Nutrition tips for a healthy vegan pregnancy.
Are you vegan? Pregnant? Wondering if a vegan pregnancy can be healthy and possible? This blogpost is for you!
Pregnancy is a great time to provide your body and baby with highly nutritious foods and eating a healthy plant-based diet is a great way to do that. In many cases plant-based vegans eat a healthier diet than meat-eaters; often much healthier during pregnancy.
This is the statement from the Australian Dietary Guidelines: “Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally adequate. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle.”
- Lower risk of preeclampsia;
- Lower incidence of constipation;
- Lower risk of developing gestational diabetes;
- Lower risk of obesity and gestational weight gain;
- Lower incidence of calf cramps;
- Improved fetal growth;
- Lower exposures to toxins such as nitrates (in cured meats), mercury (in fish), antibiotics and added hormones (in eggs, dairy, meat);
But a vegan pregnancy is only healthy if the mum eats a wide variety of nutritious foods (same as an omnivorous pregnancy). Eating chips all day every day is never going to bring all the nutrition your baby needs. So as for any pregnancy I recommend limiting intake of processed and unhealthy “junk” vegan foods.
As a nutritionist and pregnant vegan mama I recommend following the below 10 points for a successful healthy vegan pregnancy:
- Eat the rainbow: Eat a wide range of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to get all the nutrients your body and baby needs. Think citrus fruits, berries, green leafy vegetables, avocados, flax seeds, hemp seeds!
- Supplement: All women are recommended to take a prenatal supplement during pregnancy (and 3 months prior) to ensure an adequate intake of folate. I recommend taking a good vegan plant-based prenatal that will also provide you with adequate levels of iron, iodine, zinc and Vit B12 for a healthy vegan pregnancy.
- Iron: Iron supplementation is often required in pregnancy and I recommend taking a supplement (or prenatal supplement) as well as eat iron-rich foods combined with Vit-C-rich foods. Leafy greens, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, legumes and black strap molasses are good vegan sources.
- Protein: Meeting your protein requirements is often the main worry of pregnant mums- especially on a vegan diet. The good news is that is quite easy to meet the recommended daily intake of 60 g/day (1.00 g/kg). Beans are a great source of protein: 1 cup of soybeans has 29 grams of protein; 1 cup of lentils has 18 grams of protein; 1 cup of pinto beans has 15 grams of protein; and 1 cup of firm tofu has 20 grams of protein. Adding smoothies with clean vegan protein powders, snacking on peanut butter and nuts and seeds are also great ways to meet your daily requirements.
- Omega-3s: Essential fatty acids are important for baby brain’s and nervous system development. Good plant-based sources are algae, hemp and flaxseed oils, walnuts and leafy green vegetables. You can also supplement with an algae-based DHA supplement.
- Vegan probiotics: I recommend eating probiotics rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kim chi and kombucha to help maintain a healthy gut flora and immune response. As well prebiotic-rich foods such as raw garlic, raw or cooked onions, under-ripe bananas (prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber that acts as a fuel for the good bacteria in your gut).
- Calcium and Vit D: Calcium and vitamin D are necessary for the development of the bones and teeth of the foetus and therefore it is important to make sure your diet provides you with a sufficient intake of calcium rich foods. These include figs, raw apricots, broccoli, collard greens, spinach, almonds and tofu. Fortified-soy milk is my go-to calcium source to make sure I top up my diet. For the vitamin D I try to go in the sun when I can but supplementing might be necessary if you live in a cloudy, cold part of the world.
- Healthy Snacks: Eating vegan and especially plant-based is not as high in calories as a traditional diet so you need to make sure to follow your hunger and eat when you are hungry. For me it meant including smart nutritious and healthy snacks morning and afternoons. Check out below my top 3- favourite pregnancy snacks!
- Iodine: Iodine is very important for the brain development of the foetus, and a lack of iodine can lead to cretinism and thyroid issues. The use of iodized salt is highly recommended for pregnant vegans.
- Watch out your sweets: Eating vegan doesn’t mean you won’t develop gestational diabetes or gain too much weight during your pregnancy. (Although it is proven that a plant-based diet reduces risk for gestational diabetes due to the high fibre content of the diet). Try limiting your sweets, chocolate and baked goods. (I do a lot of baking on my Instagram but I usually only have one slice per day or make 1 cake per week + I make them with very little sweetener and use healthy nutritious ingredients.)
My top 3 Healthy Pregnancy Snacks:
- Hemp blueberry Smoothie made with:
- ½ cup of frozen Blueberries
- 1 tbsp of hemp protein powder
- 1 tbsp of tahini
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
- 1 cup of nut milk of your choice
- ½ cup of baby spinach
- Protein Chocolate Coconut yogurt ( ½ cup of coconut yogurt, 1 tbsp of chocolate plant-based protein powder, ½ tsp of stevia, extra cacao optional).
- Fruit and peanut butter with cinnamon.
I hope you like this article and it might help some of you. Also would you be interested in a 28-day nutritious vegan pregnancy meal plan??Let me know