What to eat if you are a vegetarian and pregnant
Being vegetarian and pregnant can definitely be a healthy choice but it is important that you ensure your diet is balanced and provides all the nutrients that you and your baby require.
Following a vegetarian diet is perfectly healthy but you must concentrate on getting enough of a number of key ingredients – protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and folate.
Protein is absolutely essential for the growth and development of your baby’s muscles, tissue and cells. During pregnancy, nutritionists recommend that your protein requirements increase by about 10% to about 50 -60grams.
You will get all of the protein you require if your diet includes plenty of milk, cheese, eggs, soya products such as tofu, lentils and beans. Include protein rich food at every meal.
During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to help deliver nutrients through the placenta to your baby. Good sources of iron include dark green vegetables, pulses, fortified breakfast cereals, eggs, dry fruits and wholemeal bread. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron so it is ideal to have a glass of orange juice or eat an orange with or after your meal.
Calcium is important for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth and cells. If you eat dairy products, animal milks, cheese and yoghurts are excellent high calcium foods. Pulses, set tofu, dark green vegetables, sesame seeds, tahini and dried fruits are also good sources of calcium.
As a rule of thumb, you should aim to consume at least four portions of calcium rich food per day.
To help absorb calcium, your body needs a good supply of Vitamin D. This can be found in dairy products, oily fish and eggs and is also produced by exposure to sunlight. We find many of our patients have a low vitamin D level on testing so a vitamin D supplement is usually recommended to take during your pregnancy.
Becoming pregnant does not mean that you will have to compromise your vegetarian diet provided that it is well balanced. If you pay particular attention to your intake of protein, calcium and iron, you are unlikely to experience any diet-related problems during your pregnancy.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and trusted obstetricians and gynaecologists.
With over three decades of experience, Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!
In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.