I’m one of those off ramp/on ramp vegans and currently I am just vegetarian, but for each of my pregnancies I didn’t dare stay away from dairy or meat because I feared iron deficiency knowing that baking a baby requires even more iron than normal. Also, the fat from dairy, I thought was needed.
But for people who have been completely vegan for at least a decade straight, is it possible to have a healthy pregnancy while vegan?
The Examiner’s: The Vegan RD , Virginia Messina offered these tips for a Vegan Pregnancy recently:
Pregnant vegans can meet nutrient needs by following just a few simple guidelines:
- Consume at least 5 servings per day of protein-rich plant foods. A serving is ½ cup cooked beans, tofu, or tempeh; 1 ounce of meat analog, or 1 cup of soymilk. (Fortified almond, rice, coconut or hempseed milk are fine to drink, too, but they are too low in protein to count as a protein-rich food.)
- Include a good source of vitamin C at every meal to boost iron absorption. Good choices are cantaloupe, kiwifruit, mango, citrus fruits and juices, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.
- Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables like collards, kale and spinach. They’re good sources of folic acid, a B-vitamin that is especially important in the very early stages of pregnancy. (Vegans typically have higher folate intakes than meat-eaters but still may not meet the needs of pregnancy.)
- Include a serving or two of nuts and seeds in your daily menu to help meet zinc needs.
- Emphasize calcium-rich foods in your daily menu: leafy green vegetables, calcium-set tofu, tempeh, soynuts, fortified plant milks and fortified juices are all good choices. If your diet falls short of the RDA (1,000 milligrams), a small supplement can help make up the difference.
- Your doctor will most likely prescribe a prenatal vitamin supplement that includes iron and folic acid (usually recommended for all pregnant women). Make sure your supplement includes zinc, copper and iodine as well. Pregnant vegans (like all vegans) should be sure to have a chewable vitamin B12 supplement, too, providing 25 to 100 micrograms of B12 per day.
Talk to your doctor about the need for a supplement of the omega-3 fat DHA. The jury is still out on whether pregnant women need these supplements, but vegan versions are available.
- Avoid super-restricted types of vegan diets. Diets that are too low in fat or are based on mostly raw foods can reduce nutrient absorption and make it harder to meet nutrient needs.