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Healthy Foods for Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian Women

All pregnant women need to eat a well balanced diet during pregnancy, and pregnant vegan or vegetarian women are no exception. These nutrition tips are specifically for pregnant vegan and vegetarian women, to help ensure they’re getting the necessary nutrition.

Healthy Foods for Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian WomenFor easy-to-prepare dishes that are packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, read get The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook: Whole Foods to Nourish Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women – And Their Families by Cathe Olson offers up-to-date nutritional information with recommended dietary intakes, complete guide to ingredients, suggested shopping list, and tips for saving time and minimizing work in the kitchen. This book is a comprehensive eating guide for vegetarian mothers, and for non-vegetarians who want to include more whole foods in their diets.

Vegetarians are of two types: vegan vegetarian and lacto-ovo vegetarians. Vegans avoid all animal and dairy products – this includes eggs, meat, fish and poultry. Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid meat, fish and poultry, but consume eggs and dairy products, including milk and cheese. If you’re a pregnant vegetarian or vegan who knows she’s not getting enough iron, read How Much Folic Acid to Take During Pregnancy.

This article was written by freelance writer and blogger, Vidya Sury.

Eating Tips for Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian Women

by Vidya Sury

When you’re a pregnant mom-to-be, your body needs extra calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals to make sure your baby is growing and to handle the changes your body goes through.

For specific vegetarian and vegan recipes, read The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook: Whole Foods To Nourish Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women.

Here’s what specific nutrients do for pregnant women and their babies:

  • Protein helps the placenta function, and is critical for baby’s growth and brain health
  • Calcium/Vitamin D  promotes bone and teeth health and development
  • Zinc for growth and development.
  • Iron prevents anemia ,  increases maternal blood volume and helps form the baby’s blood.
  • Vitamin B12   helps tissue and cell production and later in breast feeding
  • Folate prevents Spina Bifida and other neural tube defects in the fetus.

For vegetarian pregnant women, however, the biggest concern is not getting adequate protein (which is abundant in meat)and Vitamin B12 which is found in animal products. But vegans and vegetarians don’t have to worry — they can choose foods that contain these nutrients.

Another great way to ensure you’re eating right is to follow this Fertility Diet – 5 Delicious, Vitamin Rich Foods for Fertility.

The Healthiest Foods for Vegan and Vegetarian Moms-to-Be

Vegans face the risk of deficiencies, and need to get enough calories so to gain the right amount of weight and eat enough protein. They also need to look at alternative sources of vitamin D, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and calcium.

Quick Food Tips for Pregnant Vegans and Vegetarians

Healthy Foods for Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian Women

Healthy Foods for Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian Women

  • Ideally, the vegan diet must include 7 servings of vegetables, 3 servings of fruits, 6 to 10 servings of whole grains, 4 servings of cooked beans, nuts, seeds and peas, 4 servings of calcium rich foods and a a vitamin B12 source.
  • To ensure baby’s bones and tissues are strong, pregnant vegans can get extra protein from foods such as beans, peas, lentils, peanut butter and brown rice.
  • Calcium could be a problem for vegans; talk to your doc about calcium supplements and fortified juices, cereals and soya. Since your baby needs to get the necessary calcium from your diet, add more calcium-rich kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, broccoli, and tofu enriched with calcium to your diet.
  • Increase your iron level with plenty of beans, legumes and green leafy vegetables.
  • Eat root vegetables for essential trace minerals such as iodine, magnesium and copper.
  • Many vegans tend to be slim at the beginning of their pregnancy and gain weight rather slowly. Does that sound like you? Eat more and eat often. You can get the extra calories through soy milk shakes. You can also consider rich sources of calories like nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, soy products and bean dips.
  • You can get Vitamin B12 from some brands of nutritional yeast and soy milk and cereals fortified with B12. Your doctor can prescribe the right prenatal vitamin to ensure you get your quota of B12.
  • Luckily, vegan diets are rich in folate which is critical in the first trimester. Get more folate from dark leafy greens, orange juice and whole grains.

For more tips for vegan and vegetarian pregnant women, read 10 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy From a Nurse Midwife.

Basic tips for pregnant vegan, vegetarian, and lacto-ovo vegetarians

  • All pregnant women need iron-rich foods. Vegetarians can get this from green leafy vegetables, dried beans, legumes and dried fruits. For better iron absorption, eat lots of citrus fruits such as oranges, rich in vitamin C in your daily diet. Use a cast iron skillet for cooking to get more iron.
  • Try and cut down on coffee, tea, cola and other caffeine rich beverages as they reduce your body’s ability to absorb iron.
  • If you need a calcium supplement, check the label for calcium carbonate as this is the form that your body absorbs easily. Not sure how to check? Dunk the supplement in a cup of vinegar. If it does not dissolve after ten minutes, you need another brand.
  • Since it may not be possible to get adequate Vitamin D from your diet, talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplements.

These nutrition tips are meant to make you aware of your choices.  Talk to your doctor to determine your specific nutrition needs and for advice on nutritional supplements.

If diabetes is a concern, read Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy – How to Reduce Your Risk.

Your comments about these foods for pregnant vegans and vegetarians are welcome, but we can’t offer health or medical advice. How’s your vegan/vegetarian diet going?

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Vidya Sury is a full-time professional freelance content writer/Mom/blogger. She blogs at Your Medical Guide and Going A-Musing. She tweets as @vidyasury, and welcomes writing assignments at vidzworld@gmail.com.

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10 thoughts on “Healthy Foods for Pregnant Vegan or Vegetarian Women”

  1. Hi Dee! You are right. During pregnancy, like Folic Acid, Choline helps protect a newborn against neural tube defects. Good sources of Choline are eggs, meat and fish, and some whole grain cereals. During pregnancy, 450 mg/day is recommended and during lactation, 550 mg/day.

    Choline is not found in most varieties of prenatal vitamins (or regular multivitamins), and this makes it necessary to consume choline-rich foods to meet the high pre- and postnatal demands for choline. You may like to refer to this:

    Most doctors emphasize the need for a nutritious diet during pregnancy.

    Some sources of choline for vegans are:
    1/2 cup spinach: 240 mg
    1 medium potato: 105 mg
    1 cup cooked navy beans: 81 mg
    1/2 cup cooked soybeans: 41 mg
    1/2 cup cooked lima beans: 30 mg
    2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ: 26 mg
    1/ 2 cup cauliflower, raw or cooked: 24 mg
    1/2 cup cooked spinach: 23 mg
    1/4 cup pistachios: 20 mg
    1/4 cup cashews: 21 mg

    Hope this helps. Take care.

  2. As a pregnant vegan, I am disappointed that I didn’t read any mention of the nutrient choline until my second semester. Everyone knows about folate’s role in preventing spina bifida, but it seems like research is starting to find that choline deficiency also raises risks significantly (although the overall risk is still very small).

    For lacto-ovo vegetarians, this seems to be abundant through eggs and milk. Vegans can EASILY supplement (or make a seriously dedicated nutritional effort)– and I would have if any of the literature or health professionals I consulted had mentioned this to me.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

  3. This is a good article. I’m a vegetarian, and often wonder if I’m getting enough nutrients. I hope to have a baby one day.

  4. Maija ~ thanks for your comments!

    Vidya ~ thank you for re-researching and updating this article.

    Pregnant vegans and vegetarians need to stay connected with their doctors (as all moms to be need to do!), to make sure they’re getting the right nutrition for their babies. Information like this is valuable, but it’s important to get specific info from your doc, as he or she knows your health and body.

  5. Thank you for your valuable input, Maija. Your comments will help me research the specific points you raised and make a few changes to the post. Thanks again, for helping me learn.

  6. Really, people who haven’t spent years studying nutrition shouldn’t write about it. :-/ This is nothing but the usual “propaganda” flat-out repeated with numerous inaccuracies, omissions and misleading parts, which clearly show the writer just doesn’t know anything about this topic. Embarrassing.

    You cannot get enough vitamin D from your diet even if you are an omnivore and every pregnant women needs a vitamin D supplement! “Calcium used to be a problem for vegans, but not anymore.” Err, what? That old nonsense that you cannot get enough calcium without dairy products or fortified foods (just like all the people in Asia show us)? “Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid meat, fish and poultry, but consume dairy products, including milk, cheese and eggs.” Hint: eggs are not dairy products. As for folic acid, you can’t even get it from food (folic acid and folate are not fully synonymous).

    Vegans have an easier time getting enough iron than meat-eaters since they are not eating dairy products to hinder the iron absorption and vegans frequently have a much higher hemoglobin than omnivores. It’s the people who for some unknown reason decide to eat dairy who may have problems absorbing enough.

    Pregnant women really shouldn’t be eating antinutrients like dairy. (Not that you need grains or fruit either, but they aren’t as harmful.)