A Vegetarian Pregnancy Diet | Natural Birth and Baby Care.com

A Vegetarian Pregnancy Diet

A lacto-ovo vegetarian pregnancy diet is similar to the basic prenatal nutrition plan. During pregnancy you should eat eggs, dairy products, and also fish and other seafoods (poultry too if you only want to avoid red meats).

Animals foods provide nutrients that are hard to get from plants. In addition, they enhance your ability to absorb the nutrients vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and legumes provide to you. If you're not vegetarian for religious reasons consider animal foods from pasture-raised animals as a source of high-quality nutrition for your baby. Gram for gram, animals foods pack many more vital nutrients than plant foods.

Protein is especially important to excellent prenatal nutrition. There are many ways for you to get protein in a vegetarian pregnancy diet. Milk and eggs are an abundant source. Beans, legumes, fish, and shellfish are also wonderful sources of protein. Soy is high in estrogens that aren't good for baby boys or baby girls, so use only small amounts of fermented soy (like tempeh).

Dairy

Have four dairy servings as a minimum every day. These can include milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, or other dairy products. You might prefer goat milk products. Choose raw milk (best) or non-homogenized milk pasteurized at traditional temperatures. This is often called “vat pasteurizing.” Avoid “ultra-pasteurized” foods like the plague – they are completely dead.

Dairy products give a lot of “nutritional bang for their buck.” You get a lot of vitamins and minerals as well as a good amount of protein. Protein is vital to a great vegetarian pregnancy diet. A serving of most dairy foods is around 8oz of protein, but if you enjoy cottage cheese or Greek yogurt you'll get a lot more protein in each serving!

I don't recommend you substitute soy milk for regular milk (cow, goat, sheep, or mare's milk). Again, soy has powerful hormones in it and studies are showing they have unfavorable effects on babies.

Eggs

Eggs are also little nutritional powerhouses. Add two in with four servings of dairy every day, they give you about half of the protein you need each day =D Eggs also have a lot of iron. Enjoy eggs with one of your vitamin C rich foods for even better iron absorption.

Protein Foods

You'll need six servings from this group. If you eat fish or poultry these satisfy this requirement. About 1oz is equal to one serving. You can also enjoy beans and nuts. Don't use imitation “meat-like” foods made of soy (like veggie burgers) to fill this requirement in your vegetarian pregnancy diet.

Whole grains are another source of protein as are some fresh veggies (such as spinach), but you'll need to eat more of them to equal one protein serving (you want about 8oz of protein per serving.) Be sure your grains are properly soaked and prepared for good digestion (such as with traditional sourdoughs).

Plant based proteins are not complete (with the exception of quinoa), and they need to be combined with another plant protein or a small amount of animal protein. Some people will advise that you plan out your protein combinations. You probably don't need to do this – it will occur naturally in a varied vegetarian pregnancy diet.

Your body is smart and will put together what it needs to. Additionally, many of our traditional meals already make combinations – Mexican beans and tortillas or Persian black-eyed peas and rice, for instance.

Whole Grains/Carbohydrates

Whole grains provide you with vitamins, minerals, and small amounts of protein. You get B vitamins from whole grains, which are essential for your body. You'll also get folic acid, an essential nutrient for your baby.

Wheat, oats, rice, corn, and other whole grains are all a good choice. You can enjoy them as breads, pastas (in moderation), breakfast porridge, cooked rice, or other tasty of whole grain dishes. Soaking or sprouting whole grains is important to improve digestability and free all nutrients for absorption.

Make fruits and vegetables part of your vegetarian pregnancy diet for carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals. Potatoes, berries, squashes, and other fruits often fill requirements. Raisins can also count as a serving (and gives you some iron).

Vitamin C foods

Have a couple of servings each day of a vitamin C rich food. A vegetarian pregnancy diet gives you an advantage; you're probably incorporating a lot of vitamin C rich foods into your meals already. Oranges and tomatoes are favorite vitamin C rich foods. You may also love cantaloupe and strawberries! Many fruits are rich in vitamin C. Try and enjoy one with your eggs every day to aid good iron absorption.

(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.) Ultimate Pregnancy Checklist Pack

Fats and Oils

You need good fats. They add flavor to foods and they help your body absorb essential nutrients from your other foods. Butter and olive oil are both very good fats to choose to flavor your foods. Having fats also helps your skin and gives you calories. You need calories for energy; otherwise your body will burn protein it needs for you and baby.

Have plenty of fats each day. They help you absorb and digest nutrients in your other foods. Healthy traditional peoples always had plenty of fats. Mayonnaise, salad dressings, a handful of nuts, sour cream, and chocolate all have fat in them. Coconut oil is a good choice for cooking as you prepare your vegetarian pregnancy diet.

Avoid “industrial fats” – the fats that have just been developed in the last century or so. Vegetable shortening, soy and corn oils, and other industrial fats are bad for your body. Traditional fats are nourishing and helpful to you.

Vitamin A foods

Vitamin A helps protect your body from infection. Have one serving each day. Your body will assimilate and produce the amount of vitamin A it needs from your food choice each day.

Cantaloupe, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes all have plenty of beta carotene. Deep yellow fruits and vegetables are often a good source. Sometimes your body may have trouble turning beta carotene into Vitamin A. Consider taking cod liver oil daily. Shellfish and chicken liver pates are also good sources of true vitamin A.

Salt

Salt to taste during pregnancy. Your blood volume will expand dramatically during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Salt helps your body retain this expanded blood volume. Drink plenty of water, salt to taste, and use the bathroom frequently. Getting plenty of protein and a complete balanced diet will help ensure your excellent health during pregnancy. Salt does not cause abnormal swelling during pregnancy – if you have abnormal amounts of swelling, contact a care provider.

Water

Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. This helps your body clear all the wastes that need to be cleared, it helps keep you regular, and it helps with your expanding blood volume.

Snacks

If you've eaten everything recommended for a vegetarian pregnancy diet and are still hungry choose nutritious snacks to satisfy your hunger. If you are carrying multiples, you will need to do more snacking because you'll need additional protein and nutrients. Snack with healthy foods and you'll find you grow a healthy baby!

Supplements

Most care providers feel that if you're eating an excellent diet then you don't need supplements. But you may still like the extra assurance of a good prenatal vitamin. It helps to assure that you get everything you need, and is especially good in the first trimester when your baby has so many critical periods of development.

You'll want to choose a vitamin that includes B12, and a vitamin that is whole-foods based. Also take supplement of essential fatty acids – I recommend cod liver oil. EFA's are being shown to be good for brain development as well overall development – they are a good addition to your vegetarian pregnancy diet.

As a vegetarian, you can consider a few other supplements to help keep your iron levels high (you can also consider these if you eat meat but are anemic.) One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses a day and one tablespoon of Brewer's yeast (not baking yeast) are good for helping your iron stores. Prune juice is very high in iron. Drink a cup a day if your iron levels need boosting. If you must take an iron supplement try an herbal iron liquid ideal for a vegetarian pregnancy diet – which may be more absorbable.

Closing thoughts

You can have a healthy baby with a vegetarian pregnancy diet – however, I strongly recommend again that you do consume some animal products. Most especially dairy, eggs, and seafoods. These foods will provide vital nutrients in a form your body absorbs well, and they'll enhance the absorption of the excellent plant-based foods you're getting. Healthy fats (butter and plant based such as coconut and olive oil) are also vital to helping you digest and absorb nutrients.

(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.) Ultimate Pregnancy Checklist Pack

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