Your body’s nutritional needs change during pregnancy. This is true whether you are vegetarian or not; but for vegetarian women, the nutritional shift may manifest a bit differently. Here are some other things that moms-to-be should know about a vegetarian pregnancy.
Again with the Protein
Your need for protein will increase. High protein intake is key to staving off pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, dangerous conditions in pregnancy. Also, proteins are important for building the unborn baby’s body.
There are plenty of protein-rich foods in a vegetarian diet, depending on the type of vegetarian you are. If you eat dairy products and eggs, those are good protein sources. If you don’t, nuts, seeds, tofu, whole grains, and legumes provide protein. Some vegetarians eat fish, which is a very rich protein source. It’s a good idea to increase your intake of these vegetarian protein sources during pregnancy.
During the first trimester of pregnancy, sources say you should eat about 100 extra calories a day, and an extra 300 or so in the second and third trimesters. But it’s not just calories for calories’ sake – those calories should come from nutritious foods. So popping in an extra couple of slices of cake is probably not a good way to get those calories in each day! Vegetarians can increase their intake of healthy foods to get those extra nutrients.
Non-vegetarian women (and some vegetarian ones!) sometimes find themselves craving burgers and steaks during pregnancy, and that may be due to the body’s increased need for iron. Vegetarian women could increase their intake of dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, and combine them with a Vitamin C source (citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bell peppers, etc.) for optimal absorption. Caffeine, however, is reputed to inhibit iron absorption; so if you aren’t already avoiding caffeine, there’s another reason why you might want to do so.
Your doctor may suggest an iron supplement during your pregnancy if he or she thinks you are not getting enough in your diet and prenatal vitamins.
This is one of those vitally important minerals that vegetarians – especially those who don’t consume dairy – often wonder about. Interestingly, studies on various people groups around the world suggest that dairy products are not necessarily the best sources of calcium. The dark, leafy greens you’re already eating for iron will provide a lot of calcium, too – as will soybeans, tofu, and fruits like apricots and figs.