What to eat for a vegetarian pregnancy

Being vegetarian and pregnant can definitely be a healthy choice, but you need to ensure your diet is balanced and provides all the nutrients you and your baby need. Our Dietitian Emer Delaney explains how...

Veggie pregnancy

Following a veggie diet when pregnant is perfectly healthy, but it is important to get all the nutrients you and your baby need. As a vegetarian mum-to-be, you really need to concentrate on getting enough of a number of key nutrients – protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate.

Protein power Stuffed avocado

Protein is essential for the growth and development of your baby’s muscles, tissues and cells. However there are plenty of high protein vegetarian options available including lentils, beans and meat alternatives such as quorn and nuts.  Depending on the type of vegetarian you are, you may eat well-cooked eggs or dairy, or neither or both. Regardless of this, it is important to include a protein-rich food at every meal.

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Lentil raguIron 

Iron is another key nutrient you need to be aware of and its role in pregnancy is very important.  During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to help deliver nutrients through the placenta to your body.  Following a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean your iron intake has to be compromised.  Good sources of iron include dark green vegetables, pulses, fortified breakfast cereals, well-done eggs, dried fruits and wholemeal bread.  Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, so it’s a great idea to have a glass of orange juice (150ml), satsumas or an orange with or after your meal.

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Calcium Leek sandwich

Calcium is vital for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth and cells, so ensuring your diet is high in calcium is key.  If you eat dairy products, animal milks, cheese and yogurts are excellent high calcium foods.  If not, vegetarian options are equally good – just ensure your milks are enriched with added calcium.  Some non-animal milks e.g. rice and oat milk are naturally lower in calcium.  Pulses, set tofu, sesame seeds, tahini and dried fruit are all good sources of calcium.

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Vitamin DVitamin D

Despite the amount of calcium-rich foods you eat, if you have low levels of vitamin D, your body can’t absorb the calcium you digest. A high proportion of us living in the UK have low vitamin D levels as we get most of it from sunlight. We can get some from food, however most is found in meat, oily fish and eggs. All pregnant women, regardless of their diet choices are advised to take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they have enough vitamin D for their baby.

And relax

When you're pregnant it can feel like you're bombarded with information from all sides, and sometimes you might just feel like a plate of beige for dinner, and there's no need to feel bad about that. You'll probably feel differently about food at different times in your pregnancy, so you may be craving greens one month and be disgusted by them the next. But it can be helpful to arm yourself with the knowledge of what foods will quickly get you the nutrients you need.

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Are you following a vegetarian diet when pregnant? We would love to hear from you below...

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