If you are expecting (congratulations!) or hoping to be pregnant, you may wonder if your decision to become vegetarian or vegan is healthy during your pregnancy. Here is the great news – It is, and will be 100% possible for you to obtain all the nutrients your body will need to grow a healthy baby.
A good vegetarian diet has a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, lentils, nuts, eggs, and dairy (or their vegan equivalent.) So, how much of this amazing food should you eat? Pregnant women only need approximately 300 more calories per day, and about 10-16 extra grams of protein, however, your body’s need for certain nutrients increases significantly. Try to make every bite matter when you’re pregnant. While the RDAs (recommended daily allowances) for almost all nutrients increase, especially important are folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12. If your vegan, vitamin B-12 is particularly important to monitor, because you will not be consuming dairy or egg products. Check out some super nutrient dense meat free dinners and breakfasts you can easily prepare, and my recipe for apple ginger punch to help ease your morning sickness (or all day sickness for some!)
Though your nutritional needs increase now that you’re pregnant, your pregnancy vegetarian diet shouldn’t have to change all that much. With some careful planning to ensure your caloric, vitamin, and mineral needs are met, you can still enjoy a rich variety of nutrient-dense delicious foods and help give your baby a nutritious jump-start.
Consider the following daily menu for ideas and inspiration
- 1/2 cup oatmeal with maple syrup
- 1 slice whole wheat toast with fruit spread
- 1 cup soy milk
- 1/2 cup calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice
- 1/2 whole wheat bagel with margarine
- Veggie burger on whole wheat bun with mustard and catsup
- 1 cup steamed collard greens
- Medium apple
- 1 cup soy milk
- 3/4 cup ready-to-eat cereal with 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1 cup soy milk
- 3/4 cup tofu stir-fried with 1 cup vegetables
- 1 cup brown rice
- Medium orange
- Whole grain crackers with 2 Tbsp peanut butter
- 4 ounces apple juice
If morning sickness is giving you fits during your pregnancy, try eating low fat, high carbohydrate nutrient-dense foods. These are digested more quickly and stay in the stomach for less time giving less time for queasiness. Remember to eat often. Sometimes nausea is really hunger in disguise.
Be sure to drink juice, water, or soy milk if you can’t eat solid food. Keep trying to eat whatever you can. If you’re unable to eat or drink the appropriate amounts of foods or fluids for 24 hours or more, get in touch with your healthcare provider.
I had a great OB, who respected my decision, and supported my vegetarian pregnancy. Keep the lines of communication open about how you are feeling, and what you are actually eating. I had terrible morning sickness, and it was so bad at one point, I lived off saltine crackers for nearly 2 weeks! You obviously want to ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients, and is growing and developing at a healthy rate. I ended up being prescribed an anti-nausea medication, which helped my appetite, and got me back on track with healthier foods. No matter what your diet, be sure to adequately supplement your diet with a quality vegetarian prenatal supplement, and get adequate amounts of exposure to sunlight to naturally produce vitamin D.
With mindful food choices, and planning on your part (and your healthcare professional’s guidance) being a vegetarian during your pregnancy can be one of the first gifts you give your baby.