Menu Help for Vegetarian Moms-to-be
Pregnant women who are vegetarians or vegans can get all the nutrients they need for them and their babies.
Whether you are a vegetarian (no meat) or strict vegan (no
dairy products or eggs either), a well-balanced diet during pregnancy can
provide all the nutrients necessary for both you and your baby -- along with
the extra 300 calories per day that the American College of Obstetrics and
Gynecology (ACOG) recommends for all pregnant women.
The following tips can help you plan your meals. They are
provided by Michael Klaper, MD, director of the Institute of Nutrition
Education and Research in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and author of the book
Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet, and Virginia Messina, a
registered dietitian (RD) and co-author with Kenneth Burke, RD, of the 1997
American Dietetics Association position paper on vegetarian diets.
- Even if you don't eat protein-rich dairy products, you can still get that
extra 10 grams of protein per day that is so important for building fetal bones
and tissue by eating foods such as beans, peas, and lentils, peanut butter, and
- Getting enough calcium used to be a problem for vegans, but now you can
take advantage of a variety of calcium-fortified foods including juices,
cereals, and even caramel- or chocolate-flavored calcium "candies."
Adequate calcium in the diet is important for building bones in the developing
baby. If the fetus cannot get enough calcium from the mother's diet, calcium
will be leached from the mother's bones.
- Avoid soft cheese and raw seafood, which can be possible sources of a
potentially harmful type of listeria bacterium. According to the FDA, this form
of listeria can be passed on to the fetus, causing illness or even death.
- Wash all produce, even foods labeled "organic," with a vegetable
rinse to remove pesticides, dirt, and bugs.
- Eat plenty of beans and legumes to increase your iron level, and eat root
vegetables to boost trace minerals including iodine, magnesium, and copper.
Green, leafy vegetables also are good sources of iron, such as kale, collard,
and turnip greens.
- Eat fortified cereals that contain added vitamins and minerals including
vitamins B-12 and D, both of which may be lacking in a meatless diet. Fresh,
pasteurized milk can be an important source of vitamin B-12 in
- Folic acid (or folate) is one of the few nutrients known to prevent spina
bifida, a neural tube birth defect, which affects one in every 1,000 babies
born in the U.S. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that pregnant women
and women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to
prevent neural tube defects. This vitamin can be found in green leafy
vegetables, grains, orange juice, and fruits, and in fortified breads, cereals,
and pastas. (Folic acid is most helpful in the first three months of pregnancy,
and doctors recommend that you begin increasing your intake several months
before conception to help reduce the risk of neural-tube defects.)