Many women who have chosen the vegetarian lifestyle worry that their diet may not be enough to allow for a healthy pregnancy. The worry seems to be exceptionally high when it comes to getting enough protein. In truth, it is entirely possible to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery without breaking your vegetarian diet. Below are some nutritional guidelines that will help you ensure that both you and baby are getting everything you need during this critical time:
- Protein – Drinking cow’s milk or soy milk daily will usually provide all your protein needs. You can also boost your protein intake by eating plenty of whole grains, cheese, tofu, yogurt, and beans.
- Essential Nutrients – in addition to protein, pregnant women must be careful to take in enough omega-3s, which aid in vision and brain development, iron, zinc, folate, calcium, and vitamins. If you do not eat fish, you can still get your omega-3s from walnuts, pinto and kidney beans, flaxseed, dark leafy greens, canola oil, papaya, cauliflower, broccoli, and squash. You may also check for soy milk, bread, cereal, and other vegetarian foods that are fortified with omega-3 DHA.
A healthy vegetarian diet should include the following every day, and should be supplemented with an excellent prenatal vitamin:
- Four servings of foods rich in calcium. Depending upon your particular diet, these may include fortified soy milk, cow’s milk, and other foods that contain at least 300 mg of calcium in each serving.
- Four daily servings of cooked dried peas and beans. These tasty choices are loaded with iron, protein, and zinc. For variety, add in some assorted seeds and nuts.
- Between six and eleven servings of whole grains. This may include whole-grain breads, oatmeal, brown rice, and more.
- At least one serving of vitamin B12-rich goods. This includes egg yolk, miso, tempeh, or fortified soy milk.
- Between eight and ten servings of vegetables and fruit. This offers a way to add great variety into your diet and also provides a healthy dose of antioxidants. For the healthiest choices, choose a variety of fruits and veggies in rainbow colors.
With some careful planning, there is no reason why a woman cannot have a healthy pregnancy while on a vegetarian diet. Although these recommended servings are somewhat different than those of the food pyramid guide, the difference is necessary to ensure that both mother and baby are healthy.