A Vegetarian Pregnancy

Even if you don't eat meat, you can get all the nutrients you need with our five-day meal plan and delicious recipes.

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Many women eat a diet that contains no meat or fish for a variety of reasons. They may be concerned about cholesterol or opposed to the killing of animals for food. Or perhaps they’ve just found that they feel better when they don’t eat meat.

Now that you’re pregnant, you may be wondering if being (or becoming) a vegetarian or even limiting your meat intake at this time of your life is OK. The answer is a resounding yes.

You can be a vegetarian while pregnant and still get all the protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need. Furthermore, your diet doesn’t have to be terribly complicated; just make sure that you eat a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Our five-day meal plan will help you do just that.

Plant foods take center stage in this meal plan, making it fresh and delicious and ensuring an abundant supply of every essential vitamin and mineral needed to fuel you and your growing baby. Dairy products are also included, which help boost your intake of protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Dairy foods also add vitamin B12, which comes only from animal or fortified foods. (To be on the safe side, you should also take a prenatal vitamin that contains 100 percent of the vitamin B12 and iron you need.) Still, you may want to eat some meat or serve it to your family. To that end, we’ve included add-ins for many of our recipes.

Many of the recipes featured here come from traditional dishes in which the fish, chicken or meat play a secondary role. Take the recipe for Chickpea, Potato and Tomato Stew with Chard. Firm-fleshed white fish usually is part of this dish, but even without it, the stew is hearty and full of protein, folate, iron and fiber; the chard adds a hefty dose of vitamin A and iron. The Napa Cabbage Salad recipe combines tofu, which has lots of protein, with folate-rich vegetables such as asparagus and spinach, and cabbage, which is packed with vitamin C. The Red Lentil Soup with Lime and Spinach is not only full of protein, it’s also a folate-and-iron powerhouse because of the lentils and spinach.

Fruit-based desserts can also be fun sources of nutrients. Rhubarb—in the Baked Rhubarb with Berries and Candied Ginger—is surprisingly rich in calcium, and combining it with berries means a big boost of vitamin C.

Nutrition Basics Follow these guidelines during your pregnancy to ensure that you and your baby get the proper nutrition:

Weight Gain: Women of normal weight should gain 25–35 pounds during pregnancy (28–40 pounds if you’re underweight and 15–25 pounds if you’re overweight; check with your doctor or midwife).

Calorie Counts: Add about 300 calories a day to your diet during your second and third trimesters.

What to Avoid: To reduce the risk of illness from the listeria bacterium, steer clear of uncooked, unpasteurized cheeses such as feta, brie, Camembert, and blue-veined or Mexican-style cheeses. Never eat raw or undercooked animal foods such as meat, sushi, seafood or eggs; avoid fish that may contain excessive mercury (swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish); and limit shellfish and canned fish to 12 ounces a week. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and medications that have not been approved by your doctor.

Vitamins: Take a daily supplement, as recommended by your physician, that supplies 100 to 150 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake for all vitamins and minerals. Consider calcium supplements if you can’t make the quota of 1,000 milligrams a day.

Daily Dose: Focus on including these nutrients in your diet every day:

  • Calcium: 1,000 milligrams
  • Folate: 600 micrograms (400 micrograms folic acid from supplements, plus 200 micrograms from foods that contain folate)
  • Iron: 27 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 350 milligrams for women ages 19–30; 360 milligrams for women ages 31–50
  • Phosphorus: 700 milligrams
  • Protein:60 grams
  • Selenium: 60 micrograms
  • Vitamin A: 770 micrograms RAE (retinol activity equivalents)
  • Vitamin B6: 1.9 milligrams
  • Vitamin B12: 2.6 micrograms
  • Vitamin C: 85 milligrams
  • Vitamin D: 5 micrograms
  • Vitamin K: 90 micrograms
  • Zinc: 11 milligrams
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