More and more people are adopting a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons, whether cultural or religious, or as a personal preference. Is it safe to continue practicing a vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy?
In recent years, it has become abundantly clear that a mother’s diet during pregnancy not only plays an important role for the health of the unborn child but may also predispose the child to developing health issues later in life.
Vegetarian pregnancy: Is it safe?
The short answer is YES. A varied and well-planned plant-based diet can provide enough nutrients for both the mum and the baby. It is important to be aware of your nutritional intake and be sure to include adequate key nutrients into your diet. A healthcare professional can help plan your diet in preparation for and during pregnancy.
The key nutrients we need to consider are:
It may be necessary to supplement your vegetarian diet with fortified foods or food supplements to make sure that you get enough key nutrients and energy for yourself and your baby. It is advised to inform your doctor about your diet, especially if you are planning to take any supplements.
Tips for a healthy vegetarian pregnancy
- To ensure sufficient nutrient intake, plan your meals in advance so that it is easier to incorporate a variety of plant-based foods. You can plan meals weekly, biweekly or monthly.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Aim for the widest variety of types and colours.
- Eat a wide range of plant proteins to ensure that you get all essential amino acids. If possible include dairy or eggs in your diet.
- Eating fortified foods like cereals, plant-based milks or non-dairy alternatives is a good way to ensure adequate intake of essential amino acids and vitamins.
- Include nuts, seeds, pulses and legumes into your diet.
- Don’t forget your folic acid and consider vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Adopting a vegetarian diet may put a woman at higher risk of nutritional deficiencies and pose a danger to mum and baby. If we ensure that nutritional needs are met and intake is adequate, these risks can be avoided.