All pregnant women need to eat a well balanced diet during pregnancy, and pregnant vegan or vegetarian women are no exception!
These nutrition tips are specifically for pregnant vegan and vegetarian women, to help ensure they’re getting the necessary nutrition.
Vegetarians are of two types: vegan vegetarian and lacto-ovo vegetarians. Vegans avoid all animal and dairy products – this includes eggs, meat, fish and poultry. Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid meat, fish and poultry, but consume eggs and dairy products, including milk and cheese.
For Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian Women – The Healthiest Foods to Eat
When you’re a pregnant mom-to-be, your body needs extra calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals to make sure your baby is growing and to handle the changes your body goes through.
For specific vegetarian and vegan recipes, read The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook: Whole Foods To Nourish Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women.
Here’s what specific nutrients do for pregnant women and their babies:
- Protein helps the placenta function, and is critical for baby’s growth and brain health
- Calcium/Vitamin D promotes bone and teeth health and development
- Zinc for growth and development.
- Iron prevents anemia , increases maternal blood volume and helps form the baby’s blood.
- Vitamin B12 helps tissue and cell production and later in breast feeding
- Folate prevents Spina Bifida and other neural tube defects in the fetus.
For vegetarian pregnant women, however, the biggest concern is not getting adequate protein (which is abundant in meat)and Vitamin B12 which is found in animal products. But vegans and vegetarians don’t have to worry — they can choose foods that contain these nutrients.
Another great way to ensure you’re eating right is to follow this Fertility Diet – 5 Delicious, Vitamin Rich Foods for Fertility.
The Healthiest Foods for Vegan and Vegetarian Moms-to-Be
Vegans face the risk of deficiencies, and need to get enough calories so to gain the right amount of weight and eat enough protein. They also need to look at alternative sources of vitamin D, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and calcium.
- Ideally, the vegan diet must include 7 servings of vegetables, 3 servings of fruits, 6 to 10 servings of whole grains, 4 servings of cooked beans, nuts, seeds and peas, 4 servings of calcium rich foods and a a vitamin B12 source.
- To ensure baby’s bones and tissues are strong, pregnant vegans can get extra protein from foods such as beans, peas, lentils, peanut butter and brown rice.
- Calcium could be a problem for vegans; talk to your doc about calcium supplements and fortified juices, cereals and soya. Since your baby needs to get the necessary calcium from your diet, add more calcium-rich kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, broccoli, and tofu enriched with calcium to your diet.
- Increase your iron level with plenty of beans, legumes and green leafy vegetables.
- Eat root vegetables for essential trace minerals such as iodine, magnesium and copper.
- Many vegans tend to be slim at the beginning of their pregnancy and gain weight rather slowly. Does that sound like you? Eat more and eat often. You can get the extra calories through soy milk shakes. You can also consider rich sources of calories like nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, soy products and bean dips.
- You can get Vitamin B12 from some brands of nutritional yeast and soy milk and cereals fortified with B12. Your doctor can prescribe the right prenatal vitamin to ensure you get your quota of B12.
- Luckily, vegan diets are rich in folate which is critical in the first trimester. Get more folate from dark leafy greens, orange juice and whole grains.
If you’re looking for specific types of food, read Vegan Diet Plan – 5 Meals to Make Veganism Healthy and Easy on Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals.
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Basic tips for pregnant vegan, vegetarian, and lacto-ovo vegetarians
- All pregnant women need iron-rich foods. Vegetarians can get this from green leafy vegetables, dried beans, legumes and dried fruits. For better iron absorption, eat lots of citrus fruits such as oranges, rich in vitamin C in your daily diet. Use a cast iron skillet for cooking to get more iron.
- Try and cut down on coffee, tea, cola and other caffeine rich beverages as they reduce your body’s ability to absorb iron.
- If you need a calcium supplement, check the label for calcium carbonate as this is the form that your body absorbs easily. Not sure how to check? Dunk the supplement in a cup of vinegar. If it does not dissolve after ten minutes, you need another brand.
- Since it may not be possible to get adequate Vitamin D from your diet, talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplements.
These nutrition tips are meant to make you aware of your choices. Talk to your doctor to determine your specific nutrition needs and for advice on nutritional supplements.
If diabetes is a concern, read Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy – How to Reduce Your Risk.
How’s your vegan/vegetarian diet going? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comments section.
Vidya Sury is a full-time professional freelance content writer/Mom/blogger. She blogs at Your Medical Guide and Going A-Musing. She tweets as @vidyasury, and welcomes writing assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org.