Women's Healthcare Topics

Is it okay to eat a vegetarian diet during pregnancy?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Vegetarian Diet is Safe with Restrictions

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may be wondering whether or not it's safe or healthy to continue your restricted diet during pregnancy. Eating a vegetarian diet can be safe if you plan your meals carefully to ensure that your baby is receiving all the nutrients he or she requires to grow strong.

Vegetarian diets, particularly vegan ones that exclude all animal products, may not contain sufficient amounts of essential amino acids, iron, trace minerals, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, protein, iron, or complex lipids to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Also, because vegetarian diets require a high bulk of food, meeting the energy requirements that your body needs during pregnancy can be difficult.

You can resolve vitamin and nutritional deficiency with minor dietary changes, such as the following:

    Learn about vegetarian or vegan diet in pregnancy.
  • You'll want to supplement your diet with other non-meat and non-diary protein sources. You can find protein in peanut butter, nuts and nut products, legumes, tofu, and soy products. It's very important that you get enough protein into your pregnancy diet.

  • To get enough Vitamin D in your body, you can consume fortified milk, eggs, and fish. If you are a vegan, you can either take a supplement or spend 10 to 15 minutes in direct sunlight three times a week.

  • Aim for at least four servings of calcium-rich foods each day to ensure you get 1200 milligrams of calcium daily. You can easily meet this calcium requirement by eating dairy products, fish and seafood, leaf green vegetables, tofu, beans, and peas.

  • You need to get 27 milligrams of iron each day, so be sure to consume plenty of iron-rich foods. Iron can be found in prunes, raisins, dried beans, peas, peanuts and peanut butter, sweet potatoes, eggs, iron-fortified foods (like cereals), eggs, leafy green vegetables (like spinach and Romaine lettuce), broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

  • Consume at least one source of vitamin C every day. You can find vitamin C in many fruits, such as oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, and honeydew. Vitamin C is also plentiful in vegetables like broccoli, green peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and mustard greens.

  • Folic acid is incredibly important during pregnancy to protect against neural tube defects. Be sure to include this in your diet. Vegetarian sources of folic acid include chickpeas, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, and dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Don't forget adding Vitamin A into your diet. Consume at least one source every two days (not every day). Too much vitamin A is not a good thing. These foods include carrots, squash, pumpkins, spinach, turnip greens, beat greens, apricots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.

  • Eat one or more sources of Vitamin B12 every day. Vitamin B12 can be found in eggs, fish, shellfish and other seafood products, and diary products. Vegans may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.

  • Remember to take a prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplement to make sure all your nutrients are met each day.


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