If you are a vegan, you may find that everyone is pushing meat, or at least eggs and dairy, on you during your pregnancy. While your nutritional requirements do increase and change during pregnancy, you can remain vegan and eat a balanced, nutritious and adequate diet from the first trimester through delivery and beyond.
A vegan diet is one that includes no animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy products or honey. Vegan diets do include ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and healthy fats. Vegan diets are often low in fat and relatively low in calories, making them a smart choice for a fit body and lifestyle. During pregnancy, increased nutritional and calorie needs can pose some challenges for vegan moms-to-be.
Adequate intake of calcium, iron and vitamins is essential during pregnancy. A good-quality prenatal vitamin, as recommended by your doctor or midwife, should be taken from before conception through breastfeeding. Choose foods rich in calcium, including dark leafy greens or fortified soy milk. Dark green vegetables, dried fruits and nuts and seeds are a good source of iron, as is blackstrap molasses. Vitamin B12 is not naturally present in vegan foods, so supplement or consume fortified foods, like soy milk, meat analogs and breakfast cereal.
Adequate protein consumption is another common concern for vegetarians and vegans during pregnancy. You need an extra 25 g protein each day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, reports the Vegetarian Resource Group. Increasing the serving size of high-protein foods or adding additional servings of legumes, seeds, or soy milk can meet your need for additional protein during pregnancy. If you are gaining weight appropriately and eating a balanced diet, you are likely consuming adequate protein for your growing baby.
While a balanced vegan diet can, with a bit of care, meet your nutritional needs, the low-calorie density of many vegan foods can make it more difficult to consume adequate calories. Fruit smoothies, nut butters and calorie-dense, fatty foods like avocados can help you to meet your caloric needs. You’ll need about 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester and 450 extra a day in the third trimester, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.
High-risk pregnancies, including multiple births, can make it more difficult to remain vegan during pregnancy. If you have special concerns, speak to your doctor or midwife, or make an appointment with a vegetarian and vegan-friendly dietitian to create a diet plan that you feel good about and that provides what you and your baby require during your pregnancy.