Vegetarians might not eat meat and/or meat products, but in many cases they actually consume a healthier diet than many meat eating pregnant women.
However, they do need more of certain vitamins and minerals than others do and in addition must take a high quality prenatal vitamin. Certain precautions are necessary to avoid possible anemia that is caused by various factors.
A varied and balanced diet during a vegetarian pregnancy is important in order to provide enough nutrients for both the baby and the mother. It is important to get enough supplements such as:
- vitamin B12
- vitamin D
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
- omega 3 fatty acids
- vitamin C
- whole grains
Iron: You need 27 mg per day or 3 servings of iron each day during pregnancy. Good sources of iron are:
- dark green vegetables
- fortified breakfast cereals
- dried fruit (apricots)
- soy products
- pumpkin seeds
- barley oat bran.
Recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin B12 is 2.6 mcg per day during pregnancy. Good sources are:
- breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12 (choose a low sugar option if possible)
- unsweetened soy drinks fortified with vitamin B12
- yeast extract (marmite)
- milk and hard cheeses
Vitamin D: You need 200 IU per day while pregnant. You can get a lot of vitamin D from sunlight and from eggs. It must be taken daily throughout any pregnancy, but especially a vegetarian pregnancy, to ensure enough Vitamin D for the unborn baby.
Calcium: Pregnant women need 1000 – 1300 mg per day, or 4 servings, of calcium. Sources of calcium:
- dairy foods
- dark green leafy vegetables
- unsweetened fortified soy, oat drinks, and rice
- white bread and brown bread
- calcium set tofu
- sesame seeds and Tahini
- dried fruit
- collard greens
- fortified juice
Protein is very important during pregnancy, and you need 70+ grams per day - especially during the third trimester of pregnancy (week 28 to birth) 70+ grams of protein is equivalent to 3 or more servings and includes the following products:
- DHA enriched eggs
- soy pasta
- peanut butter
Folate: Folate is needed in early pregnancy even before women know they are pregnant. It is needed for normal neural tube development and to protect against spina bifida and other complications. You need 600 mcg/day and it can be found in the following products:
- enriched bread
- cold cereal
- dried beans
- orange juice
- green leafy vegetables
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid): DHA is a type of fat that is mainly found in fatty fish and certain nuts and is important in the development of the brain and retina of the unborn baby. You need 450 mg per day of DHA, which can be found in products such as:
- flaxseed/flaxseed oil
- canola oil
Iodine: Pregnant vegetarians and vegans should use iodized salt or take a prenatal vitamin containing 150 micrograms of iodine daily.
Omega 3 Fatty acids: Pregnant women need 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily. They can get this from these sources:
- canola oil
- flaxseed oil
- leafy green vegetables
Vitamin C: Pregnant women need 85 mg of Vitamin C each day, which is actually pretty easy to get! Some of your favorite foods are probably high in Vitamin C, including the following:
Fats: 10% of your daily calories should come from fats, with unsaturated fats being the best choice. These are good sources:
- peanut butter
- pumpkin seeds
Whole grains and legumes: You should be getting 6 or more servings daily, unless you have a gluten or wheat sensitivity, in which breads and pastas should be avoided. Sources of whole grains and legumes include the following:
- brown rice
- wild rice
- whole grain bread and cereal
- whole wheat pasta
- wheat germ
Fluids are very important during pregnancy! 8+ servings of 8 ounces is the minimum that you should consume each day.
Those are the most important vitamins and minerals that women with a vegetarian pregnancy should be aware of, however, every woman decides herself what and how to eat during her pregnancy. Every plant based food and every animal based food has its pros and cons.
It is important to emphasize that doctors have not proven that eating meat is harmful in general, but only its daily excess consumption. Perhaps, the most sensible vegetarian menu for a pregnant woman is plant based foods, with the consumption of dairy products and eggs. An expectant mother should be sure to tell her gynecologist about vegetarianism and together with a nutritionist they could help her to create the right diet for all nine months of pregnancy.
About the author: Susy Richards is the lovely mother of 3 girls (3, 4, and 5 ) and a simple woman who is ready to share her priceless experience with other mommies around the world. She is an Advanced Practice Provider who passed birth doula and postpartum doula courses at Childbirth International in 2013. She is passionate about providing holistic care and is involved in pregnancy research. Susy is a fresh mommy blogger and currently publishes her articles concerning pregnancy at www.rocketparents.com.