How Can Vegetarian Women Have a Healthy Pregnancy?
Pregnant women who are vegetarian feel concerned about the possible effects of their diet on the baby inside their tummy. However, there is no need to worry, because, with careful meal planning, both mother and baby will be all right.
Registered Dietitian Rachele Dependahl of Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in Beverly Hills, California assures that the pregnant mother and baby will have all the essential nutrients they need even with a vegetarian diet. As a pescatarian or a vegetarian who eats fish, Dependahl mentioned that she did not have any health issues during her own pregnancy.
The Pros of the Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy
Following a vegetarian diet offers several advantages to pregnant women:
The protein sources included in vegetarian diets are gentle on the kidneys.
A vegetarian diet can help avoid tooth decay, which is very common during pregnancy.
A vegetarian diet helps to lower the risk of obesity, constipation, heart disease, gallstone, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
A vegetarian diet helps pregnant women avoid junk foods and eat only nutritious foods.
The Cons of the Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy
The vegetarian diet is indeed a healthy option for pregnant women, however, it requires careful meal planning to ensure that all nutrient needs are satisfied.
Vegetarians who do not eat certain types of foods need to get the required nutrients from other sources, such as dietary supplements. For example, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, a vegetarian who eats dairy products and eggs, can have all her nutrient needs from her diet during pregnancy plus a multivitamin and mineral supplement. While a strict vegan needs to take more supplements including vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc, because she does not eat animal products.
Nutritional Guidelines for Pregnant Women
Whether vegetarian or not, women have the same nutritional guidelines during pregnancy. Pregnant women need to consume 200 to 300 calories more from food plus extra iron, folate, calcium, zinc, essential fatty acids like DHA, and protein.
Daily Food Plan
Here’s a daily food plan guide specifically designed for pregnant vegetarians:
- 6 to 11 servings of bread, rice, cereal and pasta
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables
- minimum of 4 servings of fruits
- 8 servings of milk and milk substitute. An example of a milk substitute is 1 cup of cooked kidney beans.
- 3 to 4 servings of beans and beans substitute
- 2 servings of omega-3 fatty acids or DHA. Some sources are flaxseed oil, tofu, walnuts, and omega-3 fortified eggs.
- Eat fats, sweets and junk foods sparingly.
Foods to Avoid
Pregnant women are also advised to avoid:
Unpasteurized milk and cheeses to avoid the risk of listeriosis
Raw vegetable sprouts and unpasteurized fresh fruit and vegetable juices
For the most part, it won’t be difficult at all for a vegetarian pregnant woman to keep this diet throughout her pregnancy, especially if she loves eating tofu, fruits and vegetables. However, it will take some conscious effort to make sure that all nutritional requirements are met for the sake of health of both the mom and the baby.
Photo credits: Nutrition in Pregnancy via Public Domain Images