Yes, it is. However, when following a vegetarian diet, it is more difficult to obtain all of the nutrients you need, particularly iron. This means that, if you are vegetarian, it is twice as important to get expert advice when you are pregnant because your requirements are dramatically increased during this time.
Following a vegetarian diet when pregnant is perfectly healthy, as long as you ensure you are getting the right amount of key nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and more. A vegetarian pregnancy diet doesn’t need to be over-complicated – just make sure that you eat a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts.
Key nutrients during a vegetarian pregnancy
You should have several servings of these key nutrients each day:
Protein is essential for the growth and development of your baby’s muscles, tissues and cells. Good vegetarian sources of protein include eggs, dairy products, legumes, soy foods, nuts, seeds and nut butters.
Iron has a key role in pregnancy because it is necessary for the production of blood (during pregnancy, your body produces more blood to help deliver nutrients through the placenta to your body).
Great iron sources include legumes, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, whole grain foods, tofu and leafy greens like spinach and kale. If you take a prenatal vitamin, it is quite likely that it will include a percentage of your daily iron needs.
Avoid drinking tea of coffee with your iron-rich meals, as the tannins and polyphenols in these drinks make it harder for your body to absorb iron from vegetables. Instead, pair your meal with something high in vitamin C (like orange juice), as this will help your body to absorb iron.
Zinc is necessary for healthy baby growth and development. Most foods that provide iron also provide zinc, like beans, soy foods, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals. Other sources of zinc include nuts, seeds, wheat germ and cheese.
Vitamin B12 is important for your baby’s brain development. Eating several servings of dairy each day should provide you with enough B12, but if you limit or avoid dairy, you will need to eat foods that are fortified with vitamin B12, like soy milk, cereals and nutritional yeast.
Iodine is also important for you baby’s brain development. Sources of iodine include iodized salt, dried seaweed, cow’s milk and yoghurt. If you don’t eat these products, make sure that your prenatal vitamin includes iodine.
Calcium is vital for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth and cells. Great vegetarian sources of calcium include:
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Calcium-fortified soy milk, fruit juice and breakfast cereal
- White beans, tahini, calcium-set tofu and blackstrap molasses
- Almonds and sesame seeds
- Green vegetables like kale, broccoli and bok choy
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. Many prenatal supplements include vitamin D, as does cow’s milk, egg yolks, cheese and vitamin D fortified orange juice, soy milk and cereals.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that promotes the development of your unborn baby’s brain and eyes. DHA is found in fish, fish oil and algae. Because it is quite difficult to obtain DHA from non-fish sources, you might want to take an omega-3 supplement that is derived from algae and suitable for vegetarians.
Visit our Brisbane dietitian
Regardless of whether you are vegetarian, vegan or meat eating, we recommend that you book an appointment with our Brisbane dietitian, Julie Brodrick. Julie will ensure that you get the nutrition you need during your pregnancy.
If you have any questions about the information above, or if you would like to book an appointment with our accredited dietitian, please contact us today or use the link below: