Pregnant and a Vegetarian? Tips on What to Eat

Pregnant and a Vegetarian? Tips on What to Eat

Updated December 2020.

Don’t eat meat? No need to worry! You can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and baby while following a vegetarian diet. In fact, all pregnant women can benefit from eating more vegetables! Follow these guidelines to ensure you and your baby will receive adequate nutrition.

  • Iron: Regardless of what kind of diet you follow, many women become deficient in iron during pregnancy. Vegetarians need to pay extra close attention to consuming iron-rich foods, as plant sources of iron are not as easily absorbed as animal sources. Vegetarian sources of iron include cooked beans, iron-fortified cereals, blackstrap molasses, green leafy vegetables, lentils, tempeh, seeds, and dried fruit. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron so make sure to eat iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C such as oranges, strawberries, and kiwis. Pregnant women should aim for 27 mg of iron per day. This can be easily achieved by consuming at least three servings of iron-rich foods per day.
  • Calcium: Calcium is so important for your baby to build healthy bones and teeth. To prevent depletion of maternal stores, eat or drink at least four servings of calcium-rich foods every day to meet the recommended 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Foods rich in calcium are tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, fortified soymilk, and dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the body utilize calcium. Vitamin D is found in fortified milk products and eggs. The body makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes three times per week. If you live in a colder climate or do not eat eggs and milk products, you may want to consider taking a supplement.
  • Protein: The amino acids found in protein are the building blocks of your baby’s life! To keep up with the fast pace growth of your baby, protein needs increase from 46 grams per day during the first trimester to 71 grams per day during the second and third trimesters. High-quality vegetarian protein sources include cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, tofu, soy products, eggs, beans, nuts, and nut butter. Make sure to add protein to each meal and snack!
  • Folic acid: All women of childbearing age should make sure they are receiving adequate amounts of folic acid as it prevents neural tube defects. The recommended amount is 400 micrograms per day, however, during pregnancy, this recommendation increases to 600 micrograms per day. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, and fortified cereals are all a great source of folic acid.
  • Vitamin B12: Vegans may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement, as it is not found in plants. Vegetarians who include eggs and dairy products in their diet typically are not at risk of becoming deficient in vitamin B12.
  • DHA & EPA:  The omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are essential for the brain and eye development of your growing baby. DHA and EPA are mostly found in fish. However, this does not mean that vegetarians are unable to get enough DHA and EPA in their diet. The body converts the omega 3 fatty acid ALA found in vegetarian sources such as flax seeds and walnuts to DHA and EPA. Also, many foods such as fortified cereals and eggs are now enriched with DHA.

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