This article covers Nutrition tips for eating a vegan diet while pregnant.
Are you vegan? Pregnant? Wondering if a vegan pregnancy can be healthy and possible? This blog post about nutrition tips for a healthy vegan pregnancy is for you!
Of course, I wrote it as a qualified nutritionist specializing in vegan nutrition and also as a vegan mother. I had very successful vegan pregnancies with my little ones. I now want to share as much information as possible on vegan pregnancy so other vegan moms can experience a healthy vegan pregnancy, have a healthy baby and stay vegan throughout, if that is their choice.
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Read on to discover my tips to have a successful vegan pregnancy and keep on eating vegan while pregnant.
Nutrition Tips For A Healthy Vegan Pregnancy
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 with a high intake of fiber, fruits, and vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals.
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 diet and pregnancy are 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 the intake of processed and unhealthy vegan foods.
As a nutritionist and previously healthy pregnant vegan mom, I recommend following these nutrition tips for a successful healthy vegan pregnancy.
A day on my plate currently is a bit like this:
- 2 pieces of wholemeal toast with 1 small avocado + hemp seeds + lemon juice
- Apple + peanut butter + cinnamon or a banana
- Salad with beans, hemp oil, and fresh veggies
- Piece of chocolate or baked good I have made for a sweet.
- Hummus/ cucumber for afternoon snack or fruit and pb toast or hemp-based smoothies for extra protein (I will do a blog post on protein snacks/ recipes)
- Veggie curry, dhal, pasta or big veggie salads for dinner.
I don’t measure my protein or calcium intake. I just try to eat more foods I know are rich in plant-based protein and calcium.
However, I use the app Cronometer once in a while to check that I am eating a balanced vegan diet and reaching most of my nutrient level requirements for a few days in a row.
Nutrition tips for eating vegan while pregnant and having a healthy Vegan Pregnancy:
- Eat the rainbow: Eat a wide range of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to get all the nutrients your body and baby need. 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, DHA, Vit D, 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 eating iron-rich foods combined with Vit-C-rich foods. Leafy greens, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, legumes, and blackstrap 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 a baby’s brain and nervous system development. Good plant-based sources are algae, hemp and flaxseed oils, chia seeds, 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 kimchi and kombucha to help maintain healthy gut flora and immune response. As well as 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 fetus and therefore it is important to make sure your diet provides you with a sufficient intake of calcium-rich foods. These include calcium-fortified plant milk, 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 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 my top 3- favorite pregnancy snacks, below!
- Iodine: Iodine is very important for the brain development of the fetus, and a lack of iodine can lead to cretinism and thyroid issues. The use of iodized salt is highly recommended during pregnancy as well as eating seaweed regularly.
- Watch out for your sweets: Eating vegan while pregnant 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 the risk for gestational diabetes due to the high fiber content of the diet). Try limiting your sweets, chocolate, and baked goods to have a healthy vegan diet and pregnancy.
My top 3 Healthy Vegan Pregnancy Snacks:
- Hemp blueberry Smoothie made with:
- 1 cup frozen Blueberries
- 1 tbsp hemp protein powder
- 1 tbsp 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.
My Vegan Pregnancy
Let’s dig into my current vegan pregnancy, shall we?
We found out we were expecting just before NYE as I tested just in case I couldn’t drink champagne! I had some wine and champagne on the days before though but apparently it doesn’t really matter in the very early days.
We told my parents straight away as we were visiting them. I filmed their reactions and it was very funny! It was a bit of a surprise.
I was lucky my dad had already planned to visit us for the month of January and February and help me out so that was perfect timing for me not feeling great in the first trimester. I
have had lots of nausea and food aversions and just overall tiredness. I feel like this pregnancy so far isn’t easier at all from my twin pregnancy! The nausea was worse but changing dirty nappies didn’t help!
I have been craving lots of fruit (apricots, peaches, berries), peanut butter, smoothies, and cereals! I have gone off chocolate completely (the same thing happened with my twin pregnancy) and I have stopped drinking coffees and teas. I still eat vegan and I am not craving meat at all.
I am also craving bread and baked goods are coming back into my diet now that I am in the second trimester.
I am overall eating a lot healthier than in my twin pregnancy though. I am also mindful not to overeat too early in the pregnancy! I will share more pregnancy food posts if you wish.
I also track my nutrients using Cronometer to make sure I eat enough of everything on a vegan diet.
Looking at Instagram some days has been hard- some food pictures would make me want to vomit and my interest and desire to create recipes has gone down quite a bit hence why I have been a little bit quieter and reposting some old recipes.
My intuition tells me the baby is a girl but we won’t find out until the birth this time. I want to keep it a surprise.
I have been able to keep walking and running most weeks during the first trimester but whereas before I would run 6-10km most days I now run 2-3 km a few times a week and am very slow!
I am hoping to increase the distance some more in the second trimester and I am also doing more yoga and pregnancy workout videos on Youtube.
I am much more active this pregnancy than in my last pregnancy with twins where I pretty much laid on the couch for 7 months!
He or she is kicking lots and I can feel it a lot now which is a great reminder to the little miracle I am carrying in my belly.
I absolutely love the feeling of baby kicks, it is one of my favourite thing about being a woman and being able to be pregnant!
We had our anatomy scan and the baby is measuring on track (2 days ahead) and is very healthy. Such a relief after our last pregnancy with IUGR (slow growth).
We are not finding the gender until birth. I think I saw a willy but I could be wrong as they moved very quickly down that area. I was a bit silly trying to see haha
I am relieved baby is healthy and it is good to know that eating vegan is not stopping his or her growth at all!
I have been eating vegan this pregnancy and feeling great. I have been feeling good and have no nausea and good energy apart from bouts of very low blood pressure leaving me feeling flat.
I almost fainted in Woolworths one day but drinking tons of water seems to help.
I had a fasting blood sugar test as well as the HbA1c test, an iron test and TSH this week. Everything came back good apart from my iron. I have low iron and I will be focusing on increasing my iron food sources in the next few weeks.
Related: How To Improve Iron Level
During my first (twins) pregnancy, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. But of course, I had 2 babies, and was pretty much on couch rest!
So this pregnancy is very different for me. I really am loving this pregnancy stage this time around, carrying a small but cute bump, not being uncomfortable or worried and having the energy to run after my twins.
Talking about running… I have not been running properly for many weeks but I take fast/ inclined walks on the treadmill a few times a week.
I also do resistance training type of workout for 10-20 minutes most days. I try to be good and stay active but I really listen to my body. I want to stay active and healthy to improve my chances of a VBAC.
My diet has been quite healthy. I do crave the odd chocolate and ice cream, but mostly lots of yummy vegan plant-based foods, like these.
Well, I must say I have been getting hungrier in the past 2 weeks and have been wanting a lot more fats like avocado or peanut butter and protein like beans and tofu.
Nutrition Tips For A Healthy Vegan Pregnancy – Conclusion
If you would like further coaching on a vegan diet and pregnancy and help to have a successful healthy vegan pregnancy, be sure to subscribe to my mailing list, and join my 4-Week Plant-Based Reset!
If you enjoyed this post on eating vegan while pregnant you might also check out my other nutrition posts: