Food for Two: Vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy

Often women worry that vegetarianism can adversely affect the health of the unborn child. What do doctors say about nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding? This is the period when a woman should get all the best with food, and here is what experts advise:

It is very important during this period to get folic acid – a B vitamin that protects against some birth defects of the fetus. You’ll find it in green leafy vegetables, legumes, and specialty fortified foods (some breads, pastas, cereals, and cereals). You need to make sure you are eating enough folate-rich foods. In addition, doctors usually recommend avoiding fish, as it can contain mercury and other toxins, but if your diet is purely plant-based, you have already solved this problem.

Now you are eating for two. But the baby does not need a large amount of food, so you should not overeat. Pregnant women should increase their daily intake by 300 calories, which is one and a half cups of rice, or a cup of chickpeas, or three medium apples.

Pregnancy is not the time to skimp on food. The history of famine during World War II, when food was heavily rationed, showed that women who were then in the early stages of pregnancy gave birth to children at risk of weight problems and cardiovascular disease. A baby’s biochemistry is programmed before birth, and having a balanced diet is critical in this aspect.

What should be the weight gain during pregnancy? Doctors say that optimally 11-14 kg. A little more may be in thin women and a little less if the mother is overweight.

Often the concern is protein and iron intake. A plant-based diet is quite capable of providing the body with sufficient amounts of protein even without special nutritional supplements. The natural increase in food intake during pregnancy also gives the desired increase in protein.

Green leafy vegetables and legumes will help with this. Some women get enough iron from their regular diet, while others are recommended iron supplements (usually about 30 mg per day or more in women who are anemic or who are pregnant with twins). This will be determined by the doctor based on the tests. There is no need to start eating meat while doing this.

What you really need is taking vitamin B12 supplements, which are essential for healthy nerves and blood. Don’t count on getting enough of it from spirulina and miso.

“Good fats” are needed for the development of the brain and nervous system of the fetus. Many plant foods, especially flax, walnuts, soybeans, are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is the main omega-3 fat that converts into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Women who wish to play it safe can find DHA supplements at any health food store or online.

Studies on caffeine have produced mixed results. But the best evidence, a study of 1063 pregnant women in the San Francisco Bay Area, showed that one or two cups of coffee daily can increase the chance of a miscarriage.

Breastfeeding is nature’s gift to mother and child. Mom, it saves time, money and eliminates the fuss with mixtures. The child is less likely to develop obesity, diabetes and other health problems later on.

A nursing mother needs extra calories and quality nutrition in general. But you need to be careful – what you eat, the child also eats.

Some foods can cause colic in a baby. The biggest enemy is cow’s milk. Proteins from it pass into the mother’s blood and then into breast milk. Onions, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and white cabbage) and chocolate are also not recommended.

In general, eating for two is not a problem. More vegetables and fruits, grains and legumes, and slightly increase the diet.

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