While many women look at pregnancy as a time to let their regular dietary habits go, many vegan women still stick to the healthy plans they followed pre-pregnancy, food cravings be damned! While I'm opposed to women counting calories when they've got a growing life inside of them, I have serious respect for those who can maintain a meat-free, dairy-free lifestyle -- it seems crazy hard to me.
For these healthy mamas-to-be though, it's really just about being more conscientious, to ensure that they're still getting the nutrients their bodies and babies need. Recently, vegan actress Emily Deschanel, who is pregnant with her first child, said ...
Saying no to meat makes me feel stronger inside; I feel aligned with my morals and ethics. As a pregnant woman especially, people will say to me, "You must eat meat and dairy." You really have to tap into your self-esteem whenever people try to convince you you're making the wrong choice.
Now, I'm admittedly a full-fledged carnivore, with serious pregnancy hankerings for red, juicy cheeseburgers. Still though, I was curious about how those with dietary restrictions are able to swing it. So, I did some reading, and even checked out Alicia Silverstone's vegan-friendly blog The Kind Life. As it turns out, your baby will ultimately take what it needs from you, but you still need to be fairly vigilant about getting enough protein, iron, and calcium. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women consume about 71 grams of protein, 27 mg of iron, and 1000 mg of calcium daily.
A lot of your essential vitamins are already going to be in your prenatal vitamin, but you'll still want to make sure you're getting all those goodies from food sources as well. A vegan woman will often be deficient in Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, iodine and zinc though, so when pregnant, she'll either want to add a supplement or look for these nutrients in fortified foods.
I was actually surprised to learn that protein is pretty much in everything that we eat, including some vegetables! So if you're upping your calorie intake during pregnancy, you're inevitably getting more protein as well. Regardless though, foods like beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and, of course, soy products, are packed with protein. Still, the IOM recommends varying the non-animal proteins in your diet to ensure you're getting all the right amino acids. When it comes to iron, again those whole grains and beans are loaded with it, as well as dried fruit and beets. You'll also want to eat plenty of leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli, which are great sources of both iron and calcium.
So, all-in-all, it seems absolutely possible -- and not that complicated -- to keep up a vegan diet during pregnancy, and nourish your baby without having to consume a single animal product. In fact, there was even a study that suggested that a vegan woman's pregnancy tends to be healthier. I mean, personally, I'd rather eat a steak quesadilla than a seitan burrito, but for those women who are able to maintain such a clean, hearty, healthy diet, I say, "More power to you!"
Have you been following a vegan diet while pregnant?
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