What Should a Vegetarian Eat During Pregnancy?
A healthy diet and good nutrition are essential elements of a healthy pregnancy and some people may worry that being vegetarian may act as a hindrance. Luckily that’s far from the case and, as long as you eat a healthy balanced diet just like any one else, both you and your baby should be fine. Here’s a guide to the essential nutrients needed for you and your baby.
IronIt’s common for pregnant women to become deficient in iron, even if you’re usually fine. This is because iron helps the red blood cells transport oxygen around the body and, when you’re pregnant, there are extra demands from the unborn baby and placenta. Iron levels often get depleted, which can lead to anaemia, so it’s important to eat lots of iron-rich foods. As you won’t be able to eat meat, alternative vegetarian sources to include in your diet include:
- Leafy dark green vegetables such as spinach, watercress, kale and broccoli.
- Brazil nuts and almonds.
- Wholegrains, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and breakfast cereals.
- Dried fruit.
- Pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans.
ProteinProtein is essential for both you and your growing baby. It’s good to eat dairy products rich in protein, such as cheese and eggs, but it’s not advisable to rely merely on these types of foods for all your protein needs. Instead, make the most of other vegetarian staples, such as beans, peas, lentils and wholegrains, and vary your diet. This will ensure you get a good balance of protein from a range of sources, plus they have the added bonus of being packed with iron, fibre and B vitamins too.
Calcium and Vitamin DDuring pregnancy the amount of calcium absorbed from food increases, so it’s advisable to include plenty of calcium in your daily diet. Good sources include:
- 300ml of milk a day.
- Yogurt and fromage frais.
Vitamin B12The other vitamin that could be an issue is vitamin B12. B12 plays an essential role in forming blood cells. The main source is meat, although it can be found in some manufactured foods, such as soya products, but you may require a supplement, especially if you’re vegan. Again, speak to your doctor or midwife for advice if you’re concerned.
Thousands of vegetarian women give birth each year, and many successfully bring up their babies as vegetarians, so it’s not something to be unduly worried about. As long as you take care with your diet and get all the nutrients you require, you should be on course for a healthy pregnancy.