Guest Post by Marcela De Vivo
When you’re a vegetarian mom-to-be, there are a lot of dietary considerations that you need to sort out. If you plan on breastfeeding, you need to carefully maintain your diet so that milk production and the nutritional value of what you’re feeding your child is adequate. While you can take a prenatal multivitamin, it’s ideal to get as many nutrients as possible through a well-balanced diet. Processed foods should be avoided as they offer very little, if any nutritional value.
As a vegetarian, it can be difficult to get enough of these nutrients but it’s important in order to meet the challenges and demands that your own body is facing. Not eating meat makes it a little more difficult but it can still be done with careful planning.
Protein It’s recommended that expectant mothers get at least 70 grams of protein a day, but this number may change depending on activity level. Beans, tofu and nuts provide a good amount protein. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich grains in the world. Significant weight loss, muscle fatigue (with no identifiable reason) and fluid retention are all signs of a protein deficiency, so keep an eye out for these. Dairy products and milk-based foods, such as cheese, yogurt and eggs, are also great sources of protein. Organic, farm fresh eggs are preferable, so that you and baby avoid eating eggs from chickens that haven’t been naturally raised and fed. In general, farm fresh is always a better way to go.
Calcium Almond, rice or regular milk all have a high concentration of calcium. Leafy greens, greek yogurt and calcium-fortified orange juice are great options. While there are usually no evident short-term symptoms of a calcium deficiency it is serious. Your body will regulate your levels of calcium by taking it from your bones. This can be particularly detrimental for a mother-to-be, since your body is already preparing your bones to give birth by reducing bone mineral density.
Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 helps to form red blood cells and build genetic structure, therefore, it’s an extremely important nutrient for pregnant women. While this can be a tough one for vegetarians (since meat is one of the best sources for B12). You can get it in fortified milks, cereals and tofu. This is one area where you might want to consider taking this in supplement form, at least during your pregnancy. Not getting enough vitamin B12 can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite and, if left untreated, anemia and damage to your nervous system.
Iron During pregnancy, women can have up to 50-percent more blood in their body, requiring more hemoglobin and oxygen. Since iron is largely responsible for producing hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells in the body), doctors strongly encourage women to make sure that they are getting enough iron in their bodies in order to meet the demands of the growing baby, especially during the third trimester. Beans, spinach, pumpkin seeds and molasses are all great sources of iron that don’t involve a single animal product.
Each of these nutrients are a critical part of the process (particularly protein and vitamin B12) by which your body builds both your cells (as your body changes and prepares to give birth) and the cells of your baby.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer, mother of three and health enthusiast. As someone who has had three children of her own, she understands how important certain nutrients are, not only for the mother, but for the baby as well. Follow her on Twitter today!