Vegetarianism for a Healthy Pregnancy
Nowadays, many people are adopting a diet that is wholly or largely vegetarian.
Types of vegetarians semi-vegetarians, exclude red meat only lacto-ovo-vegetarians, exclude all food of animal origin except eggs and dairy products strict vegetarians, or vegans, exclude all food of animal origin Is a vegetarian diet recommended during pregnancy? A well-planned and well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients required to meet the needs of pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, the following nutrients need special attention: Proteins Iron Zinc Vitamin B12 Calcium and Vitamin D Essential Fatty Acids Folic Acid (or Folate)
By following the Vegetarian Food Guide for Pregnancy, pregnant women can receive the daily amount of nutrients needed to have a healthy baby. Proteins Proteins are important to ensure growth and repair of maternal and fetal tissues. Proteins are made up of amino acids. The body is provided with all the amino acids it needs with a vegetarian diet that includes a variety of protein-rich foods each day. The best sources of protein are: eggs and dairy products tofu legumes (beans, split peas, lentils) nuts and seeds meat alternatives, e.g. soy burger
Whole grain breads and cereals as well as vegetables are other sources of protein. Iron Iron is needed to carry the oxygen in the blood to the fetus. Iron from animal foods is better absorbed than iron from plant foods. Including vitamin C-rich foods (broccoli, sweet pepper, kiwi, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato sauce) with vegetarian meals is a good way to increase absorption of iron from plant foods. Avoid drinking tea or coffee during meals, as they include compounds that reduce the absorption of iron from plant foods. Plant sources of iron are: legumes (beans, split peas, lentils) dried fruit enriched breakfast cereals enriched whole grain breads and pasta eggs nuts and seeds
Pregnant women often need an iron supplement. Talk to your doctor about supplements.
Zinc Zinc contributes to tissue growth and repair. High intakes of fiber and iron supplements can hinder zinc absorption. Try to include zinc-rich foods daily in your vegetarian diet: egg yolks and milk whole grain breads and cereals legumes (beans, split peas and lentils) nuts fortified soymilk (check label) fortified meat alternatives (check label) such as soy burgers
Calcium and Vitamin D Calcium and vitamin D are important to ensure healthy bones and teeth for both the mother and her unborn baby. The best sources of calcium are: milk fortified soymilk (check label) cheddar cheese calcium-enriched orange juice
Milk and fortified soymilk are also good sources of vitamin D. Other sources of calcium are included in the Vegetarian Food Guide for Pregnancy. Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 needs increase during pregnancy. However, this vitamin can only be found in animal foods. Pregnant women on a strict vegetarian diet must take 2.6 µg of vitamin B12 per day as a supplement or by eating fortified foods such as: fortified soymilk (check label) meat alternatives (check label), such as soy burgers
Contrary to popular belief, algae is not a source of vitamin B12. Essential Fatty Acids « Essential fatty acids » such as omega-3 fatty acids are important to ensure normal development of the baby's brain, nervous system and eyes. Flaxseed oil is the best plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources of essential fatty acids include: walnuts canola oil ground flaxseed walnut oil
Folic Acid (or Folate) During pregnancy, the increase in blood volume and maternal and fetal growth create a higher need for folic acid, so it is recommended that pregnant women continue taking a folic acid supplement and eating folate-rich foods every day: beans and lentils spinach asparagus kernel corn Brussels sprouts broccoli nuts and seeds romaine lettuce orange juice
A supplement of 0.4 mg of folic acid taken before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Talk to your doctor about a folic acid supplement.
Vegetarian Food Guide for Pregnancy
The range in number of servings for the food groups allows for differences in body size, activity levels and age. For example, smaller and less active women need the lower number of servings, while larger and more active women need the higher number of servings. Food Group Servings Per Day Grain products (Bread, cereals, rice, pasta and other grain products) 6 - 11 servings Vegetables 3 - 5 servings Fruits 2 - 4 servings Beans, lentils, split peas, nuts, seeds, eggs and meat alternatives 3 - 4 servings
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Examples of One Serving
1 slice of bread ½ bun, bagel, English muffin, or pita bread 1 scone, roti, or tortilla ½ cup (125 mL) cooked cereal, rice, grain or pasta 1 oz (28 g) dry cereal 4 graham crackers or 8 soda crackers 1 cup (250 mL) chopped raw or leafy vegetable ½ cup (125 mL) cooked vegetable ¾ cup (175 mL) vegetable juice 1 medium fresh fruit (apple, orange, pear, peach) 2 small fresh fruit (apricot, plum) ½ cup (125 mL) canned or cooked fruit ½ to ¾ cup (125-175 mL) fruit juice ¼ cup (60 mL) dried fruit (raisins, prunes, apricots) 1 cup (250 mL) cooked beans, lentils or peas ½ cup (125 mL) tofu or tempeh 2 oz (55 g) vegetarian meat alternatives or soy cheese 2 cups (500 mL) soymik ¼ cup (60 mL) nuts or seeds 3 tbsp (45 mL) nut or seed butters 2 eggs or 4 egg whites ½ cup (125 mL) milk, yogourt, or fortified soymilk ¾ oz (21 g) natural cheese ½ to 1 cup (125-250 mL) cottage cheese ¼ cup (60mL) tofu made with calcium sulfate 1 cup (250 mL) cooked soy, white, navy, great northern, kidney or black turtle beans ¼ cup (60 mL) almonds 3 tbsp (45 mL) tahini or almond butter 1 cup (250 mL) cooked bak choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale, or okra ¼ cup (10 g) dried hijiki seaweed 1 tbsp (15 mL) black-strap molasses 5 figs fortified foods or beverages providing 100-150 mg calcium per serving
Tips for Healthy Eating
Choose whole grains (e.g. 100% whole wheat, oats, brown rice) and enriched products more often. Whole grains are a source of zinc and iron. White flour, cornmeal and pasta labeled “enriched” have added folic acid and iron. Choose dark green and orange vegetables more often for rich sources of vitamin A, C, folate and calcium. Include leafy green vegetables daily. Choose orange fruit more often for rich sources of vitamin C (e.g. oranges, cantaloupe, mango). Dried fruit are sources of iron. Choose protein-rich foods that are also high in iron and zinc more often (e.g. beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds). To add variety, try soy products such as tofu and veggie “meats” (e.g. veggie burger, ham, turkey). For those who are vegan, check the food label to make sure the veggie meat has added vitamin B12. If you eat eggs, aim for 3 to 4 per week. Vitamin D is added to milk and to most fortified soymilk (check label). Choose lower fat milk products more often. Soymilk labeled “fortified” has added calcium in amounts similar to the calcium in the same serving size of milk. Fortified soymilk also has added zinc, vitamin D and B12. Calcium enriched orange juice has added calcium in amounts similar to the calcium in the same serving of milk. However, the juice does not have vitamin D. Include 2 servings per meal and 2 additional servings with snacks. Flaxseed and walnut oil are very sensitive to heat- use them on salads and add to prepared foods, after cooking. Sprinkle them on vegetables, potatoes and pasta. Store flaxseed and walnut oil in the refrigerator. Grind flax seeds using a coffee grinder, food processor or blender. Sprinkle on yogurt, cereal and salads. Store ground seeds in the refrigerator, in an airtight, opaque container. Replace hard margarine with soft non-hydrogenated margarine made from canola or soybean oil. Limit intake of processed foods.
Milk and milk alternatives (Note: some foods also count as servings in the vegetable group or the beans group.) 8 servings
Omega-3 fatty acids 2 servings
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1 tsp (5 mL) flaxseed oil 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground flax seeds 3 tbsp (45 mL) walnuts 4 tsp (20 mL) canola or walnut oil
Other sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids include: soybean oil, soybeans, tofu and Omega-3 eggs.
Adapted from: Vegetarianism and Pregnancy. Produced by the Public Health Nutritionists/Dietitians in Ontario, February 2002.
Examples of menus based on the Vegetarian Food Guide for Pregnancy Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian Menu Breakfast ½ cup (125 mL) oatmeal 1 tsp (5 mL) brown sugar 1 cup (250 mL) 1% milk 1-2 slice whole wheat toast ½ banana Vegan Menu Breakfast 1 to 1 ½ cup (250 to 375 mL) bran cereals with raisins 1 ½ cup (375 mL) fortified soymilk 1 slice whole wheat toast 2 tbsp (30 mL) almond butter 1 tbsp jam ½ grapefruit Lunch 1 soy burger 1 whole wheat hamburger roll 2 slices tomato 1-2 romaine lettuce leaves 1 slice onion 2 tsp (10 mL) soy-based mayonnaise ketchup and mustard as needed ½ cup (125 mL) baked sweet potato 2 tsp (10 mL) margarine ½ cup (125 mL) grapes Dinner Vegetarian Chili: ¼ cup (60 mL) red kidney beans ½ cup (125 mL) kernel corn ½ cup (125 mL) tomato sauce ¼ cup (60 mL) tofu* 1 tsp (5 mL) flaxseed oil 1 cup (250 mL) brown rice 1 cup (250 mL) steamed broccoli ½ cup (125 mL) fortified soymilk Snacks ½ cup (125 mL) calcium-enriched orange juice and 1 small carrot muffin 5 figs and 3 tbsp (45 mL) walnuts
*made with calcium sulphate
Lunch Sandwich: 1 whole wheat pita bread 1 boiled egg, sliced ½ cup (125 mL) canned chickpeas, drained ½ cup (125 mL) cut raw vegetables (cucumber, tomato, onion, green pepper) 1 tbsp (15 mL) salad dressing (made wih canola oil) ½ cup (125 mL) mini-carrots 1 cup (250 mL) low-fat yogurt ½ cup (125 mL) diced mango Dinner 1 ½ cup (375 mL) pasta 1 cup (250 mL) tomato sauce with lentils Cooked Vegetable stirfry: 1 cup (250 mL) bok choi, chopped ½ cup (125 mL) zucchini, sliced 1 garlic clove, minced ¼ cup (60 mL) sliced almonds 1 tsp (5 mL) canola oil 1 orange Snacks ½ cup (125 mL) milk and 1 almond biscotti 1 whole grain roll, 1 tsp (5 mL) margarine, 1 oz (25 g) cheddar cheese
Recommended readings Becoming Vegetarian. Vesanto Melina, Brenda Davis, Victoria Harrison, Macmillan Canada. The Part-Time Vegetarian. Louise Desaulniers, Louise Lambert-Lagacé, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Becoming Vegan. Vesanto Melina, Brenda Davis, Macmillan Canada.