Pregnant women need to pay special attention to their diets — and since many vegetarians are already in the habit of balancing meals and monitoring nutrients, eating during pregnancy may feel very familiar. If you’re new to vegetarian eating when you get pregnant or if you’re just concerned that your diet could be more balanced, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist who can evaluate your specific diet.
A balanced vegetarian diet during pregnancy includes a healthy daily mix of nine or more servings of bread and grains, four or more servings of vegetables, three or more servings of fruits, four or more servings of dairy products, three servings of protein, less than 8 Tbsp. of fats and a limited amount of sweets, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
As long as you’re covering your nutritional bases, you probably won’t need to increase your daily calorie intake until after your first trimester, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Once you pass that milestone, you’ll need to look for nutrient-dense ways to add approximately 300 calories to your daily diet to help support your developing baby.
In addition to eating from a variety of food groups, make sure that your diet includes some essential nutrients. Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, is available in dairy products, but if you don’t drink milk, 15 minutes of daily exposure to sunlight provides adequate vitamin D. Make sure your daily diet includes at least one source of vitamin C-rich food, such as citrus fruits or tomatoes; one folic acid-rich food, such as fortified cereal or dark leafy greens; and one vitamin A-rich food, such as carrots or sweet potatoes.
You may need to make an extra effort to ensure that your vegetarian diet includes enough of some essential nutrients. Increase your intake of tofu, beans, peanut butter, egg whites and nuts to get the recommended three servings of protein every day. Drink more milk — including calcium-fortified soy milk — or eat more dairy products, molasses, collard greens and tahini to meet your calcium needs. And ask your doctor about a supplement that contains 100 percent of the recommended amount of iron, zinc and B12 — you’ll find those nutrients tough to get in a vegetarian diet, says nutritionist Bridget Swinney on BabyCenter.com.
Even if you’re worried about your pregnancy weight gain, it’s never safe to diet during pregnancy, warns the Cleveland Clinic. Make sure that you’re consuming the recommended number of daily calories to protect your health and your baby’s health, and save dieting for after you’ve recovered from childbirth.