Pregnancy and being Vegan

A Vegan Pregnancy

As a Toronto Birth Doula I am passionate about keeping women with all types of diets healthy. My guest writer sweet pea nutrition has helpful tips for a vegan pregnancy. 

One of the most popular questions I get is if it is safe to continue eating a vegan diet

while pregnant. Even those who have been following vegan diets for years may

start to question if they are getting everything they need nutritionally in order to

have a healthy pregnancy and a thriving baby. Many health practitioners even ask

me if their patients can eat vegan diets since most standard pregnancy

recommendations include foods like dairy and meats. So in this post I wanted to

dispel a few myths and address some of the major concerns folks tend to have when

following a vegan diet while pregnant.

 

Calories- Not getting enough calories in a vegan diet can be a concern if you are

subsisting only on low calorie bulky foods like vegetables. However, many vegan

foods are higher calorie and consuming these will ensure you hit your calorie goals

and achieve healthy pregnancy weight gain. Snacking on high fat foods like nuts and

seeds are a good start. I also have clients make smoothies with coconut milk instead

of water just to boost the caloric (and nutrient) density of some of their food.

Drizzling olive oil over dishes and salads is also a good way to pack in some extra

fat, calories and nutrition.

 

Protein- This nutrient always seems to come up when talking about vegan diets and

pregnancy, as protein is required for cell growth and development of your new

baby. However, for the most part this is a non-issue when looking at a healthy

balanced vegan diet. Beans and lentils are protein powerhouses and nuts and seeds

are also good sources. Try to avoid fake meats most of the time though since they

tend to be processed and high in sodium.

Calcium-Dairy products are often the go-to when talking about this mineral,

however calcium can also be found in vegan sources quite easily. Some of the best

non-dairy calcium rich foods include leafy greens, white beans, almonds and chia or

sesame seeds.

 

Iron- Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the fetus and also protects you

from anemia, a common issue during pregnancy for vegans and meat eaters alike,

and while meat is the number one source of iron, other great vegan options include

beans, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried fruit and blackstrap

molasses. Helpful tip: you want to consume Vitamin C along with these iron-rich

foods since Vitamin C helps increase your body’s ability to absorb iron. Some rich

sources of vitamin C can be found in red peppers, kiwi, citrus and strawberries.

 

DHA- This omega 3 fatty acid is mainly found in fatty cold water fish, such as

salmon. If however you don’t eat fish then your body is able to make DHA from an

omega 3 fatty acid called ALA. Foods like flax, chia seeds and walnuts are rich in

ALA, however the conversion rate from ALA to DHA is not particularly high, so

consuming an algae based vegan DHA supplement may be a good idea. Some other

ways to boost the conversion of ALA to DHA include cutting out trans fats,

consuming fewer processed oils that tend to be high in omega 6 and limiting sugar.

 

Vitamin B12- The best sources of this vital vitamin are in things like meat and

dairy, however you can get some vitamin B12 from fortified grain and soy products.

A better option may be to take a supplement just to ensure you and baby are getting

the right amount, since B12 is important in many fetal developments, most notably

the growth of the brain and nervous system.

 

Gingerbread Smoothie Recipe- Combines a lot of the nutrition we outlined above

into a delicious, creamy smoothie:

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana

1 cup of canned coconut milk (can use almond milk instead if getting adequate

calories is not an issue for you)

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp blackstrap molasses

1 tbsp ground flax seeds

1 tbsp chia seeds

Directions: Peel and freeze a banana (easiest if you also chop banana into pieces,

especially if you don’t have a high-speed blender). Add banana and remaining

ingredients into a blender. Blend until everything is combined and smooth and

creamy. Add more milk or water if smoothie is too thick. Enjoy!

1 tbsp ground flax seeds

1 frozen banana

1 cup of canned coconut milk (can use almond milk instead if getting adequate

calories is not an issue for you)

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp blackstrap molasses

1 tbsp chia seeds

Directions: Peel and freeze a banana (easiest if you also chop banana into pieces,

especially if you don’t have a high speed blender). Add banana and remaining

ingredients into a blender. Blend until everything is combined and smooth and

creamy. Add more milk or water if smoothie is too thick. Enjoy!

Allison Martineau has over 10 years experience working in health and nutrition.  She has a passion for sharing her nutritional strategies with expectant and new families to make cooking and eating for health during the preconception, pregnancy and postpartum periods simple and convenient.

Allison runs a nutrition practice called Sweetpea Nutrition and lives in Toronto with her husband and two young sons. www.sweetpeanutrition.com

 
 

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