Pregnancy is often a time to consider nutrition, whether you are a vegetarian or not. With baby’s best interest in mind, many women may be concerned about whether it is safe to continue their vegetarian lifestyle once they are expecting. The good news is that you can still receive all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that you and your baby need by consuming a variety of healthy vegetarian foods.
Contrary to popular misconception, you are not eating for two. The truth is that during the first trimester your caloric intake may largely remain unchanged, and in the second and third trimesters 200-300 calories a day is the average additional required. Put simply, that is roughly equivalent to an extra two slices of wholegrain bread and a hunk of cheese per day.
There are a few key things to keep in mind while observing a vegetarian diet during your pregnancy and first among them is your protein consumption. Adequate protein is essential for both mother and baby because it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, as well as helping breast and uterine tissue to grow. Proteins that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA are essential for proper development and function of cognitive activity, so it is especially important to consume enough during the last trimester of baby’s growth. You should get all you need of this important nutrient if your diet includes plenty of milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, soya products (tofu is particularly high in protein), and pulses (beans). Don’t forget that canned pulses may contain quite a lot of salt, so it would be wise to rinse them first; swelled ankles are no fun.
Calcium is an important mineral during pregnancy as it is crucial to the development of baby’s teeth and bones, in addition to helping regulate your own fluids. Try to consume at least four servings of calcium-rich foods every day, particularly in the latter stage of pregnancy. For vegetarians, these foods can include: milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, as well as fruits and vegetables like lemons, oranges, spring greens, broccoli, spinach and many more. Tofu can also be a good source, provided it is made using calcium sulphate.
In order to properly absorb calcium, the body needs vitamin D. This can be found in dairy products, soya milks and some cereals, but is also made by your body when you get a little sun. If you are considering supplements to meet your vitamin D needs, be sure to consult with your health care provider first, as too much of this vitamin can be harmful to your baby.
Pregnant women usually need to increase the amount of B12 they get during pregnancy. This vitamin is needed to make red blood cells and keep the nervous system healthy, as well as to process folic acid. To give some idea of how much is needed, a single egg should supply about 80% of your daily requirement. This is where our vegan friends can run into trouble as, unlike other nutrients, there are few non-dairy choices available. Fortified cereals and vitamin-enriched soya milks are acceptable, as is a yeast extract like Marmite. If concerned, speak to your physician or mid-wife about a supplement.
Pregnant vegetarians can usually continue to enjoy their customary diet, with just a little more attention paid to the nutrients mentioned here. It’s a great time in your life to revisit food choices and consider the kind of eating habits you’d like to model for your little one. Bon Appétit!
Disclaimer: Stephanie Warne Photography is not medically certified, you should consult your doctor if you would like to follow any of the advice in this article.