Vegan or vegatarian considerations during pregnancy

Are you vegan or vegetarian and expecting a baby? If you are, there is no need to abandon your diet. You can still maintain a healthy pregnancy without consuming animal products, all you need to do is make sure you are consuming all the nutrients your baby needs.

Many of the nutrients your baby needs to develop properly can easily be found in meats or animal based products but not to worry, there are still other plant-based sources and supplements that will provide you with these. For starters, you need to make sure that you receive an adequate amount of protein, iron, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin B12 when you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Below we’ll break down each nutrient and provide plant based sources for each.

Protein: The building blocks of the body are in charge of developing the tissue and cells of your baby. Protein is crucial and its consumption increases 25 grams per day per baby. So, if you are having twins that is 50 extra grams of protein than the recommended amount when not pregnant. The following plant sources are rich in protein, make sure you consume an adequate amount.
• Beans
• Quinoa
• Oatmeal
• Nuts and nut butters
• Soy milk
• Tofu

Folate (vitamin B12): It is a very important micronutrient, especially during the first trimester, because it prevents neural tube defects. Folic acid supplements are prescribed by doctors upon the first visit and they are recommended for all women planning to get pregnant. This vitamin is not found in plants such as fruits or vegetables but can be found in:
• Soy milk
• Tofu
• Fortified cereals

Calcium: Necessary for building your baby’s bones, nerves, muscles and heart. This mineral is so crucial that if you do not consume enough to fulfill your baby’s needs, your body will excrete it from your bones. This can put women at risk of osteoporosis in the future, especially after multiple pregnancies, so be sure to eat a healthy dose of the following and take a calcium supplement if your doctor recommends you do so.
• Dairy (if you are a vegetarian)
• Broccoli
• Calcium-fortified orange juice
• Soy milk
• Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.)
• Tofu

Iron: This mineral is responsible for producing more red blood cells and transferring oxygen all around your body. It is very important during pregnancy as blood volume increases drastically to support your developing baby and provide the oxygen he needs. Vegetarian, vegan or not, an iron supplement during pregnancy makes sure you get the adequate amount to prevent anemia, low birth weight or even preterm labor. Iron of plant-based sources is not absorbed as efficiently by the body as iron coming from meats especially red meat, so be sure to soak plant-based foods rich in iron before cooking and combine them with foods high in vitamin C as this vitamin helps increase absorption. Iron rich foods include:
• Beans
• Soy products
• Barley
• Bulgur
• Dried fruit
• Quinoa
• Spinach
• Kale
• Seaweed

Vitamin D: A very important vitamin whose role is to build and maintain bones and teeth healthy. Luckily this vitamin can be synthetized by the body when exposed to direct sunlight for 15 minutes each day. Nevertheless, skin color, lifestyle and climate not always allow one to get the adequate dose. Milk and fish are the best dietary sources for vitamin D. If you do not consume these products, it’s important to talk with your doctor and get a prescription for a supplement. Also try to consume fortified wheat products such as bread and cereal along with fortified soy milk or fortified orange juice.

In conclusion, being pregnant is compatible with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as long as you get the necessary supplements, you eat a balanced diet, take your prenatal vitamins every day and attend your regular checkups.

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