How to have a balanced diet for vegan and vegetarian mums-to-be!

Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist

 

Have a happy and healthy pregnancy with The Infant & Toddler Forum’s top tips for vegan and vegetarian mums-to-be!

Over the past few years it definitely seems that there’s been a growing trend for vegetarianism and veganism! Supermarkets are stocked with great alternatives and vegan and vegetarian cooking is all the rage. And the numbers back it up – in the ten years from 2006, the number of British vegans rose by more than 360 per cent according to The Vegan Society!

It follows that there must be growing numbers of vegan and vegetarian mums-to-be, however the advice for pregnant women often ignores this. Here to help, we have compiled our advice for vegetarian and vegan expecting mothers, to help all pregnant women maintain a balanced diet!

Top Tips for Vegetarian Expectant Mothers

  • Make sure you eat three servings a day of both:
    • milk, cheese or yogurt
    • eggs, nuts and pulses
  • It’s important to eat a food high in vitamin C at the same meal as eggs, nuts and pulses to make sure the iron in them is absorbed. High vitamin C foods include:
    • citrus fruit
    • kiwi fruit
    • tomatoes
    • pepper
    • potato
    • strawberries
    • mango
    • blackcurrants
  • If you don’t eat fish, a supplement suitable for pregnancy containing both omega 3 fats and iodine should be taken in addition to:
  • Take the Vitamin D and folic acid supplements recommended for all pregnancies

Top Tips for Vegan Expectant Mothers

Vegan diets are very low in some nutrients needed for your baby’s optimal growth and development. To help with a balanced diet, in addition to the Vitamin D and folic acid supplements which are recommended for all pregnant women, also take:

  • Iodine – take an over the counter supplement suitable for pregnancy providing 140-150mg per day (not kelp or seaweed supplements). This is really important for your baby’s developing brain
  • Vitamin B12 – this is only found in small amounts in fortified yeast extracts, fortified soya milk, fortified textured soya protein and fortified cereals. So you will need a B12 supplement as well
  • Calcium – having 3 drinks of fortified soya milk each day will provide you with a reasonable level of calcium, and alternatively, take a calcium supplement of 800mg/day
  • Iron supplements – if your midwife advises you. Iron is found in nuts, pulses and fortified breakfast cereals. Eat these three times a day and at the same time as a starchy food and a food high in vitamin C (see the top tips for Vegetarian Expectant Mothers for suggestions!)
  • Omega 3 fats – walnuts and walnut or rapeseed oil are a good source of omega 3 fats on a daily basis but take a supplement of DHA and EPA as well

If you’ve found this blog informative, why not share with your vegetarian and vegan expecting friends!

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, with recent NHS figures revealing that one child under five is admitted to hospital because of obesity every week. The coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown has challenged already difficult circumstances and during this time many children were consuming more higher fat and/or sugar snacks, spending longer in front of screens and missing out on regular activity including physical education classes.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Following his recent recovery from coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly blamed excess weight for his need for intensive care. He has subsequently declared a war on the UK’s obesity crisis and is planning a post-pandemic public health drive to battle the growing problem.
  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.