Updated: Feb 18
With the rise in popularity of veganism and vegetarianism, there are inevitably going to be more plant-based pregnancies in the years to come.
We also have to consider the fact that meat aversion happens for some women during pregnancy, due to your rising hormone levels. It is really important to have a level of awareness about plant-based options to replace nutrients that are essential during pregnancy.
The good news is that you can have a perfectly happy and healthy pregnancy as a plant-based eater, and today’s article will teach you how.
If you need more support as a plant-based eater who is either pregnant, or trying to become, pregnant please know that I can help and you can book your free discovery call today to learn how.
In today’s post I’m going to break down plant-based pregnancy nutrition into two categories.
1) Plant-based Protein Sources
Your body needs more protein during pregnancy and lactation, and you should aim to consume 1.1-1.2 g/kg/day.
Fortunately almost all plant-based protein sources will also help you meeting or exceed your daily fibre intake during pregnancy is crucial for many reasons, including lowering the risks of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and constipation.
Legumes – A category that includes varieties of beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts. Legumes contain lysine, which is something that human body needs as a building block. It’s an essential amino acid because your body cannot make it, so you need to obtain it from food. One half-cup serving of legumes can provide up to 10 grams of protein and fibre.
Tofu & Tempeh - Soy-based foods like tofu, tempeh and edamame are excellent sources of protein, fibre, iron and a wide array of other micronutrients.
Whole Grains – A category that typically includes wheat, rice, corn, and oats are common; but whole-grain choices like barley, buckwheat, millet, and teff, wheatberries, farro, and spelt are also options. Whole grains are recommended because they have more beneficial components, such as fiber, minerals, and vitamins, than refined grains. A cup of most whole grains will provide between six and 12 grams of protein, and whole-wheat pasta has seven grams of protein per one-cup serving.
Nuts and Seeds – Make great snacks and can help to spice up salads and dishes. They can provide six to 12 grams of protein per quarter cup.
Nutritional Yeast – This protein-rich topping ( 8g per 1/4 cup) is often fortified with vitamin B12 and can add a cheesy flavor to dishes. Sprinkle it on popcorn or pasta for a boost!
Faux Meat and Dairy – There are many options hitting supermarket shelves and fast food menus every day. You should always try to eat non-processed foods as many meat and dairy alternatives are highly processed, and most are very high in sodium and even added sugar, so be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label. Just because a product claims to be plant based does not necessarily make it a healthy option and I can help you navigate which products are the best choice for you and your family.
Bite Sized Nudges
Here are some small ways you can start to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet:
1. Try lentil or chickpea snacks
2. Add complex carbs like chickpeas, lentils, brown rice, or quinoa to salads at lunch.
3. Add tofu to smoothies in the morning
4. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn
2) Important Micronutrients
If you are new to eating more plant-based there are a few nutrients that you MUST pay attention to especially during pregnancy. They include:
Zinc – Most women get too little zinc during pregnancy, which may result in low birth weight, prolonged labor, and preterm birth. Legumes, soy, nuts, seeds and grains are all rich in zinc. Try buying sprouted grain bread or sourdough.
Omega 3 – People on vegan diets tend to have low blood levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Good plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, ground chia seeds, and walnuts. You may also consider including 100-200mg of an algae derived Omega 3 supplement to your daily prenatal regimen.
Iodine – Make sure you are cooking with or consuming iodized salt.
Iron – Your body doesn’t absorb non-heme iron from plant foods as well as it does the heme iron in animal products. This may increase your risk of iron deficiency and related complications, such as preterm birth and low birth weight. Only use iron supplementation if you need to based on blood tests and consulting with your doctor. The recommendation is to consume iron rich foods such as soy, beans, seeds, nuts, and green leafy vegetables as well as vitamin-C in combination. Make sure to squeeze lemons and limes on green vegetables or salads.
Calcium – Usually a plant-based diet is able to meet the needs of calcium. It is important to note that you need more calcium during pregnancy than breastfeeding. Insufficient calcium intake during pregnancy may increase the mother’s risk of preeclampsia, fractures, and bone disease. However, make sure you choose foods containing calcium your body is able to absorb such as broccoli or bok choy.
Choline – This nutrient is essential for the development of your baby’s nervous system. Most women get too little during pregnancy — and plant foods contain only small amount. Make sure you are meeting your needs through your prenatal.
Vitamin D – Plant based sources of Vitamin D include beans, broccoli, mushrooms and leafy greens but your body has a hard time absorbing these. Make sure you are consuming Vitamin D fortified products. Insufficient levels may increase your risk of preeclampsia, low birth weight, and miscarriage You may also consult with your OBGYN about a Vit D supplement that includes 1000 to 2000 IU/day ( note: high doses of Vitamin D greater than 4000 IU/day is not recommended).
Vitamin B12 – Specifically for heavily plant-based or vegan pregnant and lactating mothers an individual B12, not multivitamin, supplement is highly recommended and should be discussed with your OBGYN. A deficiency may increase your risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and malformations. A supplement that can be dissolved under the tongue or chewed slowly in order to increase absorption is best.
If you are confused by this and want more information on what to incorporate into your diet or how to become more plant based please book your free 15-minute discovery call.
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