Friday, 23 September 2011

Pregnant vegetarian – what do you need to know?

Are you a vegetarian expecting a baby? First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! Eating a meat-free diet is much more accepted now than it was a few decades back, but there are still plenty of people who will get on your case about being a vegetarian during pregnancy. Are your doctor, relatives, or friends concerned that being a vegetarian will negatively impact your unborn baby? Or do you, yourself, wonder whether pregnant vegetarians can meet all the nutritional needs of their growing fetus?

Many vegetarians eat extremely healthy diets, and are much more conscious about what they eat than the average omnivore. Pregnancy and being a vegetarian can combine very well – something I know from personal experience with my two pregnancies, and something my mother can also talk about. That's right: My children are third-generation vegetarians. My mother's doctor predicted that pregnant vegetarians can give birth to healthy babies, but he warned her that her child might be infertile due to her meatless diet. The doctor was wrong, and there is no scientific basis for views like that. But there are some things that pregnant vegetarians need to take additional care of. What are they?

  • Many newer vegetarians report craving meat as part of their pregnancy signs and symptoms. It is up to individuals to decide whether or not to give into these cravings. Some veggies opt to eat certain meat or fish meals while they are expecting a baby, and sometimes while nursing. 
  • Pregnant vegetarians are at a higher risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia. Leafy green vegetables like spinach, beets, kelp, egg yolks and beans (including soy beans) are especially rich in iron. As long as you eat plenty of these, you should be fine. 
  • Calcium is essential for your baby's bone and organ development. Milk and dairy products are well-known sources of this mineral, but you can also find calcium in broccoli, sesame seeds, parsley and other vegetable sources. Calcium also promotes the absorption of vitamin D, which is best assimilated through sun light but can also be found in certain food sources.
  • Veggie moms to-be who eat plenty of beans, nuts, eggs, and tofu can rest assured that they are meeting their recommended intake of proteins (60 grams daily for pregnant women). If you don't eat enough protein, boost your intake through a combination of these sources. 
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency is something else vegetarians need to watch out for during pregnancy. If you are concerned, the best approach is having your blood tested. You may look into a supplement, or consider taking cod liver oil if you are not ideologically opposed to that. 
  • Many women are worried about how to achieve weight loss after pregnancy . As a vegetarian, it is easier to maintain a good diet without too many saturated fats. Staying away from fast foods is always a good idea, whether you are an omnivore or a vegetarian. 
Olivia is a vegetarian mother of two. She writes about fertility, pregnancy and babies at her blog, Trying To Conceive.


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