Are you a vegetarian or vegan and expecting a baby? Don’t worry, you don’t have to change your diet! You can stay healthy during pregnancy without consuming animal products. Just make sure you get all the nutrients your baby needs.
Although some essential nutrients are typically found in meat and other animal products, don’t fret! There are plant-based alternatives and supplements that can provide everything you need. Just be sure to check that your vegetarian or vegan diet contains the right amount of protein, iron, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12.
Here are the details for each nutrient and the plant-based sources that contain them.
- Protein: It’s the building block of the body and essential for the baby’s tissue and cell development. During pregnancy, your daily protein intake should increase by 25g for each baby you’re carrying. If you’re expecting twins, you should consume an additional 50g compared to the recommendation for a non-pregnant person! Here are some protein-rich sources: beans, quinoa, oats, nuts and peanut butter, soy milk, tofu.
- Folate (Vitamin B12): This micronutrient is super important, especially during the first trimester, as it helps prevent neural tube defects. Doctors often prescribe folic acid supplements, and it’s recommended for all women planning to get pregnant! You won’t find this vitamin in fruits or vegetables, but here are some options: soy milk, tofu, fortified cereals.
- Calcium: It’s essential for the baby’s bone, nerve, muscle, and heart development. Consuming the right amount of this mineral is crucial because if your body doesn’t have enough calcium for the baby, it will start drawing it from your bones. In the long run, this increases the risk of osteoporosis, especially after multiple pregnancies. So, make sure to get the adequate dose and take the supplements recommended by your doctor! Dairy (if you’re a vegetarian), broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, soy milk, dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.), tofu.
- Iron: This mineral is responsible for producing more red blood cells in the blood and carrying oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, blood volume increases significantly to support the baby’s development and provide the necessary oxygen. Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or omnivore, taking an iron supplement helps maintain adequate levels and prevents anemia, low birth weight, or premature birth. Iron from plant sources is not absorbed as efficiently as from animal sources (especially red meat), so be sure to soak vegetables or legumes before cooking and combine them with foods high in vitamin C, as it aids iron absorption! Here are some iron-rich foods: beans, soy products, barley, split wheat, nuts, quinoa, spinach, kale, seaweed.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin is essential for developing and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Fortunately, the body synthesizes it easily when you’re exposed to direct sunlight (15 minutes daily recommended). However, skin color, lifestyle, and climate can sometimes limit the amount of sun exposure you get. Milk and fish are excellent sources of vitamin D. If you don’t consume these products, consult your doctor to prescribe a supplement. You can also opt for fortified wheat products like bread or cereals and accompany them with soy milk or enriched orange juice.
Being pregnant is entirely compatible with a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, as long as you get the right supplements, follow a balanced diet, take your prenatal vitamins every day, and attend your medical check-ups. Enjoy this exciting and wonderful stage!