If you’re pregnant and are considering being vegan during the process, you might fear that it’s unsafe for your baby. But it doesn’t have to be.
You and your baby can be healthy with a vegan diet. But you need to eat more frequently, as some vegans who are pregnant gain weight at a slow pace. Choose foods that are a bit higher in healthy fats like as those found in nut butters, nuts and dried fruits. If your weight gain is too rapid or you are overweight, this can be a cause for concern too, so a vegan eating plan can help. Substitute sweet or fattening foods with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
- Get Your Vitamins
Pregnancy requires adequate amounts of important nutrients, one of them being protein. You might worry that you’re not getting enough on a vegan diet, but if you’re eating more of your regular foods and you’re incorporating protein-rich sources into your diet such as beans and grains, you don’t need to worry.
Other vitamins include calcium and Vitamin D. These are vital for the growth of your baby’s bones as well as teeth. The good news is that there are great vegan sources of calcium, such as spinach, broccoli, tofu, nuts, and black-eyed peas, to mention a few.
As for Vitamin D, soak up a few rays! If you’re never out in the sun and you’re tempted to take Vitamin D supplements, always consult your doctor first as you don’t want to end up taking too much, which can be toxic.
How much calcium or Vitamin D do you need?
Aim for 1,000mg of calcium a day from before and during your pregnancy. As for Vitamin D, recent studies show that 4,000 IU of Vitamin D daily will supply your child with enough.
Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin. Without enough of it, you put your nervous system at risk of damage, and you risk pregnancy complications. Luckily, you really don't need it in large amounts and there are foods that have been fortified with B12, such as some breakfast cereals or plant milks - always read the labels to be sure. The alternative is to take B12 supplements. You should do one of the following to ensure you get enough B12 in your body, according to The Vegan Society.
Either eat fortified foods 2 or 3 times daily to achieve at least three mcg of B12 OR take a B12 supplement (at least 10mcg) daily. The benefit of supplements is that they make it easier for you to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients. You need 2.6mcg of Vitamin B12 daily.
Folic Acid is a nutrient you hear of often when people speak of pregnancy. You must top up on this nutrient from early on in your pregnancy to ensure the normal development of your baby’s neural tube. This is a structure from where the spinal cord and brain form in the embryo. If this development is inhibited, the baby can experience defects such as spina bifida (or 'split spine'). You can find folic acid in dried beans, leafy green veggies and orange juice. The good news is that many vegans gain folic acid because their diets naturally feature foods containing it. You need 400mcg to 800mcg of folic acid daily.
Iron is another must-have for mom and baby, and this is especially important because if you lack enough iron your body will produce less blood cells. You could then experience tiredness or anemia, which affects the baby. He/she might be born prematurely or too small. You want to get 27 mg of iron daily. You should eat at least three servings of foods daily that are rich in iron, and it can be found in foods such as lentils, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and fortified cereals.
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons