Vegan and Pregnant? Are veganism and pregnancy compatible? Yes, be sure they are. The number of vegans around the world is on the rise. Since more than half of them are women, knowing the possibility of getting pregnant while vegan is a question for many.
However, one of the main concerns of women before and after pregnancy is proper nutrition because your baby needs all those necessary vitamins, proteins, and minerals to grow.
As a result, planning a meal plan for vegan expectant moms seems challenging. Although it is necessary to consult a dietician, your midwife, or OB/GY in this case, knowing the general principles of the vegan diet during pregnancy will be helpful.
Many vegan pregnant moms or vegan women who plan to get conceived want to know what they can eat and where to get the vitamins and minerals? Or you may be thinking about going vegan and wonder if being vegetarian and pregnant or vegan while pregnant might create any problems for your baby?
Definition of Veganism and Vegetarianism
Veganism is a trending, meatless diet that grows in popularity every day. Statistics show that 80% of vegans in the US are women. There are many reasons for becoming vegan. For example, animal rights, protecting the planet, reducing greenhouse gas production, having a healthy body, etc.
Such a diet prohibits the consumption of animal products (such as meat, honey, and dairy) and replaces them with plant-based alternatives.
A vegetarian diet is very similar to veganism, except that a person may still consume eggs, honey, or fish in various vegetarian versions.
Vegan Pregnancy: How to Plan for It
By following a balanced diet of plant-based foods, vegan moms can meet their babies' needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You will naturally gain some weight during pregnancy, even on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
It is also necessary to increase your calorie intake to supply the nutrients needed to develop your baby's brain and body. At the same time, pay attention to thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables when preparing your food.
You need to include the four main food groups in your diet as follows:
Vegetables & Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are the primary food source for vegans. There are no limitations; you can use canned, frozen, or fresh vegetables. Consuming unsweetened fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies is recommended as a daily snack.
Milk & Dairy Products
Milk is one of the prohibited items in the vegan diet and some versions of the vegetarian diet. But you do not need to worry. Plant-based milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals to meet the body's needs. Such milk is made of soy, almond, hazelnut, and barley.
Regarding dairy products, there are various vegan ice creams, yogurt, butter, and vegan cheeses on the market made of plants, edible seeds, and nuts such as cashews, almonds, and macadamia.
Red Meat, Fish, & Poultry
The most challenging part of a vegan or vegetarian diet is eliminating meat and animal products. Actually, it was so until a decade ago. At that time, there was no faux meat or fish in the market.
But today, all kinds of brands in the market offer planet-based meat, which is very similar to real meat in terms of texture, shape, and taste.
You can consume plant-based meat and fish and continue to have your favorite hamburgers, tacos, or chicken wings. Instead of real meat, plants such as king oyster mushroom or soy are used to prepare them.
Bread & Grains
A variety of whole grains and starchy carbohydrates such as wholegrain pasta or breakfast cereals, brown rice, and potatoes can be safely consumed.
Vegan Pregnancy Meal Plan
Everything necessary for the growth and health of your baby is essential for vegan and vegetarian pregnant moms. Therefore, you must get all the minerals and vitamins through meals. It is also recommended to take supplements to compensate for the deficiency of some of these items while having your plant based pregnancy.
Red meat and its products are the primary sources of amino acids. The human body uses amino acids to build cells. Since such acids are not produced by your body, the role of protein nutrition is vital.
When you have a vegan or vegetarian diet, you must get your protein from sources other than meat. Some suggested sources are soybeans, eggs (of course for ovo-vegetarians), tofu, tempeh, some types of grains (like quinoa), legumes (like beans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, and soybeans). Also, some edible nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts) and butter made from them are good protein sources.
Iron is necessary for the growth of the body, and iron deficiency can lead to anemia and fatigue. These are two common conditions in pregnancy, and as a vegan mom, you should keep a close eye on your iron level.
Get the iron from:
dried figs and apricots
sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds
legumes (like peas, beans, and lentils)
green leafy vegetables (such as watercress)
iron-fortified breakfast cereals
We need calcium if we want to have strong bones. You must have an appropriate level of calcium both before and during pregnancy. Although the primary sources of calcium are dairy products (such as cheese, yogurt, and milk), as a vegan mom, you can consider alternatives.
Such alternatives are green leafy vegetables (watercress, kale, and rocket), all types of bread (not made of whole grain flour and fortified with calcium), dairy substitutes based on soy, rice or almonds, tofu, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, found in oily fish (trout, salmon, and mackerel), are essential for the development of the brain and eyes of the fetus. However, for vegan moms who do not eat fish, the best alternative sources of short-chain omega-3 are α-linolenic acid (ALA) and algae-based supplements.
Of course, there are food sources fortified with short-chain omega-3 acids. For example, consider flax and chia seeds or walnut and walnut oil. It is also good to use soybean, flaxseed, and rapeseed oil for salad dressing or frying.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more vitamin D than others. It is advised that they take 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily to ensure the health of their bones and muscles.
It is especially true for women with African-Caribbean, African, or South Asian backgrounds, those who spend most of the day at home and do not absorb much vitamin D from sunlight.
Therefore, as a vegan or vegetarian mom during pregnancy, consult your doctor to choose from the appropriate multivitamin or mineral supplements containing vitamin D.
Vitamin B12, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, iodine, and selenium should also be included in your list.
Getting pregnant or trying to get conceived while vegan is not only possible but also safe. Like pregnant women who consume animal protein and dairy products, you can still get protein and minerals from your food by following a vegetarian pregnancy meal plan.
A vegetarian pregnancy diet is not limited when choosing from faux protein, dairy, and vegan snacks. It is possible to determine whether a product is vegan or not by simply checking its label.
These products should clearly have the words vegan, plant-based, cruelty-free product, and similar printed on their label. You can search for vegan food and home recipes on the internet and prepare them for yourself to enjoy during vegetarian pregnancy.