Tips For a Healthy Vegan Pregnancy
NATALIE SHEMESH | REGISTERED DIETITIAN
A balanced, well-planned vegan diet is adequate and provides all the dietary requirements for pregnant women and their fetuses. In order to get the best out of your vegan diet, be sure to follow a few simple rules:
- Eat a balanced diet based on legumes, grains (especially whole grains), soy and soy products, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds (including nut and seed butters and spreads).
- Include protein-rich food in your diet – such as legumes, tofu, TVP and seitan.
- Have healthy snacks – snack on fruit and nuts instead of packaged salty snacks and sweets.
- Get enough iodine – iodine is important for pregnant and lactating women, for proper fetal and infant development. Dietary sources for iodine includes sea vegetables, such as Wakame, Kombu or Kelp or iodized salt (if there is no mandatory iodine fortification of salt in your country, try to find a special fortified salt). Also, the iodine content in your prenatal supplement is important (see the section below).
- Supplements – follow the recommendations for pregnant women in your country and consult your physician or dietitian for a more personalized supplement plan. In most countries, the recommendation is folic acid (which should also be taken prior to pregnancy), iron and DHA (a specific type of omega 3 that is usually derived from fish, but you can find a vegan DHA supplement made from Algae oil). Another possible recommendation is to take prenatal – a multivitamin for pregnant women.
- Special instructions for vegans? Yes: in addition to the supplement mentioned above, be sure to take a vitamin B12 supplement regularly.
- Fortify your diet – eat plenty of foods rich in iron, calcium and zinc such as legumes, whole grains, soy and soy products, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Also, add some vegan omega 3 to your diet: chia and flax seeds are good sources.
If you are just starting a vegan lifestyle, make the transition gradually (especially if your diet was primarily based on animal products) and consider consulting a vegan-friendly dietitian in order to make sure you get all the nutrients you need for you and your baby.