Topic Overview

A balanced vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients you need for
a healthy pregnancy. If you eat a vegetarian diet, pay special attention to
getting enough
protein,
vitamin B12,
calcium,
vitamin D, zinc, and iron while you are pregnant and
breastfeeding. These nutrients are vital to your fetus’s cellular growth,
brain and organ development, and weight gain.

Consider working with a
registered dietitian to be sure you are eating a
balanced diet, particularly if you plan to eat a
vegan diet.

  • Protein. Protein is made of building blocks called
    amino acids, which are essential to fetal cell growth and development. Dairy
    products, eggs, fish, seafood, poultry, and meat are excellent sources of the
    essential amino acids. While a vegetarian menu that includes eggs and dairy
    provides quality protein, a plant food-only vegan diet requires careful
    planning. A variety of plant-based protein sources must be included in your
    daily diet.
  • Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is found only in foods from
    animal sources, such as milk, eggs, and meat. To support a vegan diet, be sure
    to eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 (such as fortified soy milk) or take a
    supplement that contains vitamin B12.
  • Iron. Iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well
    as iron from meats. Include beans, lentils, and leafy green vegetables in your
    diet. Try not to rely too heavily on cheese (a very poor source of iron) for
    protein. Eat foods that contain vitamin C to improve the absorption of iron
    from a meal.
  • Calcium. If you don’t use milk or milk products, be
    sure to get calcium from other sources. Soy milk fortified with calcium is a
    good source. Nonmilk sources of calcium include calcium-enriched tofu,
    calcium-fortified orange juice, corn tortillas made with lime (calcium
    carbonate), almonds, turnip greens, broccoli, mustard greens, kale, and
    blackstrap molasses.
  • Zinc. Zinc from plant foods is poorly absorbed by the
    body, so make an effort to get enough zinc in your diet. Good sources of zinc
    include leavened whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread), legumes (beans and
    lentils), soy foods, vegetables, and milk and yogurt.
  • Vitamin D. If you don’t use milk or milk products, be
    sure to get enough vitamin D from other sources. Soy milk is often fortified
    with vitamin D, as are some cereals. Your body can also produce vitamin D when
    exposed to sunlight on a regular basis. You may need a supplement if you
    don’t consume a source of vitamin D and don’t get adequate sunlight.

Prenatal vitamins are very important for pregnant women who are on a
vegan diet.

Talk to your doctor about how to get all the nutrients you need with a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMarch 16, 2017