Now that you’re pregnant, you’re wondering if your decision to become vegetarian can still be carried out successfully during your pregnancy. And while it is possible for you to obtain all the nutrients your body will need during pregnancy through a well-planned, nutrient-dense vegetarian diet, careful planning and observation will be crucial to your overall success transitioning to vegetarianism during your pregnancy.
A good vegetarian diet has a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, lentils, and nuts and some eggs and dairy or their equivalent if you so choose. Fast food, highly processed junk foods, and canned fruits and vegetables are eaten rarely if at all. It’s imperative that you make wise food choices at this crucial time, since a pregnant woman only needs approximately 300 more calories per day and about 10-16 extra grams of protein; however, the body's need for certain nutrients increases significantly. Every bite you take is important when you're pregnant.
While the RDAs (recommended daily allowances) for almost all nutrients increase, especially important are folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12. Attention to adequate amounts of vitamin B-12 is crucial for vegetarians who choose not to eat eggs and dairy.
Work closely with your healthcare professional during this transition. The changeover from a meat-eating to a vegetarian diet can be rough on your body as it actually goes through a detoxification process during the transition. So, you want to ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients it needs at this time, and is growing and developing at a healthy rate. Start very slowly; perhaps only one or two days per week eating a vegetarian diet.
Gradually work soy and other plant-based proteins into your diet, and little by little use them to replace proteins obtained from eating meat products. Be sure to adequately supplement your diet with a quality prenatal supplement, and get adequate amounts of exercise and exposure to sunlight to promote your body to naturally produce vitamin D.
With careful planning, observation, and your healthcare professional’s guidance, the transition to vegetarianism during your pregnancy can be a cleansing and healthy start for both you and your baby to a lifetime of optimal health.