Dietary considerations for a vegetarian pregnancy

It can sometimes feel difficult to separate yourself from the “shoulds” and “should nots” of nutrition around pregnancy. If that’s your experience, you’re not alone. Whatever choices you make about nutrition are completely up to you and can change day to day. Depending on your situation, a vegetarian diet may help prevent certain health conditions like diabetes, and heart disease. If you do choose to follow a vegetarian diet, the tips below may support you. 

If you are deciding to focus more on plant-based meals, try to include: 

1. Protein

Proteins are composed of amino acids and are important building blocks for DNA, immune system cells, muscle cells and many more. Protein can be found in quinoa and soy, for example. Dark leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) are also excellent sources of protein. 

2. Calcium

Most people are aware that calcium is important for bone health. But did you know it’s also essential for nerve and muscle function too? To boost this mineral in your diet, try broccoli, kale, chickpeas, navy beans, wheat bread, raisins, and/or fortified orange juice. 

3. Iron

Iron is needed for building healthy red blood cells. It helps build the part of the cell that carries the oxygen. There is a much higher demand for oxygen when you’re pregnant because you’re breathing for two. It is found in soybeans, spinach, tofu, chickpeas, and several other types of beans. If you have low iron stores, check in with your doctor and make sure they approve of your prenatal vitamin. Many gummy vitamins do not contain iron.

4. Zinc

Zinc is essential for your baby’s developing brain and immune system, it also helps keep your sense of smell and test intact. Good sources of zinc are whole grains, tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts and seeds and fortified foods like cereal.

5. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for the development of your baby’s nervous system. This one comes from animal products. So if you’re eating dairy, that’s a good source. If not, you’ll need to take a supplement in order to get enough for you and your baby. It’s a good idea to speak to your provider about the best way to make sure you’re getting enough of this one. 

6. Fats

Fats are necessary for making hormones that support all of your body systems, and very importantly for you right now, your reproductive system. During pregnancy, your body’s fat requirement increases. Good sources of fats during pregnancy are full fat dairy products, nuts, olives and olive oil, avocado, and fish (if you eat fish, be careful to avoid those high in mercury content particularly when pregnant and nursing).  

Remember, when it comes to nutrition during pregnancy, everyone may need something a little bit different. The good thing is that you aren’t alone. You can talk to your provider or a nutritionist to get support.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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