Pregnancy is an interesting and exciting time for a woman. Whether it is the first time or the fifth, she is likely to have a unique experience with each pregnancy.
Are you wondering what is best for you and your unborn child? A common concern among many women about pregnancy is diet and nutrition.
What to eat during pregnancy
Are you a vegan or a vegetarian? You may be thinking if continuing your plant-based diet is good for optimal health. Not to worry. You can still follow your environmentally conscious eating plan while you are expecting.
Here are some simple tips for getting the best nutrition out of a vegan or vegetarian diet to ensure that you and baby are getting what you need:
Nutrients you will need to focus on obtaining
While your baby develops their brain, muscle, and bone tissue, you will need to focus on obtaining adequate levels of protein, calcium, B12, vitamin D, and iron.
Below are some guidelines for amounts needed for proper fetal growth, as well as what foods to choose to optimize your intake.
This essential nutrient helps you stay strong to have sufficient building blocks of cells and critical hormones needed for fetal development.
If your vegetarian diet includes dairy and eggs, you’ll likely be getting adequate sources of protein from these foods. Not to worry, vegans! There are plenty of plant-based proteins you can incorporate into your diet during these formative stages to ensure proper growth for both of you.
Try these protein-rich foods for good measure:
- Green or split peas
- Black beans
- Whole wheat grains, cereals, and pasta
- Soy milk
- Nuts and nut butters
Calcium is a key player in the development of a baby’s bones and teeth. Other parts of the body needing calcium for growth include muscles, the heart, liver, and lungs.
Calcium is so critical for fetal growth that if you don’t eat adequate amounts of foods containing calcium, your baby could take from your bones to ensure proper growth. Your doctor may suggest a calcium supplement to get you through your pregnancy, in addition to incorporating the following foods into your regular regimen:
- Leafy greens
- Soy milk
- Calcium-fortified orange juice
Eat up for those strong bones, for you and for baby!
Low iron levels could lead to premature birth and low birth weight, so getting enough iron-rich foods in your diet is essential for overall good health. Focus on incorporating these delicious items into your meals:
- Edamame and beans
- Products containing soy
- Oat Bran
- Pumpkin seeds
- Leafy greens
- Dried fruit
Your iron rich blood will be in abundance as you “round out” a successful pregnancy.
4. Vitamin B12
The entire B family of vitamins is essential for good health. B12 is important for fetal brain development and proper hormone production. It is also an important building block of DNA. Many vegetarians and vegans are at risk of becoming deficient in Vitamin B12, so making a concerted effort to supplement and eat the right foods is essential for babies’ brain health.
Here are some you could try:
- B12 fortified soy milk
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified meat substitutes
When considering supplements, buy high quality, and take as directed. As always, consult your physicians before supplementing during pregnancy.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a starring role in the development of healthy teeth and bones. Severe vitamin D deficiencies have been traced to skeletal deformities and soft bones in newborns. Eating foods rich in Vitamin D and taking supplements are essential for helping your baby grow appropriately.
Consider the following additions to your healthy diet, such as:
- Fortified soy milk
- Certain types of bread
- Orange juice
Am I making the right choice by following a plant-based diet during pregnancy?
1. Ensuring that you are incorporating enough of the foods on these lists to meet daily vitamin and mineral requirements
2. Taking a quality prenatal vitamin each day
3. Continuing to visit your ob-gyn regularly and discuss your supplementation and diet habits, making adjustments when necessary
Keep your eye on the goal
By choosing the right foods and supplements, you’ll be well on your way to creating ideal conditions for a healthy pregnancy and a grand entrance for your little one into this world. Congratulations!