one of the most trusted brands and is even used in healthcare. While Ensure isn’t necessary for most women during pregnancy, all of their nutrition shake styles are safe to drink.
Because Ensure contains vitamin A, it’s best to limit yourself and not rely on them as your only source of nutrition. If you are having concerns about meeting your nutritional needs while pregnant Ensure can be a great safety net, but it’s always best to discuss these concerns with your medical provider.