Healthy diet and pregnancy
Whether you already follow a plant-based diet and are starting your journey to parenthood or you’re interested in going plant-strong for pregnancy health, it’s important to make sure that you’re doing it right. During pregnancy your need for nutrients increases. You will require more calcium, more protein, and more folic acid, although your calorie needs increase only modestly. It is important to have a healthy diet during pregnancy, but not high in fat or sugar or excessive in calories.
Is It Safe?
Just like anything else in life, there are more and less healthful ways to be vegan, just as there are more and less healthful ways to eat a diet that includes meat or fish. Doctors recommend not starting a meat-free diet for pregnancy, but if you are already accustomed to a vegan or vegetarian diet, it can be just as healthy and easy as any other.
The key, of course, is to make sure you are getting the appropriate amount of nutrients — whether you are vegan or not. Well-meaning friends and family will try to tell you otherwise, but the truth is that you can easily get huge amounts of baby-boosting protein, iron and calcium from your plant-strong choices.
What nutrients will I need?
To make certain that you are getting adequate nutrition, pay particular attention to these nutrients:
Calcium: All of the food groups include foods that are rich in calcium. You’ll need plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet. These include tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, kale, broccoli, beans, figs, sunflower seeds, tahini, almond butter, calcium-fortified nut milks, and calcium-fortified cereals and juices.
Vitamin D: The normal source of vitamin D is sunlight. You’ll want to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight on your hands and face two to three times weekly. If you do not get regular sunlight, vitamin D is also available in multiple vitamins and in fortified foods. Many brands of ready-to-eat cereals and nut milks are fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is not found in most plant foods. To get enough of this important nutrient, be certain to include vitamin B12-fortified foods in your daily routine. These foods include many breakfast cereals, Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast, and some brands of nut milk, Be certain to check the ingredient label for cyanocobalamin, the most absorbable form of vitamin B12. Seaweed and products like tempeh are generally not reliable sources of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is also in all standard multivitamins and in vegetarian supplements
Iron: Your blood volume increases by almost 50% during pregnancy to support mama and growing baby — and iron is required to produce more red blood cells. Iron is hugely abundant in plant-based diets. Beans, dark green vegetables, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, nuts and seeds, and whole grain or fortified breads and cereals all contain plenty of iron. However, women in the second half of pregnancy sometimes need to take a supplement regardless of the type of diet they follow. Your healthcare provider will discuss iron supplements with you.
A Word about Protein: The amino acids in protein are busy building your baby’s beautiful face and every single cell below it! Your baby’s brain, especially, needs protein to transform itself into the wondrous, amazing child who will be the light of your life.
During pregnancy, you need three servings of protein every day (the equivalent of about 75 grams). You can easily reach this goal on a plant-strong diet, as long as you are consuming ample amounts of protein-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.
Plant-strong Pregnancy Benefits
- A varied plant-based diet usually features a large number of fruits and vegetables, which so many people struggle to include in their diets. This means the baby will have a good supply of vitamins.
- A study of vegans for a few decades concluded that their pregnancies had a lower rate of cesaerian sections and preeclampsia.
- Whole food plant-based diets are less likely to cause a lot of pregnancy weight, which reduces complication risks and might have an effect on rates of gestational diabetes, though doctors still aren’t sure of the main risk factors of it.
- The foods that are not recommended for pregnant women, i.e. cold cuts, sushi and certain cheeses, are already not part of a vegan diet, so that lowers a risk of food poisoning considerably.
Sample Pregnancy Meal Plan
Medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Dietetic Association (ADA), all support a vegan pregnancy— as long as it’s well-planned. Pregnancy is a time to make sure you’re getting enough food, so don’t worry about following a strict eating plan as long as you’re within your diet and getting your nutrients in.
Use this chart below for some examples of what you want to eat on a daily basis:
|Whole Grains, Breads, Cereals
9 or more servings
Serving = 1 slice of sprouted grain or whole grain bread,
1/2 cup cooked whole grain cereal, brown rice, or pasta,
3/4–1 cup ready-to-eat cereal
4 or more servings
Serving = 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables
Choose at least one dark green vegetable daily. You can steam, sauté, roast, or mix into salads for lots of variety.
4 or more servings
Serving = 1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw,
Just watch the fruit sugars, and make sure you are eating organic, especially for the ones on the dirty dozen list.
|Legumes, Nut Milks
Serving = 1/2 cup cooked beans, tofu, or tempeh;
8 ounces fortified nondairy nut milk;
|Nuts and Seeds
Serving = 2 tablespoons nuts or seeds,
2 tablespoons nut butter, 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds
Being pregnant is a beautiful, transformational time in your life. Being plant-strong is a healthy way to support your body and mind. Having a healthy diet during pregnancy is a deliciously delightful way to bring a beautiful, healthy baby into the world…!