The Special Needs of the Pregnant Vegetarian
It’s apparent that your nutritional needs increase when you are pregnant. However, you only need approximately 300 more calories than normal during this time, so it’s imperative that you make wise food choices and eat nutrient-dense food.
A good start is to ensure that you’re eating plenty of protein. Your need for protein increases about 30 percent during pregnancy, but most vegetarian women eat more than enough protein in their regular diets. Soy proteins, beans and legumes are wonderful vegetarian sources of protein.
You need to also step up your calcium intake. Each day you need to be eating at least four servings of calcium-rich foods like broccoli, calcium-fortified soy milk, tofu, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Sunlight stimulates your body to naturally produce vitamin D, and it’s probably the easiest way to ensure you get an adequate amount each day. You only need about 20 minutes directly on your face and hands two to three times per week, when the sun is weakest. If you aren’t able to get out into the sun, be sure to incorporate vitamin-D rich foods into your daily diet by choosing fortified cereals, or using a supplement.
Take a look at your iron intake, as it’s a vital mineral during your pregnancy, especially the last half. Choose beans, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, or fortified breads and cereals. You might also want to consider supplementing to ensure you get the required amount.
Vitamin B-12 is also an important nutrient during your pregnancy, but it’s difficult to find in most plant-based foods. Select fortified cereals or soy milk, brewer’s yeast, and consider a multivitamin with an adequate level to ensure your body gets the amount it needs.
And though zinc is difficult to come by in a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, the need for it increases during pregnancy. Whole grains and legumes are wise choices to obtain this nutrient, but you again may need to supplement to make sure you’re getting what you need.
As long as you eat a good variety of nutritious foods that provide the right amount of calories for a healthy weight gain, you should have no problem getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs at this marvelous time. And though many women do choose to take a prenatal vitamin daily, they should not be a substitute for good nutrition. Develop a cooperative relationship with your healthcare provider who supports your vegetarian lifestyle, and consider consulting a nutritionist when necessary.
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