Eliminating meat from your diet is not recommended when you’re pregnant, as meat provides the much-needed protein (and not only) for your body to sustain a complications-free pregnancy, and for your infant’s body to develop properly. Getting the right amount of nutrients that meat provides is also vital for having a complications-free childbirth, both for you and for your little one.
However, if you’re already vegetarian and you just found out that you’re expecting a baby, or you simply wish to become vegetarian so you can have the healthiest possible pregnancy but don’t know what, and what not to eat when you’re pregnant you’ll be glad to know that there are solutions to this problem.
Just like with non-vegetarian moms to be, the nutritional needs are exactly the same for vegetarian moms to be, as well. It’s just that you’ll need to meet these nutritional requirements through other sources since meat is not an option anymore.
Below we’ve put together a short list of food, and non-food sources with nutritional value that can help your write meat off your pregnancy diet list without any problem. One word of caution, though is that the nutritional content printed on the labels of some of these sources addresses non-vegetarian women, so you’ll have to adjust these values according to your vegetarian needs.
Vegetarian Sources of Calcium
Calcium is arguably the most important nutrient for a pregnant woman for many reasons (that we discuss in other posts), and it’s even more important for a vegetarian mom-to-be that’s decided to stop eating meat completely.
There are many sources of calcium that you can resort to when expecting a baby and, while we can’t list them all here, we can safely recommend tofu, green leafy veggies, broccoli, and some dairy products like milk, cheese, and various types of yogurt.
Vegetarian Sources of Vitamin D
You can get Vitamin D from certain supplements, milk and cereals if they’re allowed on your diet. But we have a better (and free) solution to these: the Sun.
Our Sun is an excellent – and free – solution for replenishing your body’s Vitamin D reserves, but you need to do it properly, otherwise you might suffer complications. By “properly” we mean that you should strive for a good 15-20 minutes exposed directly to the sun, but only if the sunlight is not intense enough to burn your skin, but also not weak that you won’t feel a thing. Moderate intensity sunlight is the best bet, and you need to expose yourself daily for at least a couple of weeks.
If there are days during your “sun diet” when the sunlight is not strong enough you can resort to pills / supplements, but otherwise you should definitely take advantage of our Sun since it’s a free and healthy source of vitamin D.
Vegetarian Sources of B12
The vitamin B12 is pretty rare in foods, especially in diets, and even moreso in diets for vegetarian moms to be. You can usually get the B12 vitamin from soy milk and vitamin-enhanced cereals, just don’t forget to check the label on those supplements as the quantities imprinted there are for non-expectant women, so you will probably need to take higher quantities of B12 than normal since you’ve given up eating meat and other non-vegetarian products that usually come with decent amounts of B12.
Better yet, consult with your doctor about your pregnancy diet, as the diet might differ from one case to another, especially for vegetarian women who expect a baby. Your doctor might need to supplement your diet with other nutrients than B12, so it’s actually a good idea to pay him/her a visit.
Vegetarian Sources of Iron
Some of the best sources of iron for both vegetarian, and non-vegetarian women are molasses, leafy vegetables, nuts, and beans. There’s definitely more sources than these 4, but these are some of the most common ones. Apart from these 4 sources you should also consider taking vitamin supplements if your daily iron intake is not enough to warrant a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.
Iron is in high demand in a woman’s body during menstruation, and it’s even more in demand when the woman expects a baby (especially in the later months of pregnancy). So, make sure to provide your body with the right amounts of iron so you can stay healthy during pregnancy, and to also help support your child’s development.
Vegetarian Sources of Protein
Protein is meat, plain and simple. But when you, for whatever reason, refuse to eat meat (the biggest source of protein in a human’s diet) you will have to look somewhere else for your protein intake. Cheese and milk are decent protein sources, as well as soy milk, but even these 3 are not enough to provide you with the right amount of protein.
For more sources of protein for you and the baby that’s rapidly developing inside of you be sure to check our other pregnancy diet posts and guide. They go in much more detail on what a pregnancy diet should consist of than we can mention here.
Vegetarian Sources of Zinc
Last, but definitely not least on your list of nutrients – whether you are a vegetarian mother-to-be, or a non-vegetarian one – is Zinc. The zinc, unbeknownst to many people, is actually quite important for a pregnant woman because it protects the lungs and other organs, and also boosts the body’s immunity.
Pregnant women should get a minimum of 11 milligrams of zinc per day, and they can get this amount for many foods, some of which the most important are whole grains, baked beans, roasted cashew nuts, low-fat yogurt, chickpeas, Swiss cheese, and many other food items, but for simplicity’s sake we have only listed the most common ones.
And that’s about it! If you already are vegetarian and need to know how to eat healthy when expecting a baby, or you just wish to become vegetarian for the sake of having a healthy pregnancy and lifestyle (big kudos to you if you can do that) taking advantage of the tips above is a great start.
Also, even though these sources of nutrients have been tried and tested many times before it’s still a good idea to visit your doctor and ask him/her what your dietary customs should be during pregnancy because, depending on your health condition, weight, or health history they might need to prescribe some additional vitamin supplements along with your diet.