If you're a vegetarian, don't be surprised (or alarmed) if you start to crave meat during pregnancy, Somer says. "Rather than fight your craving, roll with it and make healthy choices." Though meat is not essential for mom or baby, lean meats are a convenient way to meet your increased requirements for protein, iron and zinc. Both beef and pork also contain valuable B vitamins, including B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin. "The beauty of meat is that it delivers many nutrients in a small package," Galeaz says. For example, 3 ounces of skinless chicken breast contains about 25 grams of protein, compared to 15 grams in one cup of black beans and 8 grams in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
Maximize your iron intake
The iron in meat is more readily absorbed and utilized in your body than the iron in vegetables and legumes (peas and beans)—30 percent versus only about five to 10 percent, according to Somer. Zinc, a mineral that is critical for preventing birth defects and premature delivery, is likewise better absorbed from meat and seafood than from legumes, nuts and whole grains.
If you start eating red meat, choose lean cuts, typically anything that's labeled "round" or "loin," such as eye of round, top round, sirloin, tenderloin, and lean ground sirloin or ground round.
Small portions of meat, such as cubes of chicken breast in your salads or strips of marinated beef for your fajitas, will satisfy your cravings and your mineral needs while keeping calories and saturated fat under control.
Whether you end up adding meat to your diet or subtracting half the meatballs from your spaghetti, consider the changes another adventure in pregnancy. Maybe those changes will even stick.
Tips For A Safe Vegetarian Or Vegan Pregnancy
Vegetarian or vegan pregnancies can be just as healthful for mom and baby; simply pay extra attention to your intake of the following important nutrients:
Calcium and vitamin D If you don't eat dairy foods, rely on calcium- and vitamin D-fortified soymilk, orange juice and tofu.
Iron To boost absorption of the iron in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, combine iron-rich foods (lentils, soybeans, spinach and tofu are the best) with foods high in vitamin C, such as bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Also talk to your doctor about taking an iron supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3s are important for cardiovascular health and fetal brain and eye development. Many experts recommend that pregnant vegans take a DHA supplement made from microalgae.
Protein Legumes and first-generation soy products such as tofu and tempeh will help you get your extra 20 grams to 25 grams of protein per day.
Vitamin B12 Prenatal vitamins and fortified foods such as soymilk, meat substitutes, energy bars and breakfast cereals are the only reliable vegan sources of vitamin B12.
The Flexitarian Meal Plan
• Chinese Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin
• Chipotle Beef Burgers
• Salmon and Portobello Mushroom Frittata
• Smart Snacks