pregnant, pregnancy, mom,vegan

Can you safely be pregnant and vegan?

Yes, you can, and I am living proof. That being said, if you are pregnant and not eating any animal products it does require a little extra vigilance to make sure you are meeting all of your (and the baby’s) nutritional needs.

According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women need to “get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.” Hmm. Right off the bat sounds like vegans are more likely to be getting those fruits, veggies, and whole grains that the typical fast-food meat-eating American. But I digress.

Protein: Notice that it says “lean protein” and not “animal protein.” The Mayo Clinic recommends 71 grams a day when pregnant. Unfortunately, their site doesn’t give a whole lot of options for a non-meat-eater in terms of protein. So take a look at your food labels and start adding up your protein. Tofu, soy products, nuts, quinoa, beans, and other legumes are good sources of protein. All of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can be found in plant-based foods.

Prenatal vitamins: These are sure to have folic acid and iron, which you need when pregnant, vegan or not. And they will have a whole lot of other stuff, too. So take them. Even before and after pregnancy. I have yet to meet a doctor or a resource that says otherwise.

Calcium: The Mayo Clinic says 1,000mg a day. Check your soy, almond, or coconut milk. Most are fortified and have the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk: about 300mg per cup. Many juices are also fortified with calcium. And did you know that spinach (in addition to being a great source of folic acid) contains 120mg of calcium in half a cup? Throughout both pregnancies, I’ve added spinach to my breakfast each day. Just toss it in a pan on medium heat, add a little garlic powder and cook it up in a minute. It also can be blended raw into smoothies. You probably won’t even taste it.

Calories: When pregnant, you need to up your calorie intake a bit. Notice I said a bit. According to many sources (wedmd included) you only need about 300 calories more a day for pregnancy. That amounts to three average pieces of fruit, or a slice of wheat bread with peanut butter on it. Or for comparison, a large soda. What I’ve noticed is that when I was pregnant, I was hungrier more often throughout the day and thus ate more often. My body needed more food and it let me know, so I ate it. No need to be super picky about exact calories. Just make sure you are gaining at an appropriate weight and your doctor/midwife can check that your baby is gaining, too. And as another side note about weight: some women really do tend to gain more, some less. There is no magic number so don’t drive yourself crazy about it. Read some of the posts in a pregnancy forum about how doctors from other countries view weight gain. It will give you a good perspective.

So I mentioned the Mayo Clinic and WebMD, a couple of mainstream scientific sites. Check out or the pregnancy section of Becoming Vegan by Davis and Melina for a view on babies and parenting that I personally feel more supportive of.

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