Can Vegans Produce Healthy Babies?

healthy vegan babyCertainly! But, pregnant (and breast feeding) vegans do need to modify their diets slightly. Nutritional needs increase in pregnancy and it has been calculated that a pregnant women needs to consume an extra 300 calories/day, in the second and third trimesters. The best way to obtain these extra calories is by eating more fruit and vegetables, for as well as providing additional calories, these foods will provide many of the extra vitamins and minerals which are also required in pregnancy.

Nutrients which are of particular importance during pregnancy and are needed in larger amounts include: iron, folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and zinc. Protein requirements also increase slightly during pregnancy and it is recommended that a vegan pregnant woman should consume about 60 g (74 g in the USA) of protein each day. To achieve this intake of protein, make sure that you eat a varied diet which includes high protein foods, such as soya milk/tofu, beans, nuts, grains and green leafy vegetables. Also, try to eat four helpings/day of the calcium-rich foods mentioned earlier and don't forget to expose your face and hands to the sun for a slightly longer time each day than recommended for vegan adults, in order to obtain extra vitamin D. The amount of iron-rich foods in the diet should also be increased, but as it can be difficult to obtain enough iron from the diet alone in pregnancy, a iron supplement is often prescribed for pregnant women. Good sources of zinc include: mushrooms, nuts and seeds, nutritional yeast, wheatgerm and whole grains. Folic acid is needed in substantially larger amounts in pregnancy and it is a good idea to increase your intake of folic acid for several months before you get pregnant. It is found in dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, dates, legumes and oranges.

The vegan diet tends to be high in fibre and quite bulky and so if towards the end of pregancy you find it difficult to eat large meals, then six smaller meals can be eaten, instead. Eating small frequent meals can also help to prevent morning sickness.

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