The President of VegFamily.com, the largest online resource for vegetarian parents, Erin Pavlina tells by her life example that pregnancy and vegetarianism are not just compatible, but perfectly compatible. The story is filled to the limit with small details, so that pregnant vegetarian women will be able to find answers to the most common questions:
In 1997, I radically changed my diet. At first I completely refused meat – I became a vegetarian. After 9 months, I switched to the category of “vegans”, that is, I eliminated all animal products from my diet, including milk and dairy products (cheese, butter, etc.), eggs and honey. Now my diet consists exclusively of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes. Why did I do all this? Because I wanted to be as healthy as possible. I studied this issue, read a lot of literature on this topic and realized that millions of people on earth adhere to a vegetarian diet. They are healthy, live longer than those who eat meat and dairy products, and their children are the strongest and healthiest children on the planet. Vegans are significantly less at risk of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes and very rarely suffer from ailments such as diabetes and asthma. But is it safe to stay vegan while pregnant? Is it safe to breastfeed a baby on a strict vegetarian diet? And is it possible to raise a child as a vegan without endangering his health? Yes.
When I became pregnant (almost three years ago), many people asked if I was going to continue to be a vegan. I started my own investigation again. I read books about women staying vegan during pregnancy and feeding their children on the same diet. There was a lot that was unclear to me, and I’m sure you are too. I will try to answer the most common of the questions regarding pregnancy, breastfeeding and subsequent feeding of a child in accordance with a strict vegetarian diet.
What to eat during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, it is extremely important to observe the correct diet – the correct development of the fetus depends on this. Pregnant vegetarians have a huge advantage: their diet is exceptionally saturated with all the vitamins and mineral salts that a child needs. If you eat five fruit meals for breakfast and five vegetable meals for lunch, try NOT to get a lot of vitamins! It is very important to diversify your diet during pregnancy in order to provide the body with an adequate amount and range of vitamins and mineral salts. Below are a few options for a daily diet that provides all the nutrients that a pregnant woman needs. By the way, non-vegetarians are also quite suitable for the proposed dishes.
Bran flour pancakes seasoned with maple syrup
Cereal porridge with bran, soy milk
Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon
Bran wheat toast and fruit jam
Whipped Tofu with Onion and Red and Green Peppers
Salad of vegetables and lettuce with vegetable oil dressing
Vegetarian Bran Bread Sandwich: Avocado, Lettuce, Tomatoes and Onions
Boiled potatoes with broccoli and soy sour cream
Falafel sandwich with tahini and cucumbers
Ground pea soup
Pasta made from wheat flour with bran, seasoned with marinara sauce
The cookies will sink
Vegetarian pizza without cheese
Vegetarian brown rice and tofu stir-fry
Potato lentil roast
Baked Beans with BBQ Sauce
Popcorn with Dietary Yeast
Any food contains proteins. If you consume enough calories every day with a variety of healthy foods, you can be sure that your body is also receiving the required amount of protein with it. Well, for those who still doubt this, we can advise you to eat more nuts and legumes. If you only get proteins from plant sources, your food is missing cholesterol, a substance that causes clogging of blood vessels. Do not starve yourself – and the proteins in your diet will be enough for you and your baby.
Many people, including many doctors, believe that milk should be drunk to meet the body’s needs for calcium. This is simply not true. Vegetarian food is very rich in calcium. A lot of calcium is found in leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale, many nuts, tofu, juices with calcium supplements can serve as a source of calcium. In order to enrich the diet with calcium, it is useful to add molasses with rum and sesame seeds to food.
The threat of iron deficiency anemia
Another widespread myth. A well-balanced, varied vegetarian diet is sure to provide enough iron for both you and your growing baby. If you cook in cast iron pans, the food will absorb the extra iron. Eating citrus fruits and other foods high in vitamin C along with iron-rich foods also enhances iron absorption. Excellent sources of iron include prunes, beans, spinach, molasses with rum, peas, raisins, tofu, wheat germ, wheat bran, strawberries, potatoes, and oats.
Do I need to take vitamins?
If you have a well-planned diet and are able to buy high-quality products, you do not need any special vitamin complexes for pregnant women. The only vitamin that is deficient in vegetarian food is B12. If you do not buy special foods fortified with vitamin B12, you should definitely consume it in the form of vitamin supplements. Personally, I did not take any vitamins during pregnancy. My doctor sent me periodically for blood tests to check for folic acid, vitamin B12, and other nutrients, and my readings never dropped below normal. And yet, if you are not sure that your daily requirement for vitamins is sufficiently satisfied, no one is stopping you from taking vitamin complexes for pregnant women.
I breastfed my daughter for up to seven months. All this time, like all nursing mothers, I ate a little more than usual, but in no way changed my usual diet. At birth, my daughter weighed 3,250 kg, and then she put on weight very well. Not only that, I know a few vegetarian women who have breastfed for much longer than I have, and their babies have also grown beautifully. The breast milk of a vegetarian mother does not contain many of the toxins and pesticides found in the milk of a woman who eats meat. This puts the vegetarian child in a good starting position, giving him a good chance of health in the near and far future.
Will the child grow up healthy and active?
Without any doubt. Children raised on a vegetarian diet eat far more fruits and vegetables than their peers who eat animal products. Vegetarian children are less likely to get sick, suffer much less from food allergies. At the beginning of complementary foods, fruit and vegetable purees should be introduced into the child’s diet. As the baby grows, he can simply begin to give food from the “adult” vegetarian table. Here are a few foods that your child is sure to enjoy as they grow up: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; fruits and fruit cocktails; oatmeal with apples and cinnamon; spaghetti with tomato sauce; applesauce; raisin; steamed broccoli; baked potato; rice; soy cutlets with any side dishes; waffles, pancakes and french toast with maple syrup; pancakes with blueberries; … and much more!
Raising a vegetarian child, just like any other child, is exciting, rewarding, and hard work. But a vegetarian diet will give him a good head start in life. I don’t regret my decision for a minute. My daughter is healthy and happy…isn’t that the most cherished desire of every mother?