Create a vegan pregnancy shopping list of foods that are delicious and healthy for you and the baby! You can start with the foods on this list.
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Creating Vegan Pregnancy Meal Ideas Is Challenging
Plant-based vegan pregnancy benefits are aplenty, but why is it so hard for many pregnant women to maintain a vegan lifestyle?
There are lists, and then there are pregnancy lists. From the baby names to the must-have gear, someone's made a list.
Food is no exception except—well, it is if you're vegan. Despite the growing number of vegans in America, most of the pregnancy nutrition recommendations leave out this group.
Lists of top foods to include read like a vegan's nightmare: milk, eggs, meat, and fish. Vegans and vegetarians have been successfully breeding for ages (take India for example), proving you don't need animal products for a healthy pregnancy or a healthy baby.
Excellent Additions to a Vegan Diet During Pregnancy
So what foods should vegans eat during pregnancy? Here are the top eight:
1. Hemp Seeds
Hemp is a complete protein that is high in fiber, and healthy fats—it's the perfect food for pregnant women (and everyone else). Hemp protein is easily digestible by the body (more so than meat).
There's a lot of nutrients in this tiny seed. Just 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 10 grams of protein. Hemp also has a lot of calcium, magnesium, and folate. All of which are essential building blocks of a healthy body.
For a vegan needing to meet 60 to 70 grams of protein a day, adding hemp seeds can be a huge help.
Make your own chia pudding, mix them into non-dairy yogurt, cereal, or smoothies. Add them to every salad, sandwich, or even atop pasta, soups, stir-fries.
The mighty hemp seed is also loaded with fiber to help keep things moving along in the digestive tract, and they're an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are very beneficial for baby and mommy, making hemp a must-add to your vegan food list.
Dark green leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses filled with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They are rich in chlorophyll, which alkalinizes and restores the blood, and fiber, which keeps the colon healthy. Dark leafy greens contain vital amounts of nutrients for mom and baby. Loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, kale is also a rich source of calcium. Kale is very high in nutrients and very low in calories, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
It's full of antioxidants to boost mommy's immune function, and all that fiber is crucial for proper digestion and elimination. Constipation is a common occurrence in pregnancy so kale can be a big help.
Whatever bean you fancy, you're getting protein, fiber, and lots of vitamins and minerals. They cook up quick after soaking overnight and can go in just about anything.
Try white beans with kale and brown rice pasta, pinto bean tacos, black bean soup, or kidney bean salad. And don’t forget about those healthy legumes too.
Split peas and lentils need no soaking and are just as versatile (and nutritious!) as beans.
Did you know an avocado contains about 3 grams of protein? We often think of it as a creamy, fatty food, but avo is loaded with good-for-you amino acids and protein.
When counting grams of protein, every bit helps! But, the avocado also offers you healthy unsaturated fats, which keep you feeling energized.
It also helps make the skin look more radiant, too (but you can tell everyone it's your pregnancy glow).
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains are full of fiber, vitamins, protein, and antioxidants, which helps in lowering the risk of having gestational diabetes. White flour is a no-no.
What is gestational diabetes? It is an abnormal increase in blood sugar (glucose) during pregnancy.
Whole-grain bread and whole grains with your beans, kale, hemp, and avocados can help keep you regular, energized, focused, and healthy.
6. Coconut Oil
Not only is this a healthy fat to cook with, but it's loaded with lauric acid, an important essential fatty acid not found in many other foods.
Lauric acid can help keep the immune system functioning properly. For pregnant moms prone to fungal outbreaks like candida, coconut oil can aid in preventing this from occurring.
Coconut oil is also an excellent external product for moms. Use it on the belly and breasts to keep stretch marks from occurring.
Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re delicious, nutritious, and provide a number of impressive health benefits. They are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, high in fiber and can help regulate blood sugar. There are many ways to enjoy berries. They can be eaten alone, or put into smoothies or added to salads. When possible, try to eat them organic and in season.
There is no greater on-the-go snack for a pregnant woman than nuts. They're easy and portable and offer all those important needs: protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
Stick with raw or dry-roasted nuts. Almonds, walnuts, and cashews are excellent choices.
They can be incorporated at mealtimes too or add nuts to your salad. Making a walnut pesto is also a good idea.
You can add them to cereal or make a nut-butter whole grain bread sandwich if you prefer.
RELATED: Eating Vegan For A Healthy Pregnancy
Essential Nutrients Vegan Pregnant Women Need
Nutrition and dietetics are even more important during pregnancy. For one, you’re eating for two people, who can have dissimilar needs of vitamins and minerals.
Second, what you eat can impact your baby’s health even long after they’re born. The question is, what prenatal vitamins do you need, and how do you get them when you’re on a vegan pregnancy diet?
Here are the essential vitamins and minerals for pregnant women on a vegan diet:
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are essential since they help in the neural or brain growth of babies. They are also necessary for having proper eyesight, especially in the development of retinas.
The retinas are responsible for converting the light signals the eyes receive into electrical signals the brain can then interpret.
The body doesn’t produce these omega-3 fatty acids. Instead, it converts alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into DHA and EPA.
Fortunately, one of the best sources of omega-3 that’s great for vegans is algae. You may also add some chia seeds or flaxseed oil to your salads and other vegan recipes as well as supplement your diet with Sunwarrior Omega-3 with Vegan DHA and EPA.
Just like you, your baby also needs thyroid hormones for a variety of functions. Many of which are brain-related.
One of the essential nutrients for a healthy thyroid is iodine, which the thyroid glands use to produce the hormones.
Women on a vegan pregnancy meal plan can derive iodine from a variety of sources, including seaweeds. Others are green leafy vegetables such as kale, green beans, and vegan pregnancy supplements like Ormus Super Greens.
When it comes to pregnancy and lactation nutrition, folic acid and folate are the ultimate superheroes. They are vital in the growth and development of your baby’s nervous system, such as the spinal cord and the brain.
Note: Folic acid and folate are different. Folate or vitamin B9 is naturally occurring and present in many types of food such as dark greens, while folic acid is man-made.
Zinc is one of the minerals that can help reduce the risk of pre-term births. This is because it can strengthen the mother’s immune system, keeping serious and life-threatening infections at bay.
This trace mineral also plays a role in the proper cellular division and growth, which is rapid during pregnancy.
What is a trace mineral? These are the minerals your body needs in small amounts.
Those on a vegan pregnancy diet might need 12 milligrams of zinc every day. Some of the excellent sources include greens, dark chocolates, nut butter, legumes and seeds, and orange juice fortified with zinc.
5. Vitamin D
Moms also need vitamin D to help in the absorption of calcium, which strengthens the bones. It can also reduce the risks of neural tube defects, boost immunity, and promote healthy cellular division.
One of the best sources for this vitamin is the sun, but when you’re pregnant, you may need more. Besides, you may have days when you’re too exhausted to even go out.
With your doctor’s approval, you can complement sunlight exposure and diet with a vitamin D supplement like Raw Vitamins.
When you’re pregnant, you need more red blood cells to help supply oxygen to you and the baby through the placenta. Otherwise, you become prone to a health condition known as anemia.
Anemia can then lead to lethargy, malaise, or fatigue. It may also increase the likelihood of pre-term birth and fetal hypoxia, which means the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen supply.
Iron comes in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. Only animal proteins, especially meat, have heme iron.
Since you’re following vegan pregnancy meal plan, your sources of iron are non-heme such as dark green leafy vegetables.
The problem is, the body doesn’t absorb non-heme iron easily. You may then need to match what you eat with iron supplements.
Note: Too much iron can also be bad as it may lead to an overload or toxicity. Work closely with your doctor to monitor your iron intake and level.
Babies need calcium to help them develop and grow stronger bones, muscles, and teeth. It also provides blood-clotting abilities.
Mothers, meanwhile, should take calcium to strengthen their bones and muscles. After all, they need to carry a human being for months.
Soy products are excellent vegan sources for calcium. These can include tofu, miso, and edamame.
You may also derive calcium from non-dairy products such as yogurts, nut milks, and plantmilks.
Tips on Vegan Diet During Pregnancy
To further ensure your diet keeps you and your baby healthy, here are a few more tips to live by:
1. Keep track of your weight gain. Just because you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t mean you won’t add more pounds than necessary.
2. Get inspiration from different sources. A vegan society may offer cooking demos, while websites such as Pinterest may give you vegan recipes to try.
3. Go easy on the fruit. Fruits, including dried fruit (as long as it doesn’t have artificial sugar), are healthy, but they can also increase your risk of gestational diabetes.
4. Follow dietary recommendations. Know your nutrient levels, listen to the guidelines and instructions from your doctors, and supplement when necessary (with your doctor’s approval, of course).
Watch Jason Wrobel as he talks about the pitfalls of a vegan diet in this video from Sunwarrior:
As you can see, maintaining a vegan pregnancy diet doesn’t need to be difficult. In fact, it can be fun and an amazing nutritional option for you and your baby.
What are your favorite vegan recipes for pregnancy? Share your list in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 11, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.