Helping You Raise Healthy Babies

What to Eat During Pregnancy for Vegans

By on April 23, 2015 in For You, Pregnancy with 0 Comments

We all are born with the fundamental right of freedom. This right envelops liberty to choose our own options of living and eating without being judgmental about others. The philosophy of Veganism is fast gaining popularity. At the very onset of this article, let us first gain clarity on the terminology of ‘Veganism’. Many seem to confuse vegans with vegetarians.

The Precise Definition

Yes, vegans are certainly vegetarians as they do not consume seafood, meat or poultry products. However, their diet restriction does not end there. They go one step beyond the vegetarians in their sense of humanity and concern for animals. Veganism means completely refraining from the use of animal products as well, such as eggs, milk and other dairy products, honey, leather, silk, wool, fur and even cosmetics.

The reasons for choosing such a lifestyle could vary from one vegan to another. It could be about one’s health, could be related to your religious ethics, may symbolize additional concern for the environment or illustrate being more humane and compassionate towards the other living being on the planet.

Veganism and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life when she is responsible for the health of the little soul growing within her womb. The nutritional and energy requisites are much higher during this time in a woman’s life. Therefore, this phase calls for judicious deliberation with regards to the correct intake of all nutrients. The medical fraternity rates the consumption of proteins, milk and dairy products very high during pregnancy. This obviously poses a problem for vegan mothers-to-be. Animal products are the best providers of protein; however, cow’s milk and thus derived products are a complete no-no in Veganism.

Is Veganism Safe During Pregnancy?

Research conducted in The Farm, a place in Tennessee, highlights the effect of vegan diets in pregnant women. The data revealed that consuming a vegan diet during pregnancy led to low levels of vitamin B12, folate and iron in women. The consequences were anemia that in turn resulted in higher incidence of infection and increased loss of blood during delivery. Other detrimental effects included weakness of muscles, nerve malfunction and higher prevalence of neural tube defect in babies. Therefore, it was concluded that in order to have a healthy pregnancy, vegan mothers-to-be should take vitamin B12, iron and folate supplements in consultation with their doctors.

So, in short the good news is that vegan mothers can certainly have sound pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies with normal birth weight. Keeping a few food considerations in mind, the nine months of pregnancy will pass off very smoothly and comfortably.

First Trimester

During this phase of pregnancy, food would probably be the last thing on your mind. Aspects like morning sickness, nausea, dizziness, and tiredness may keep you away from food. In fact, most women during this phase get sick even with the smell of food.

Remedy for Morning Sickness

In order to feel good during this trimester, you need to get that queasy feeling under control. Listed below are certain remedies. See what works for you!

  • Grab a few crackers while still in bed. Remember to place them by your bedside all through the trimester.
  • Try sucking or inhaling a piece of lemon.
  • Avoid keeping your stomach empty. However, remember to eat small meals split into about 6 segments in a day.
  • Stay clear of spicy, greasy and fried foods. This will only aggravate your nausea.
  • Carbonated drinks could make you feel better.
  • Explore the option of consuming cold foods like popsicles to soothe those acids in the stomach.
  • Lastly and most importantly, no matter how tired or unhealthy you feel, make an effort to go out into the open. Fresh air can do wonders at this time!

Nutrient Considerations

Although the nutritional requirements are minimal during the first trimester, yet one cannot completely overlook this domain. After all, it is the onset of a new life. The fundamental requisites during this phase are folate, vitamin B6 and iron.

  • Iron is essential because the volume of blood increases within the circulatory system of the pregnant woman in order to meet the future needs.
  • The nervous system of the fetus develops during the first three months of the pregnancy. Intake of folate facilitates the proper development of the brain.
  • Vitamin B6 is more for the lady as it tends to soothe the morning sickness issues.
  • Vitamin B12 is also essential to prevent anemia in the mother-to-be.
  • Magnesium is also important for sound muscle functioning, especially in the uterus.

Diet

  • Foods strongly recommended include protein rich beans, pulses and legumes; fortified cereals; whole grain breads, rice and potatoes that are high in complex carbohydrates; green leafy vegetables, dry fruits and nuts; fruits and fresh fruit juices.
  • Vitamin B12 is essentially derived from meat and dairy products. Vegans should ensure appropriate intake by either taking supplements or consuming soya milk that is fortified with the nutrient.
  • Consume lots of water in order to avoid constipation. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol should be strictly avoided. Beverages like tea and coffee are believed to limit the iron absorption of the body. Instead, opt for drinks like homemade lemonade and coconut water.

Snacks

Try options of healthy snacks in case you feel grubby in between meals. Some of these include Indian snacks such as upma, idli with lots of vegetables, corn cooked in any style, or something to tickle your taste buds like bhel puri or potato chaat.

Second Trimester

With the onset of month four, mostly pregnant women commence feeling better. The second trimester, generally marks the end of morning sickness and the beginning of some healthy weight gain.

Nutrient Considerations

Fundamental nutrients in these months include calcium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A and iodine.

  • Intake of calcium and vitamin D are of paramount importance during the second trimester of pregnancy. These nutrients ensure the strong development of bones and teeth in the fetus. Vitamin D is essential towards the absorption of calcium in the body.
  • Next in line are the omega 3 fatty acids that are cardinal towards the brain and eye development of the fetus.
  • Iodine is significant towards the proper functioning of the thyroid gland of the fetus.
  • Vitamin A facilitates growth of cells, especially red blood cells, makes the baby’s skin healthy and aids in the development of vision at night.

Diet

  • To gain calcium in your diet, consume chick peas, kidney beans, baked beans, almonds, sesame seeds and fortified products of soya.
  • Pregnant women following Veganism have sunlight has the only option of deriving vitamin D. 30 minutes of early morning sun rays would be sufficient towards this cause.
  • Oily fish is the best source of omega 3 fatty acids. However, the same nutrient can also be derived by vegans from tofu, soya beans, walnuts, green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds.
  • Iodine again found in abundance in fish can be obtained by vegans from iodized salt, mushrooms, onions and spinach.
  • Vitamin A sources for vegans include sweet potato, ripe papaya, orange, and vegetables like carrot, broccoli and spinach.
  • Try to incorporate five helpings of varied fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
  • Eating raw or steamed vegetables ensures maximum nutrient benefit.
  • Avoid overcooking or reheating of food as this leads to massive loss of nutrients.

Snacks

Some interesting options could include steamed sprouts salad, rice, pancake, soya kebabs, wheat noodles, dim sums, steamed chickpea flour, memos and porridge. Remember, at this stage any snack consumed should be more for health than taste.

Third Trimester

It is now that you can vividly see your beautiful baby bump. This trimester is mostly about weight gain and excitement about the arrival of your precious one. However, this does not call for overeating. The common myth of eating for two should be strictly avoided. Gaining of 10 to 12.5 kilograms of weight holistically during the entire pregnancy is rated as healthy. Anything beyond is considered unhealthy by doctors.

Nutrient Considerations

The energy requirement in this trimester escalates largely. The growth of the baby is in full throttle, which absorbs immense energy from the mother’s body. Vitamin K is also of immense significance in this last phase of pregnancy. Carbohydrates are the best for coping with labor.

  • As per the medical fraternity, expectant women require 300 calories on a daily basis in the third trimester to meet the energy requisite of the womb.
  • Vitamin K is cardinal for blood clotting in newborns. In case of injury, this aspect could be a life savior.
  • The first breast feed containing colostrum and the breast milk thereafter also nourish the baby’s body with vitamin K. Therefore, women should keep the level of this nutrient, high not only during pregnancy, but during the phase of lactation as well.
  • Carbohydrate intake during early labor boosts the energy levels.

Diet

  • Vitamin K can be obtained from the consumption of green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, mustard greens; vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, green beans; fruits like cantaloupe melon, pomegranate, figs, and grapes; soya beans and whole wheat bread.
  • Skipping of meals is forbidden during this phase. A good appetite is must to sustain the high demand of energy.
  • Body heat generally catches up during pregnancy. Cool down your body temperature by opting for cool and refreshing dishes such as cold pasta salads, cucumber, pineapple, and watermelon.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods as they may result in bowel issues. This in turn may trigger premature labor.
  • For the same reason, fresh pineapple is also not rated safe for consumption during this time. The enzyme bromelain present in this fruit is believed to ease the cervix resulting in early labor.
  • This is not the time to be cutting down on your diet to restrict weight gain. Dieting during pregnancy could be highly detrimental towards the safety of your unborn bundle of joy. Instead, follow the mantra of eating well but eating healthy.
  • During the early stages of labor, try to eat light and easily digestible food.
  • Carbohydrate rich food recommended during labor includes baked potatoes, bananas, toast, dried fruits and nuts. Having said this, honestly at this time eat what you like!

Snacks

Your snacks need to be more wholesome now. Try the yummy taste of stir fried vegetables, dessert from apple, grilled mushrooms and steamed corn. If you feel hungry during the preliminary stages of labor, opt for snacks like light biscuits, rusk, nuts and raisins.

Nutrition after Birth

Although there are no set norms when it comes to diet after childbirth, a healthy moderate diet should be helpful. One is elated with the reality of becoming a mother and of course, there is loads of work as well. However, let enthusiasm and work load not come in the way of your nutrition.

A nursing mother is believed to require 300 to 500 calories per day. Therefore, it is recommended that a mother of newly born, eats healthy proportions of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Drink plenty of fluids to compensate the formation of breast milk.

New mommies are generally suggested to eat foods laden with ghee and sugar to facilitate speedy recovery. Refusing the same could mean offending traditional beliefs of elders in the family. The best option would be to consume them in moderate amounts to avoid unwarranted gain of body weight.

It is all About Your Baby

Pregnancy is one of the most desired and cherished phases of a woman’s life. From husbands to friends to relatives, each and everyone known pampers you enormously. Eating in pregnancy is about you and the unborn. Remember, you are responsible for the well being of another life. Therefore, food choices made should be wise and truly nutritious. Stick to natural food products. Go slow on salt, sugar and sweets. The health of your most precious one is in your hands. Be responsible and cautious to enjoy this phase to the fullest!

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