Vegetarian or Vegan During Pregnancy? Fit Pregnancy

Stick to Your Vegetarian (or Vegan!) Diet

How to have a healthy pregnancy—without meat.

colorful beans and legumes
Concerned about weight gain while expecting? Beans are a low-calorie source of essential protein.

Iron

This mineral, which helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the fetus, also protects you from anemia, a common problem during pregnancy. According to Blatner, pregnant vegetarians and vegans need as much as 50 milligrams of iron daily. Besides beans, other vegetarian iron sources include raisins, iron-fortified cereals, prune juice, blackstrap molasses and spinach. Also, switch to sprouted grains. “Sprouting decreases the compounds that make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron,” Blatner explains. To help your body absorb iron, eat vitamin-C rich foods, such as red peppers, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens and strawberries.

Vitamin B12

This vitamin, which is required for proper red blood cell formation and neurological function, is most abundant in animal products. Though there are a few nonmeat sources of B12 (fortified breakfast cereals, for example), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that both vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who eat eggs and dairy products) take B12 supplements to help them get the 2.6 micrograms daily needed during pregnancy.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Dairy products are chock-full of these baby bone-building nutrients, but vegans will have to turn elsewhere to get the 1,000 milli- grams of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D they need daily. “Vegans can eat dairy alternatives—like milk and yogurt made with soy and hemp—as well as orange juice,” says Lara Field, M.S., R.D., a pediatric dietitian at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and founder of Forming Early Eating Decisions (feed.com). “Read labels to make sure they’re fortified with calcium and vitamin D.” Seaweed, figs and collard greens are also good sources of calcium.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Cold-water oily fish, such as salmon, are the main sources of these healthy fats, which enhance fetal brain and nervous system development. Good plant sources include algae, canola and flaxseed oils, walnuts and leafy green vegetables. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for pregnant women is 1.4 grams daily, but up to 3 grams of fish oil daily is probably safe. Supplements are also safe during pregnancy.

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