I have this theory that I am a vegetarian that hates the taste of meat because of what my mother ate during her pregnancy with me. Instead of chugging down orange crush like she did while pregnant with my sister, she craved copious amounts of radishes and carrots. By the way my mother was and still is not a vegetarian, but my sister still loves soda more than vegetables. Maybe my theory is a little (or a lot) flawed but I believe in all possibilities. So I began to wonder what kind of affect my vegetarian diet would have on my kids…If I so chose to go the route.
So this train of thought brought me to the question: is it safe to be a vegetarian while pregnant? Look, I am in no rush to have babies but I will happily put your possibly pregnant and vegetarian minds at ease.
The simple answer to the above question is, that it’s totally safe to be a veg head with a bun in the oven. Yes, I just called vegetarians, “veg heads”. In an article titled,”Nine Meatless Months”, the main takeaway is yes, you can be a vegetarian while pregnant but “you just have to do it right”. So how is one to do this?
Firstly, you have to eat a lot of protein, likely more than you’re used to. This is because protein is the “nutrient vital for cell growth and development” for both you and your developing baby. According to the Institute of Medicine, the minimum amount you should intake daily is 71 grams. But according to the American Pregnancy Association, you should be eating about 75-100 grams per day while pregnant. I would go with the advice of the latter just to be safe, right? See, I am already sounding like an overprotective mother and I am not even with child.
So where to get all this protein? Since you’re already leading a vegetarian lifestyle you should know but I will toss you a few suggestions. My favourite sources of protein includes beans, eggs, legumes, nuts, cheese, fortified nut milks and sometimes seitan. So you can start there if you’re having trouble.
Another way to do your vegetarian pregnancy “right” is to make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins and nutrients you need. If you are a vegetarian already you’re probably already used to this, but you are going to need to continue to take them. Though you should be more conscious of what foods contain essential nutrients that will help you and your baby grow.
While pregnant some of the most important vitamins and nutrients women need are iron,vitamin D, B12, zinc, calcium, folic acids, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids. You can find a list of information regarding the amounts and sources of such nutrients here.
Also be sure not to rely solely on supplements for nutrients but instead try and find them in the foods you eat. This means not only planning your meals, but checking labels! Some brands fortify their products (eg. cereal) with added nutrients like B12, but others don’t. And so I repeat: check your labels!
So this is my last piece of advice for pregnant “veg heads” and carnivores alike. Use your common sense, don’t be stupid. That means you should avoid alcohol while pregnant and limit your caffeine intake (no more than 300 mg daily!).
Oh and for those of you who feel that being pregnant is the get of jail free card to eat whatever the hell you want whenever you want, you are wrong. You only need to increase your calorie intake by 340 calories during your second trimester and about 450 calories in your third trimester. Make those calories count in the most nutritious way possible, so that you and your baby can stay healthy.
If you’re a pregnant vegetarian or a vegetarian planning on being pregnant soon, I certainly hope you feel better knowing that you can maintain your meat-free lifestyle. You just have to put a little extra effort into your diet. Just so you know, no one’s going to kill you if you all of a sudden get the craving to eat a piece of chicken…You’re pregnant and that’s tough enough already.