I’m not usually a vegetarian, but my body decided that I was going to be while pregnant. It would reject anything with a hint of meat in it and I couldn’t eat fish for most of the pregnancy, either – just the smell of it was making me sick. That’s when I had to look into designing a healthy vegetarian diet for myself and it turned out a lot easier than I expected.
It’s important that you’re including all food groups in your diet – carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables and protein, but don’t stress too much about measuring what you eat. As long as you’re having a healthy pregnancy and you’re eating a varied diet, you’re doing OK.
Some nutrients that can be difficult to get from a vegetarian diet and you may need to pay more attention to are:
Typically, your iron levels will go down during pregnancy, especially in its second half. It’s important to have iron-rich diet to prevent anaemia and simply feeling exhausted all the time. Eat plenty of green vegetables, legumes and nuts. Include vitamin C in the same meal for better absorption.
Calcium is essential for building healthy bones and if your diet is lacking in calcium, the body will draw calcium for the baby from stores in your bones. Vegetarian sources of calcium include almonds (almond milk), broccoli, soy beans (soy milk), fortified orange juice, roasted sesame seeds, hard tofu and green leafy vegetables such as kale and Asian greens.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in early pregnancy has been linked to increased risk of neural tube defects. This vitamin can only be found in animal products, so if you don’t eat eggs or dairy, you may need supplements. A good source of vitamin B12 are fortified breakfast cereals.
What you eat during pregnancy is important. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or nutritionist, if you need further help planning your healthy diet.
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