There are some people who claim that a vegan diet is dangerous for pregnancy. However, research indicates that as long as it’s well-balanced, void of ‘bad’ foods, and meets the specific nutritional requirements of a future mother, any meal plan is safe. This healthy vegan food list for pregnant women will allow you to plan a delicious and rich diet that will help you deliver a strong baby.
Please remember that a certain amount of weight gain is not only healthy, but also necessary during this time. Pregnancy increases the woman’s requirements of some essential nutrients, this usually means increasing your intake of food. However, you shouldn’t make your portions much bigger. If your appetite turns ravenous and your weight gain rate seems too fast, you should consult your doctor.
Healthy Vegan Food List During Pregnancy: Sample Meal Plan
Among all the nutrients you need to consume when pregnant, folate acid stands out the most. It’s imperative to get more of it as this element reduces the risk of birth defects in the baby. In fact, it’s advised that women start increasing their intake of folate to the point of taking specialized supplements a few months before conception.
Here is what a meal plan of a vegan mother-to-be should consist of:
- Vegetables and legumes: 5 servings a day.
One serving constitutes either of the following:
- ½ cup of cooked orange and/or green vegetables, such as carrot, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, etc.
- ½ cup of cooked beans, canned beans are also an option, but be sure to check the ingredients list carefully.
- 1 cup of leafy green veggies that you can eat fresh in a salad, sandwich, or a smoothie.
- ½ medium starchy vegetable, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, or cassava.
- ½ cup of sweet corn. About a cup of any other veggies you like.
- Fruits: 2 servings per day.
Choose 2 of:
- 1 medium-sized fruit, like banana, apple, pear, or orange.
- 2 small fruits, like apricots, plums, or kiwi.
- 1 cup cooked or canned fruit of your choosing. Watch out for high sugar contents in the canned goods.
- 1 ounce of dried fruit, which should be on the healthy vegan food list for pregnant women by default.
- ½ cup of 100% fresh juice.
- Grains: 8 ½ servings per day.
One serving can be:
- 1 slice of wholegrain bread.
- ½ medium bread roll or flat bread.
- ½ cup of cooked pasta/porridge/barley/rice/quinoa/cornmeal/etc.
- ¼ cup of muesli.
- 2/3 cup of breakfast cereal flakes. Remember to choose the unsweetened kind.
- 3 crisp breads.
- 1 small English muffin/crumpet/scone.
- Nuts and seeds: 3 ½ servings a day.
Nuts are good for pregnant women if eaten in moderation. Cashews in particular are highly beneficial for the development of a healthy baby. However, you shouldn’t consume more than 1/3 cup of unsalted nuts. Avoid seasoning them at all and steer clear of any sweetened or salted nutty snacks. Chia seeds can be the healthiest choice for a pregnant woman as they give you a boost of nutrients and reduce the risk of anemia.
- Vegan dairy alternatives: 2 ½ servings per day.
The healthy vegan food list for pregnant women allows for many dairy alternatives, such as plant-based milks (a serving is 1 cup) and soy yogurt (a serving is ¾ cup). Vegan cheeses also fall into this category. Pick the milk and yogurt fortified with calcium and vitamins.
Healthy Vegan Foods for Women: Nutritional Breakdown
From the nutritional point of view, a healthy pregnant woman should consume:
Protein is literally vital for the mother-to-be and her developing baby, so it’s very important to consume some source of it with every meal. The best vegan protein sources include nuts, legumes, seeds, and various soy products.
A deficiency of this element in the mother can increase the risk of birth defects and other complications. Therefore, it’s best to increase your iodine intake when you start planning the pregnancy. When carrying the baby, a woman should consume about 150mcg of iodine daily as it ensures the healthy development of the fetus’ brain and nervous system. You can get it from iodized salt, fortified vegan products, and iodized bread. Consult your doctor about taking additional supplements if necessary.
As women are at a high-risk of developing an iron deficiency by default, the healthy vegan food list for pregnancy must include legumes, dark green vegetables, and fortified vegan products. It’s best to combine these foods with products rich in vitamin C (tomatoes, bell peppers, kiwi, and citrus fruits) as this element increases iron absorption. You should discuss your meal plan with your doctor and take any necessary tests to ensure that your diet provides a sufficient amount of iron. Please remember that caffeine-rich foods are bad for pregnant women as they reduce the iron absorption rate.
- Vitamin B12.
This vitamin is always a concern for vegans as it’s impossible to get enough of it from a plan-based diet. Therefore, a pregnant woman needs to consume specialized B12 enriched foods as well as take additional supplements. There are vegan prenatal multivitamins that you will need to consider. Ask your doctor for advice on which type would be best suited for your needs considering your specific diet.
A healthy vegan food list should always include several sources of zinc, such as yeast, nuts, lentils, seeds, and cereals. Pregnant women should be careful about yeast and consult a doctor before eating such foods.
The need for calcium increases during pregnancy, but not by much. Food sources of this mineral for vegans are sesame seeds, fortified foods, almonds, leafy greens, and tofu. However, they might not provide enough calcium, so check if your prenatal multivitamins contain this element.
There are a variety of delicious meal ideas for pregnant women, so you can enjoy your diet. Keep the healthy vegan food list in mind when choosing recipes and you’ll be able to develop a plan that would be good for both your body and soul.
Other Tips for a Healthy Vegan Pregnancy
Eating a well-balanced diet is essential for giving birth to a healthy baby. However, there are some other factors vegan mothers should consider in order to strengthen their and their babies’ health.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
Each of them has a detrimental effect on the body as a whole and can lead to a variety of birth defects and complications.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine.
If you find that giving up your morning cup of coffee is too hard, don’t force yourself as stress will only make things worse. Instead, you should focus on reducing your caffeine intake to a minimum not more than 300mg per day). This means you can drink about 2 cups of mild coffee, three cups of tea, or two glasses of soda. Don’t forget that chocolate also contains caffeine.
- Choose your sweeteners wisely.
Sugar is an extremely dangerous food by default, so excluding it from your diet is a wise choice. There are a variety of FDA-approved artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners for pregnant women. Research them carefully and pick the one that works best for you. Avoid saccharine at all costs as it has the property to permeate placenta and can remain in the tissues of the fetus.
- Do not diet!
The only exception to this rule is when you are directed to do so by your doctor. Otherwise, trying to lose weight during pregnancy is dangerous for both the mother and the baby. If dieting is necessary, it should be closely watched by a qualified medical specialist.
- Exercise regularly.
Maintaining physical fitness will not only help you prevent some pregnancy-related pains and aches but also keep your metabolism at a healthy level. Please be sure to consult an experienced trainer on what exercises are safe for pregnant women and have them assist you with developing a workout plan.
Following the guidelines of a healthy vegan food list for pregnancy and these simple tips will help you reduce the stress your body goes through during this time. As a result, the risk of complications and birth defects will reduce significantly.