Vegetarian and Pregnant
As any vegetarian can tell you, there are plenty of misconceptions out there about being vegetarian, and about how we’re able to meet our nutritional needs. In many instances, other people don’t worry too much about our nutrition – until we’re pregnant. Pregnancy is one of those times when everyone has advice for you, and everyone thinks that they can tell you how to have a happy and healthy pregnancy. In most cases, you learn to simply smile, and thank them for their thoughtfulness.
For the vegetarian, however, there are often some real concerns about pregnancy nutrition. Most people probably immediately think that protein is a worry for the pregnant woman. The fact is, however, most vegetarians have figured out plenty of sources of protein. Yogurt, cheese, tofu, beans, whole grains, and milk (even soy milk) can provide plenty of protein for the pregnant vegetarian.
Like other people, the pregnant vegetarian also needs increased amounts of certain other nutrients. Vitamin D, vitamin B12, foliate, calcium, iron, and zinc are all important. Vegetarian diets tend to be richer in these nutrients anyways, so they really shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Prenatal vitamins can shore up any deficiencies related to any of those nutrients, as well.
Of greater concern is omega-3 fatty acids. In particular, DHA omega-3 fatty acids are especially important to the pregnant woman. DHA omega-3 fatty acids help with development of the brain as well as vision. Not getting enough of these can have some serious consequences. Most vegetarian women may struggle with getting enough of these during pregnancy.
Fortunately, there are some vegetarian-friendly sources of DHA omega-3 fatty acids out there. Kidney beans, pinto beans, squash, cauliflower and broccoli are all good sources. Dark leafy green vegetables are some of the best vegetarian sources for omega-3 fatty acids. You can also find other foods, such as cereals, milk, eggs, and bread that are fortified with Omega-3s.
If you’re concerned about yoru pregnancy diet, talk to your doctor or to a dietician. They can help you identify other potential sources to get the nutrition that you and your baby need during pregnancy.