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The Pregnant Vegetarian: How to Make Sure You're Eating Right

by Katlyn Joy | September 17, 2012
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If you eat a meatless diet and are expecting a baby, you may be concerned that you are getting all the right nutrients and calories for your growing child. If you are vegan, your concerns may be even more pressing.

First, relax. You can eat healthy and vegetarian while pregnant. No health group or physician recommendations require meat, or even dairy products in order to achieve a healthy pregnancy. You are able to meet the needs of your baby while remaining true to your more demanding diet.

Don't let others press you into changing a diet that you are already established and comfortable with. If you eat vegetarian due to moral or health reasons, you need not amend your lifestyle in order to please others who insist you cannot be doing the baby good through your vegetarianism. If the naysayers are significant, such as the dad, or your parents, then get information to show them that it is perfectly fine to eat as a pregnant vegetarian.

Let your doctor know what your diet consists of and what it omits in order to cover any potential deficiencies. Remember, a lot of expectant moms take iron supplements or calcium pills to fill gaps in their diets, and most of those are not vegetarians. For instance, are you a vegan and eat nothing that is from an animal source, such as meat, dairy, eggs, poultry or cheese? Or are you a lactovegetarian, are someone who eats no animal meats or eggs, but will consume dairy products including milk?

Key Elements of the Pregnant Vegetarian Diet

- Don't worry over calories in the first trimester. However, in the last two trimesters you will need to aim for an additional 300 daily calories.

- Eat a variety of foods to insure a healthy diet. If you stick with a small amount of foods, no matter how healthy, you won't have a balanced diet that will guarantee cover all the nutritional bases.

- Look at your nutritional needs over the course of your daily diet, not meal by meal. You may slightly lack in protein during one meal, but make up for it later in the day. Evaluate the sum total of your intake at day's end.

Dietary Needs of the Pregnant Vegetarian

Iron: 3 servings or 27 mgs. daily. Get this from foods such as enriched grains, leafy green veggies, sweet potatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dried peas or beans, peanuts, raisins, prunes, soy products, pumpkin seeds, spinach and dried fruits. However, even with your best efforts, you'll likely be taking a prenatal vitamin containing iron, like most pregnant women.

Protein: 3 servings or 60 to 70 grams daily. Non-meat protein options include legumes such as chickpeas, kidney, pinto, navy or black beans, split or green peas, peanut butter, soybeans and peanuts. Whole grains are also good options.

Calcium: 1200 mgs. daily. For those who consume dairy products, milk, cheese, yogurt, should do the job. For others, green leafy vegetables, soy milk, black beans, almonds, sesame seeds, and calcium fortified juices are good sources. You may want a calcium supplement while pregnant.

Vitamin B-12: One serving a day. Milk, dairy, eggs, seafood, are good options if you eat those foods. If not look for B-12 fortified foods or a prenatal vitamin that covers those needs.

Folic acid: One serving a day. Dark green leafy veggies, beans and legumes, peanuts and whole grain breads and cereals.

Vitamin D: Milk supplies what you need, but for those who don't drink it, adequate sunshine can help. Also, a number of foods and juices are fortified with the vitamin, as well as prenatal vitamins and supplements.

Vitamin C: One serving daily. Citrus fruits are the best known sources, but others include strawberries, broccoli, green peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and mustard greens.


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