Vegetarian Food In Pregnancy Is Safe Or Not
Vegetarianism is healthy no doubt, but is it nutritious enough to provide all the calories and proteins during pregnancy? This is a question that many expectant mothers, including the most committed and knowledgeable vegetarians, face during 9 whole months. Well, to say the least, having vegetarian food in pregnancy is absolutely safe. Millions of vegetarian mothers have given birth to healthy babies around the world. Still not convinced? Well then let us analyze the most common doubts associated with a meatless diet during pregnancy.
According to The Farm (a community for vegans), a lot of undue importance is given to increased calorie intake during pregnancy, which is the key reason for post-partum obesity. According to USDA guidelines, a normal pregnant woman with no co-morbidities would need to add around 300 Kcals to her regular diet. These 300 Kcals can be obtained by simply adding 1 extra snack to the daily diet being followed. For instance, a vegan fresh fruit smoothie contributes to nearly 250 Kcals, while a milk based fruit smoothie can give over 300 Kcals.
Will Vegetarian foods fulfill the increased protein needs of pregnancy?
Vegetarianism and proteins – this seems like an eternal question in the minds of the general meat eating population. However, one must remember that vegetarianism encompasses a whole gamut of food preferences from Lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarians to strict vegans. While, the former category of vegetarians can easily increase their protein intake by increasing dairy and/or egg intake, one may wonder about the vegan’s fate.
However, proteins are the building block of all living organisms, plants included. A vegan can include extra servings of beans, legumes, soy, nuts, and grains for meeting the protein requirement. At the same time excluding foods with low nutritional value, such as refined flour and sugar helps to include more protein rich food without being overwhelmed by the quantity.
Is there an increased chance of Iron and Calcium deficiency?
Pregnant females need 1200 mg of calcium and 30 mg of iron daily. Calcium is abundantly present in green leafy vegetables, certain millets, and dairy products. A lacto or lacto-ovo vegetarian can easily meet the calcium needs by increasing dairy intake, while a vegan can include fortified soy milk products along with spinach, black beans, and millets for calcium.
Several fruits and vegetables such as dates, melons, pumpkin seeds, beans, molasses, etc., are rich sources of iron. However, remember to consume a Vitamin C rich food along with these to enhance iron absorption. Apart from consuming an iron-calcium rich diet, doctors normally prescribe an iron and calcium supplement in the second and third trimester to prevent any chances of deficiencies.
What about crucial vitamins like folic acid and vitamin B12
A pregnant woman’s diet should include 600 mcg of folic acid and 2.6 mcg of cynocobalamine (vitamin B12). These are two highly crucial nutrients for fetal growth and survival.
Vegetarians (vegans included) usually have no problem getting enough folic acid in their diet. Beans, nuts, whole grains, soya products, deep colored fruits, and vegetables like beetroot, spinach, broccoli, and oranges are all vegetarian sources of folic acid. Including at least 1 or 2 servings of each will easily help meet the RDA for folic acid.
Cynocobalamine, however, is a tricky nutrient. It is found only in animal tissue, making a vegetarian mother susceptible to Vitamin B12 deficiency. However, this too can be prevented by including fortified soymilk, nutritional yeast, and Vitamin B12 supplements in their daily diet.
Thus, one can proudly continue their vegetarian lifestyle even during pregnancy. However, what is needed is proper diet planning to include enough protein, calories, and vitamins in the diet. This might be a bit of a challenge for a newbie but not impossible. Follow a balanced diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, include proper servings of soy, lentils, and/or dairy, and restrict your refined carbs. You may want to include a few vitamin and mineral supplements including Vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, and calcium tablets.
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