What To Eat and How To Manage as a Pregnant Vegetarian: A Guide

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vegetarian pregnancy

If you have been a vegetarian before becoming pregnant, there is no reason that you can’t continue this lifestyle while pregnant.  Many people believe that a vegetarian diet is healthier than a diet with meat products. Rest assured that you can be a pregnant vegetarian and still get all of the protein, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need.  I’m going to go over some tips for being a healthy vegetarian through your pregnancy in today’s article.

What is a Vegetarian?

vegetarian pregnancy

First, let’s define what a vegetarian is before we go any further.  A vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, and many times does not eat other animals products.  The reasons sometimes include moral, religious, or health reasons.  A vegan is a person who does not eat any animal products at all including meat, milk, eggs, and fish.

Foods That You And Your Baby Need

Nuts and Seeds

Make sure to take in 1-2 servings of nuts or seeds per day.  You may also want to take a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ.

Vegetables

With a name like “vegetarian” you already know that vegetables play a big part in your plant-based diet.  Strive for 4 or more servings of cooked or uncooked vegetables every day.  Make sure that one of those servings are from a dark green vegetable.

Fruits

Strive for 4 or more servings of fruit a day.  Try to eat a variety of different fruits.  One easy tip is to go for different colors of fruit.  For example, eat an orange, a pomegranate, cherries, etc.  By eating different colors of fruit, you will be getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

vegetarian pregnancy

Whole Grains, Bread, and Cereals

Eat at least nine servings from this food group every day.  Examples include whole grain bread, bagels, cereal, pasta, and rice.

Soy Products, Non-dairy Milk, and Legumes

5-6 servings a day in this category will keep you on a healthy track as your baby grows.  Examples include beans, tofu, and soymilk.

Important Nutrients

Nutrients are going to be especially important to ingest while pregnant.  Many will help your baby to develop correctly while avoiding common birth defects.  Make sure to also talk to your doctor about taking a prenatal vitamin that includes the following and also other important nutrients:

Folate

Also known as folic acid, folate is necessary for helping to prevent neural tube defects.  Folate is especially important in the first few weeks of pregnancy.  That is why it is important to take in folate before becoming pregnant so that you are not deficient in this nutrient should you become pregnant.  Folate is found in leafy greens and legumes.

Calcium

The amount of calcium that you will need while pregnant is the same recommended amount as before you became pregnant.  Women should take in 1,000 mg a day from ages 19 to 50.  Vegetarians should have no problem getting in enough calcium if they calcium-rich foods.  The following food choices are high in Calcium:

  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • tahini
  • non-dairy milk
  • calcium-fortified juices
  • sunflower butter
  • almonds
  • figs
  • beans

vegetarian pregnancy

Iron

Blood formation relies heavily on iron.  Iron needs increase greatly during pregnancy because of the growing blood volume in your body.  The development of your baby and placenta will include a lot of blood volume.  Because a vegetarian will not be taking in iron from meat, the iron needs may be higher than for a meat eater.  This is because iron is less efficiently absorbed from non-animal sources.

In addition to taking a prenatal vitamin with iron, strive to eat foods such as whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, and blackstrap molasses.  Also, include vitamin C-rich foods when taking in iron because it will help the iron to absorb.  Avoid tea, coffee, or calcium-rich foods when taking in iron because it will decrease the absorption.

Vitamin B12

Your need for Vitamin B12 will increase during pregnancy.  Eat foods that are fortified with B12, such as fortified cereals, meat substitutes, non-dairy milk, and nutritional yeast.  Because B12 is found in meat, and not as much so in a vegetarian diet, you should take a B12 supplement while pregnant.

Proteins

One of the greatest misconceptions about a vegetarian diet is that somehow it will be hard to take in enough protein.  This simply is not true.  Eat protein-rich plant-based foods such as beans, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.  You may also want to add in a nutritional protein shake while pregnant.  Talk to your doctor about drinking a once a day protein shake while pregnant.

Final Thoughts

Being a vegetarian while pregnant can be healthy for both you and your baby.  Just make sure to be careful that you are taking in healthful foods and taking your prenatal vitamins. If you make all of your food choices healthy including the ones that I listed here, while cutting out junk foods, the chances are good that you will be eating healthier than many meat-eating pregnant women. Good luck! Let us know your favorite vegetarian treat to eat while pregnant in the comments below!

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Mariann Foster is one of our content writers here at OurStart. Mariann is a certified reading specialist who enjoys homeschooling her daughter and taking care of her alpacas in her spare time. She lives in Wyoming on an alpaca farm with her daughter and their various collection of big and small animals. Being a mother is her greatest gift, so she hopes she can help to encourage other moms through her writing.

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