You’re eating for two. Own the cliché and be a good mom from the beginning by keeping that baby (and you) healthy!
We all know that eating a vegan diet can do miraculous things for your health, and it can continue to do so throughout your pregnancy. Vegan mamas are most likely already eating everything baby needs to grow big and strong; it's just paying attention to make sure you are getting the right amount of certain nutrients. It's pretty easy to do, and I'm going to share a bit of what I learned about it below.
Protein is the basis for building strong, healthy cells. Be sure you're getting the right amount every day throughout your pregnancy but especially during the second and third trimester. Aim for at least 70 grams a day, which is actually a snap with legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. 1 cup of black beans packs a whopping 42 grams, chickpeas = 39 grams, quinoa = 24 grams, almonds = 20 grams, walnuts = 18 grams. Adding these to your meals throughout the day will satisfy your daily requirement.
Growing babies need calcium for strong bones and teeth as well as for developing a healthy heart and nervous system. If you aren't getting the extra calcium in your diet, baby is going to start taking it from your bones, and that's not good for either one of you in the long run. The standard for pregnant women is about 1000mg a day, and there is absolutely no need for you to take a baby calf's milk away from him to get that amount. Dark leafy greens, tofu, fortified juices, nuts and seeds all have plenty of calcium making it a breeze for you to get enough each day. 1 cup cooked collard greens has 268 mg, cooked spinach = 245 mg, 1/2 cup tofu = 434 mg, 1 cup fortified OJ = 350 mg, 1/4 cup sesame seeds = 352 mg. Easy peasy!
Iron deficiency is common during pregnancy, even with meat-eaters, so it's important for moms following a plant based diet to pay close attention to their iron intake. Low iron levels can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight, so make sure you get at least 27 mg a day. 1 cup cooked lentils offers 6 mg, chickpeas = 4 mg, cooked spinach = 6mg, 1 tablespoon Blackstrap molasses = 3 mg. Doctors often suggest that all pregnant woman take an iron supplement to be on the safe side.
Every vegan knows about B12 and that if you don't get enough through fortified non-dairy milks and nutritional yeast that you best be taking a supplement. B12, taken along with folic acid, is important in the development of red blood cells and genetic material and also reduces the risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTD), such as spina bifida, so no getting lazy about this one! The recommended amount is 400 mcg of folic acid and at least 2.5 mcg of B12 once a day.
Vitamin D allows your body to maintain correct amounts of calcium and phosphorus. Not getting enough can cause growth issues and skeletal deformities in babies. The easiest way to get your dose of D is by soaking up the sun for about 10 minutes a day. If that's not possible, look for fortified juices and cereals and aim to get around 4000 IU a day.
Omega-3 fatty acids are super important for early fetal development, especially for their brain and eyes. Fish is the most common source of these fatty acids but is obviously a no-go for vegans and due to mercury contamination can be awful for pregnant women. Mercury can have seriously negative effects on your baby's brain growth, so stay away from fish. Luckily there are plant-based sources of Omega-3s, and the goal is to get at least 200 mg a day. 1 TBSP of flaxseed oil contains 7 mg, 1 cup cauliflower = 37 mg, 1/2 cup hummus = 150 mg.
Of course be sure to consult your physician on what is right for you and your baby, but I hope this helps you to get that knowledge train chugging along!