Vegan and Pregnant. What to eat? What to eat??
So you don’t eat meat and eggs and you don’t drink cows milk. Don’t despair! You can still meet your daily nutritional requirements from the plant sources you consumed before you got pregnant. As a pregnant vegan, you will just need to adjust your food portions and eat more regularly to ensure that you and your baby are receiving all the essential nutrients for your health and for baby’s growth and development. This article will provide the amount of certain types of nutrients required during your pregnancy as well as different types of foods and how much of that nutrient they provide. This will enable you to plan your meals making sure you are receiving the correct amount of nutrients.
Foods to eat:
During the first trimester, pregnant women require about 70-100g/day of protein for muscle growth as well as for energy. A deficiency in protein can lead to inadequate muscle growth and development in the baby and muscle wasting in the mother so it is very crucial that you receive the right amount daily.
Healthy, rich protein sources include tofu, nuts, beans and soy milk. Nuts can either be eaten raw or in a bowl of cereal. Traditionally, pregnant women are encouraged to eat roasted, salted peanuts because this makes you thirsty and you then drink lots of fluids, preferably water. So eat peanuts for protein and to help keep you hydrated. For those, who are allergic to nuts, beans and soy mince are a good substitute.
1 (252g) cup firm tofu = 20g protein
1 (248g) cup soft tofu = 16g
1 cup soy milk = 8g
1 cup cooked kidney beans = 17g
1 cup cooked white beans = 17g
28g peanuts = 7g
28g almonds = 6g
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is required at about 1 000mg/day, while vitamin D is required at around 200 IU (International Units)/day.
As eggs and yoghurt are not viable options (for a pregnant vegan woman), fortified brands of soy and other plant milks are a way of providing these nutrients, as well as fortified orange juices. Exposure to sunlight also provides the much needed vitamin D.
*check the nutritional labellings on the packaging for servings and the amount of calcium/vitamin D in each serving.
Grains, such as brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread and maize are important as they help provide essential carbohydrates which provide energy and also prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Carbohydrates are the primary sources of energy required by our bodies. When pregnant, you will need 6 servings of grains each day and one serving is the equivalent of 15g of carbs. However, excess carbohydrates are stored as fat under the skin and this makes it difficult to lose the “baby fat” after baby is born so remember to eat just enough. When they say, “You’re eating for two,” in essence you are but the second person is not a full grown adult so doubling your normal portions is not the answer!
Folate (folic acid/ vitamin B9)
Spinach and citrus fruits (oranges, nartjies, lemons, limes, and grapefruit) are high in folic acid which is required at around 600micrograms/day for neural tube (brain and spinal cord) development. Folic acid also helps prevent neural tube defects which occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid is also important in the production of red blood cells and can also be found in certain breakfast cereals which indicate that they have been fortified with the nutrient. It is therefore important to check the nutritional labeling on your cereals and other packaged foods.
½ cup cooked spinach = 100mcg
¾ cup orange juice = 35mcg
1 small orange = 30mcg
1 large grapefruit = 30mcg
1 medium raw banana = 20mcg
Vegetarian baked beans, canned, 1 cup = 60mcg
½ cup slice avocado = 45mcg
1 ounce, dry roasted peanuts = 40mcg
27mg of iron is required per day and is needed for the formation of red blood cells. If you are anemic you will require much more iron. A deficiency in iron can lead to a low blood cell count and this results in not enough blood circulating around the body. The blood is the means by which the nutrients you consume are delivered to the baby via the placenta. Therefore, a low blood count means that your baby will not receive adequate nutrients. Iron is especially required for your growing baby and placenta in the second and third trimesters. Iron deficiency in pregnancy is associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight and worst case scenario, infant mortality.
Broccoli is an excellent source of iron as well as beetroot, raisins, fortified cereals, dried fruits and spinach. However, the iron found in vegetables is non-heme iron which is not as easily absorbed as heme iron found in meat sources so speak to your health care provider and they might advise you to take iron supplements.
½ cup boiled, drained spinach = 3mg
½ cup canned kidney beans = 2mg
1 cup canned white beans = 8mg
½ cup boiled, drained broccoli = 1mg
¼ cup seedless raisins = 1mg
1 medium baked potato, with skin = 2mg
1 serving breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the DV (daily value) for iron = 18mg
Foods to moderate
Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, cocoa and soft drinks should be moderated as studies have related stillbirths and miscarriages with a high consumption of caffeinated beverages. The consumption of caffeinated beverages also significantly reduces the weight of the baby and babies born of low birth weight (less than 2.5kg) are known to be susceptible to diseases later in life such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke. To stay hydrated, drink water and fresh fruit juice instead. One of the major causes of premature contractions is dehydration so drink at least 2.5L of water throughout the day.
If you love your coffee and tea, try substituting your usual ‘wake-me-up’ drink with a smoothie. It will not only wake you up but also give you longer lasting energy than the buzz and crash you get from caffeinated drinks.
A few peaches (2/3)
½ cup crushed ice
½ cup almond milk
½ cup granola with mixed nuts
Scoop of almond butter
Finally, the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can result in physical defects to your baby, emotional problems and learning disabilities later in the child’s life. So put your wine glasses away for the next few months and remember, small frequent meals are encouraged as opposed to large and infrequent ones.