When you’re pregnant, you are quite literally building a human being. You get only one chance to build that person, so it stands to reason that you want to build him with the best supplies you can get your hands on. In the case of baby building, those top-notch supplies are nutritious foods.
Is it possible to have a healthy plant-based pregnancy and get all the necessary baby-building nutrients from a plants? Absolutely!
In 2009 the American Dietetic Association released an article stating: “Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and for athletes.”
While your nutritional needs do change when you become pregnant and the “eating for two” adage is an exaggeration, you do need to increase your caloric intake a bit and ensure you’re consuming these key nutrients.
The amount of daily protein you require increases from about 45 g per day to about 75 g per day. Think that’s impossible to do eating (even exclusively) plants? Think again. Lentils, nuts, beans, seeds, peas, and whole grains are great sources of plant-based protein. Make sure you also check out my Plant-Based Protein Prenatal Meal Plan. Hint: I’ve done the work for you, mama!
It’s recommended that pregnant women consume 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Think you need to latch on to a dairy cow? Nope, not even! Soy beans, broccoli, bock choy, collard greens, cabbage, kale, and almonds are all excellent sources of easily absorbed calcium.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends expecting mothers aim to get 27 mg iron per day. No steak needed. Instead, serving up a few helpings of lentils, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, oats, iron-fortified cereal, or whole grain bread.
The presence of Vitamin C in your diet makes the absorption of plant-based iron possible. Aim to consume 85 mg each day. That’s a cinch with oranges, bell peppers, grapefruit, broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption. 600 IU are recommended for pregnant women. You can contribute to this goal with fortified foods like orange juice and cereals. You can also take a walk outside! That’s right, spending time in the sun is the best way to help your body produce the vitamin D it needs.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
This is one of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids that is so crucial for brain development and vision. The pregnancy RDA is 300mg/day. Fish oil, like that that from salmon, may be the best source, but you can also get some DHA in your diet with flax, chia, and hemp seeds.
This is, by no means, a complete list of all the nutrients needed to build a baby, but these are some of the most crucial, and those most often brought into question with regards to a plant-based diet. To ensure you’re providing yourself and your baby all the nutrients you both need for optimal health, eat real food and cook with quality ingredients. Eat a variety of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, colorful veggies, and fruit. Also, take a plant-based prenatal multivitamin (that includes B vitamins, especially B-12 if you forego all meat in your diet) and a DHA supplement. I took both of these throughout my pregnancy and even now as I continue to breastfeed.
As always, if you have any questions, please reach out!