I have a vegetarian friend who just found out she’s pregnant. She immediately looked at me and asked “Does this mean I’ll have to start eating meat?” Her worried family had sternly advised her take up an omnivorous diet again, but I assured her I’d heard plenty of stories about healthy vegetarian, vegan and even raw vegan pregnancies. I decided to help her out and do a little research.
Since I’m vegetarian myself, this seemed like a great opportunity to brush up on my own personal nutrition. A pregnant woman needs to focus on getting extra protein, iron and calcium, and it’s crucially important to increase folic acid intake right away, because it helps prevent birth defects.
Protein: Eggs, cultured soy, beans and nuts contain protein. Check out our meat-free protein guide for more options.
Iron: Blackstrap molasses is high in iron and other minerals, and Floradix is a great liquid iron supplement for that extra boost. Spirulina and other deep greens can help build blood. Remember, vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so don’t forget the citrus!
Calcium: Milk, cheese and yogurt are the obvious calcium sources, but dark green veggies (kale, chard, collard greens, broccoli) are essential, too. Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of calcium, and don’t forget to add almonds and tahini to your diet, too.
Folic Acid: This nutrient is crucial for pregnancy and is part of the B-complex of vitamins which are typically found in meat. Thankfully there’s a very easy way for vegetarians and vegans to get their B’s: nutritional yeast. An inactive, tasty yeast grown especially for its health benefits, nutritional yeast is high in protein, most of the B vitamins, and particularly high in folates. It’s got a cheesy, nutty flavor and is delicious sprinkled on salads and savory foods. One woman I know craved the stuff all through her pregnancy and drank it mixed with water or juice. Hey, whatever it takes!
Most medical sites agree that it’s not difficult to get the necessary nutrients in a well-balanced veggie diet and that it’s safe to be a pregnant vegetarian. So my friend can put her worried family at ease and keep on crunchin’ her greens.