Pregnancy and the Vegan Diet
Please note that this is not a recommendation, but is being provided for those who have requested this information
By Laura Jones- Miller
*** I am no nutritionist…but as a yogi, and a vegan mother of four healthy children I can give you some advise gained from experience. It was wonderful feeling vital and healthy without gaining too much weight. Also , my babies had the benefit of all of those rainbow selections of fruits and vegetables….nut, beans, tofu, plant milks, etc.
The choice to become…or remain…vegan during pregnancy is a very personal one. You may want to consult with a variety of people before deciding. Your can get advise from your doctor or midwife, a holistic practitioner, and a nutritionist…to name a few.
The following is a sample of a healthy diet for a pregnant vegan. This information was taken from a study done at “The Farm” (*please see references for sources), a community where vegan diets are a part of a socially aware lifestyle. This study has shown that vegans can have healthy pregnancies and healthy children.
Sample Menu Plan for Pregnant Vegans: (Taken from Study done at “The Farm”…See References at the end of this Post)
1/2 cup oatmeal with maple syrup
1 slice whole wheat toast with fruit spread with margarine
1 cup EdenSoy Extra soy milk
1/2 cup calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice 1/2 whole wheat bagel
Veggie burger on whole wheat bun with 3/4 cup ready-to-eat mustard and catsup
1 cup steamed collard greens
1 cup EdenSoy Extra soy milk cereal with 1/2 cup blueberries
1 cup EdenSoy Extra soy milk
3/4 cup tofu stir-fried with 1 cup vegetables
1 cup brown rice
Medium orange Whole grain crackers with 2 Tbsp peanut butter
4 ounces apple juice
Nutritional analysis of sample menu
100 grams protein (18% of calories) 71 grams
55 grams fat (22% of calories)
336 grams carbohydrate (60% of calories)
1688 mg calcium 1000 mg
32.5 mg iron 27 mg
11.2 mg zinc 11 mg
2.1 mg thiamin 1.4 mg
1.4 mg riboflavin 1.4 mg
23.1 mg niacin 18 mg
9 mcg vitamin B12 2.6 mcg
4.2 mcg vitamin D 15 mcg (supplement/sun exposure indicated)
850 mcg folate 600 mcg
The Benefits of a Vegan Diet During Pregnancy
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can cause many difficulties. An advisable amount of weight to gain during pregnancy is 25-35 pounds for an average sized woman. You can get this specific information from your doctor as there are several factors, such as being under weight or over weight, which are considered in making this determination. A vegan diet is very helpful in maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy. Many vegans begin pregnancy on the slim side and may gain weight very slowly. If this sounds like you, you will need to eat more food. Perhaps eating more often or eating foods higher in fat and lower in bulk will help. Plant based milk shakes filled with yummy bananas and dates can be helpful in adding some extra weight. An avocado a day can also assist in getting adequate, satisfying calories when needed. You should avoid replacing healthy foods with empty fatty calories.
Protein (You knew this was coming…right!??)
You will probably get A LOT of questions about whether or not you are getting enough protein. Current recommendations for protein in pregnancy call for 25 grams more of protein per day (than pre pregnancy) in the second and third trimester for a total of 65 – 71 grams of protein. If your diet is varied and contains good protein sources such as soy products, nuts, beans, and grains, and you are gaining a healthy amount of weight as advised by your doctor… you can relax and not worry about getting enough protein. Many women simply get the extra protein they need by eating more of the foods they usually eat. As an example, you can add 25 grams of protein to your usual diet by adding 1-1/2 cups of lentils or tofu, 3-1/2 cups of soy milk, or 2 large bagels. Your non-vegan friends and relatives are going to give you what for about the protein issue. Just make sure you are carefully planning the above mentioned foods into your diet. A healthy weight mother and baby is a wonderful, healthy way to begin a new life!
Calcium and Vitamin D
Another point of concern for Vegans is in regards to calcium intake. Calcium and vitamin D are needed for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant vegans should make a special effort to have 8 or more servings of calcium-rich foods daily. (See the Vegan Sample Meal Plan) Many vegan foods are rich in calcium…such as almonds, dark green vegetables, fortified plant milks, sesame seeds, etc.
Pregnant women who have regular sunlight exposure do not need any extra vitamin D. Approximately 20 minutes a day without sunscreen should be plenty. Supplements of vitamin D should only be used with the approval of your health care provider since high doses of vitamin D can be toxic. Fortified foods like some brands of soy or other plant milks are another way to meet vitamin D needs.
You are supplying both the baby and you with blood during pregnancy. During the second and third trimester, iron supplements are commonly recommended along with iron-rich foods. Additional iron may be needed in case of iron deficiency. Iron supplements should not be taken with calcium supplements and should be taken between meals in order to maximize absorption. Even when iron supplements are used, pregnant vegans should choose high iron foods like iron fortified cereals, whole grains, dried beans, tofu, and green leafy vegetables daily.
Vitamin B12 (This is a BIGGY!)
The regular use of vitamin B12 supplements with fortified foods is highly! recommended for all pregnant vegans. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the developing fetus. Fortified foods include some breakfast cereals, some soy milks, and Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast. This nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on, or added to, so many foods. It has a lovely, nutty flavor and is full of aminos and B 12. A supplement can be discussed with your doctor.
Folate – Folic Acid
* This except in taken from the References. See references at the end of this post for sources. Folate has been in the news because of its connection with a type of birth defect called neural tube defect. Studies have shown that women who have infants with neural tube defects have lower intakes of folate and lower blood folate levels than other women. Folate is needed early in pregnancy (before many women know they are pregnant) for normal neural tube development. Many vegan foods including enriched bread, pasta, and cold cereal; dried beans; green leafy vegetables; and orange juice are good sources of folate. Vegan diets tend to be high in folate, however, to be on the safe side, women capable of becoming pregnant should take a supplement or use fortified foods that provide 400 micrograms of folate daily.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
* This is another except…see refernce at the end of this post. DHA is a type of fat that is mainly found in fatty fish. It is important in the development of the brain and the retina of the eye. Some DHA can be made from another fat found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, and soybeans. Foods containing TRANS FAT that can block the absorbsion of DHA. Some women may opt to use a vegan DHA supplement produced from microalgae.
Pregnant vegans who can use salt should use iodized salt at the table or in cooking for proper iodine. Seaweed/Kelp are also an excellent source. Iodine is vital for thyroid function.
Whatever diet you choose should be for the health and benefits of you and you beautiful baby…Good Health and Love, xoxox, L
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