During pregnancy, you need enough of certain vital nutrients to support both your needs and the needs of your growing baby. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will have to make some modifications to your diet to ensure enough of these important nutrients. Here are some tips...
by Patricia Hughes
During pregnancy, you need enough of certain vital nutrients to support both your needs and the needs of your growing baby. Iron, calcium and protein are three important nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet. With proper meal planning and including the right foods in your diet, you and your baby can get all the nutrients you need while sticking to a vegetarian or even a vegan diet.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will have to make some modifications to your diet to ensure enough of these important nutrients. Talk to your health care provider for advice on meal planning. You may find that some doctors are not knowledgeable about a vegan diet in pregnancy. A nutritionist is a good source of information for getting the nutrients you need in your diet.
Nutritional concerns are most concerning for vegan mothers. Protein is one concern. The baby needs protein for the development of various tissues in the body. Since vegans do not eat any animal products, such as cheese, milk and eggs, getting protein is a bit trickier.
It is still possible for a vegan mother to be to get sufficient protein for her baby. She just has to be more vigilant. If you are vegan and pregnant, be sure to include good sources of protein, such as soy products, grains and beans. Beans, lentils, tofu and soy milk should be included in your diet to address the need for protein.
Iron is a necessary nutrient for both you and your baby. During pregnancy, low iron levels are common, due to the increased blood volume. Iron deficiency anemia can result from a diet very low in iron. This condition affects all women, whether vegan, vegetarian and women who are not vegetarian at all.
Include foods rich in iron in your diet every day. Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, tofu and dried beans are all non meat sources of iron. Even with these efforts, additional iron may be needed. Your doctor may prescribe iron supplements to be sure you and baby are getting the iron you both need. Take your supplements with orange juice to increase absorption.
Calcium is another important nutrient that is often associated with dairy products. The baby needs calcium for the growth of his bones and teeth. Without enough calcium in the diet, the baby will take it from your bones. This increases your risk of osteoporosis later in life. Tooth loss during and after pregnancy can also result from very low levels of calcium in the diet.
Aim for about eight servings a day of foods rich in calcium. For vegetarian women, this is easy with dairy options such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Vegan mothers should include soy milk that is fortified with calcium, fortified orange juice, and vegetables that are rich in calcium such as turnip greens, collard greens and kale. Tofu contains varying levels of calcium, so read the labels carefully when shopping to get the most calcium possible.
Here are some additional resources on meal planning:
** Note the above information is only general guidelines. It is important to consult with your family physician before any dietary changes.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.
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