Vegetarian foods

Vegetarians and vegans can eat a healthy diet in pregnancy as long as they follow certain rules.

  1. Establish the appropriate weight gain: There is no better indication of healthy pregnancy eating than healthy weight gain. During the first visit to the obstetrician, a generic weight gain chart should be established offering the vegetarian a guide to the right amount of weight they should be gaining along the way.
  2. Protein: Many people believe that vegetarians and vegans eat no protein. This is not the case. Instead of protein coming from animal sources, it comes from vegetable sources. When pregnant, it is ideal to add an extra 25 grams of protein to the daily diet. This can be achieved with 1 1/2 cups of soy milk which can also provide calcium and other healthy nutrients.
  3. Calcium: Pregnant women need at least 8 servings of calcium-rich foods every day. This can be difficult for the woman eating traditionally, let alone vegetarian. Again, calcium-fortified soy milk is a great option. The serving size is usually no more than 1/2 a cup so it is easy to add extra servings with a glass or two of soy milk. The milk will also play a double role by adding that protein.
  4. Vitamin D: Getting enough Vitamin D is all about going out in the sun. Most pregnant vegetarians can spend time outside every day and never worry about Vitamin D levels. Obstetricians usually do not prescribe Vitamin D supplementation because, with overdose, the result can be toxic.
  5. Iron: Many women both vegetarian and traditional suffer from low iron or anemia during pregnancy. There are plenty of foods allowed in a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle that are rich in iron including tofu, dried beans, and whole grain foods.
  6. Vitamin B12: While there is Vitamin B12 in many foods, supplementation is the best option for the pregnant vegetarian. These supplements come in liquid, sublingual and tablet form. There are also prenatal vitamins with added Vitamin B12. There is no known toxicity level for B12.
  7. Folate: Folate or Folic Acid can help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. Folate can be consumed by adding dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach to the diet. All prenatal vitamins will include folate.
  8. DHA: The perfect source for DHA is fatty fish. For the vegetarian, this is out of the question. DHA supplements created from algae can be found for the vegetarian.
  9. Iodine: All humans need iodine to live. If the majority of the foods consumed are salt-free or natural, adding just 3/4 of a teaspoon to the food over the course of the day will up that iodine level to healthy.
  10. Prenatal vitamins: Many of the foods eaten during the vegetarian diet are full of vitamins and healthy nutrients. When in doubt, a vegetarian prenatal vitamin should be taken.
  11. Eat often: Research has shown that eating your vitamins and nutrients means far better absorption than supplementing with vitamin pills. Also with certain elements being dumped from the body after the body uses all it needs (example: B vitamins), the pregnant vegetarian should eat multiple times a day.
  12. Plan meals ahead of time: No one has the time to sit around all day and fix vegetarian meal after meal. This is why it is important to know the numbers you need to hit and focus your meal planning on the best possible RDA outcome.