How to Eat Vegetarian When Pregnant

By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: April 9, 2020
How to Eat Vegetarian When Pregnant

As soon as you fall pregnant, people start advising you to: eat healthy, increase your protein intake and avoid certain foods. But if you are a meat eater, should you continue eating chicken and beef, or go vegetarian? And if you are vegetarian, should you start eating meat? There are several different perspectives on these questions.

In this oneHOWTO article, we will be discussing the pros and cons of going vegetarian during pregnancy, and how to eat vegetarian when pregnant.

You may also be interested in: When should I Go to the Doctor if I am Pregnant

Pros and Cons of Going Vegetarian During Pregnancy

Pros: Some argue that if you happen to eat raw or under-cooked meat during pregnancy, it can lead to infection which may be dangerous for the unborn child. In addition, some cultures believe that pregnant women should keep their thoughts clean and peaceful and do not support the killing and eating of animals. Some women, due to cholesterol concerns choose to eat vegetarian, at least during their pregnancy. Others find that a vegetarian diet generally helps them feel better. For more on vegetarianism, take a look at our article on How to Quit Eating Meat: Starting a Vegetarian Diet.

Cons: Medical professionals state that a pregnant woman needs to consume more proteins that normal, as her need for protein is higher. As we all know, meat is one of the best sources of protein. A vegetarian diet during pregnancy may deprive a woman and her womb of their needed protein content. However, this doesn’t mean that an otherwise vegetarian woman should start eating meat when pregnant. A pregnant woman following a vegetarian diet needs to compensate for the protein content she should have received from non-vegetarian food. In this case, consulting with a doctor or nutritionist will allow for the best diet for an individual.

How to Eat Vegetarian When Pregnant - Pros and Cons of Going Vegetarian During Pregnancy

A vegetarian diet for a pregnant woman

Contrary to the misconception, you can be vegetarian during pregnancy and still receive all the: minerals, vitamins, proteins and nutrients that you need. Furthermore, you don’t need to over-complicate your diet. According to experts, you can continue eating your favorite foods, as long as they are healthy. You simply need to ensure that you are eating a variety of healthy vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. Your vegetarian diet should be rich in the following nutrients:

  • Protein: Eat lots of protein rich foods several times a day, including: eggs, legumes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, soy foods and dairy products. Add white and black kidney beans, lentils, tofu cubes and chickpeas to salads. For snacks, eat handful of roasted chickpeas, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts or almonds. Spread almond or peanut butter on sliced apples or whole grain bread. Eat a hard-boiled egg once a day, or snack on cottage cheese or yoghurt.
  • Iron: Iron is one of the most important nutrients you need when pregnant. The best sources of iron include: whole grains, foods like pasta and bread, beans, legumes, tofu, soy-based foods, tempeh, leafy greens like kale, chard and spinach etc. Avoid drinking coffee or tea, as they contain polyphenols and tannins that make absorption of iron difficult. Instead, take in more of vitamin C like broccoli, tomato sauce and orange juice, as they help your body to absorb iron.
  • Zinc: Try to increase your zinc intake during pregnancy, as it is extremely important for the development of your fetus. The absorption of zinc is a little more difficult if you are following a vegetarian diet plan. Several foods that have iron are also rich in zinc, including whole grains, soy foods, beans, nuts, cereals, legumes etc. Other important zinc sources include cheese, wheat germ, seeds and nuts. Zinc is a part of most prenatal vitamins. You can enhance absorption of zinc by including seeds, beans, yeast-raised breads and sprouted grains in your diet. You may further increase zinc absorption by combining it with acidic ingredients like tomato sauce and lemon juice.
  • Folic acid: Also known as folate, folic acid it is helpful in preventing neural tube defects, especially during the first trimester. In fact, every woman who is in childbearing age should receive lots of folic acid on regular basis. It is naturally abundant in leafy greens and legumes. During pregnancy, you would need to take at least 600 μg of folate everyday.
  • Calcium: Take several servings of calcium rich foods everyday. Important sources of calcium include: yoghurt, milk, cheese, soy milk, breakfast cereals, fruit juice, white beans, almonds, sesame seeds etc. Some green vegetables are also rich in calcium, including broccoli, bok choy, napa cabbage, turnip greens, collards, kale, spinach, chard, beet greens etc.
  • Vitamin D: Cow’s milk, orange juice, plant milk and cereals are important sources of vitamin D. This vitamin is helpful in absorbing calcium into your body.
  • Vitamin B12: This vitamin is very important for the brain development of your unborn baby. Rich sources of vitamin b12 include breakfast cereals, soy, plant milk, nutritional yeast and others.
  • Iodine: This mineral is also significant for the development of your baby’s brain. Sources of iodine include cow’s milk, dried seaweed, iodized salt and yoghurt.
  • DHA: DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is important for the development of a baby’s brain and eyes. It is found in fish, algae and fish oil, but if you are following a vegetarian diet, ask your physician to prescribe you a supplement.
How to Eat Vegetarian When Pregnant - A vegetarian diet for a pregnant woman

How to follow a vegetarian diet while pregnant

Here are a few ideas that will help you with your vegetarian diet while pregnant:

  • Plant based foods are the most important parts of a vegetarian diet. They are also delicious, fresh and rich in minerals and vitamins.
  • Dairy products are also essential in a vegetarian diet, as they boost your consumption of vitamin D, calcium and protein. Dairy foods are also rich in vitamin B12 which is otherwise found only in fortified and animal foods.
  • Prepare napa cabbage which is includes tofu, making it rich in folate and protein.
  • Other vegetables rich in folate include spinach, cabbage and asparagus. A red lentil soup with spinach and lime is full of protein, folate and iron.
  • Fruit based desserts are tasty yet rich sources of nutrients.

Taking care of your health during pregnancy

Start following a healthy diet right from the time that you find out you are pregnant. The nutrients stored in your body will be helpful for supporting the growth and development of the fetus during the initial stages of your conception. Make sure that your weight gain also remains healthy and steady. Ideal weight gain during pregnancy would be 2-4 pounds in the 1st trimester, and then 1 pound per week during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. If you had a normal weight before pregnancy, then the overall weight you should gain during the pregnancy should be between 25-35 pounds. However, women that are pregnant with twins may gain 35-45 pounds of weight.

We recommend visiting your physician regularly and going for regular checkups, ultrasounds and tests. Stop consuming tobacco and alcohol altogether. Limit your caffeine intake to not more than 300 mg in a day. Regular exercise is good for the baby as well as for the mother. Your physician can recommend an appropriate exercise routine. Avoid intake of empty calories by way of sweets of highly processed foods. Do not take any medicines without recommendations from your doctor, even if it is for a common cold or headache.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Eat Vegetarian When Pregnant, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

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