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Eating Healthy During Your Pregnancy as a Vegetarian

If you’re a vegetarian, you may be wondering if you’ll have to change your diet significantly in order to have a healthy pregnancy. While you certainly can change your diet if you feel the need, it’s very possible to have a healthy pregnancy while eating a vegetarian diet – especially if you’re an ovo-lacto vegetarian.

Many of the most important parts of a healthy diet are already part of a vegetarian diet. For example, you’ll need about five servings of whole grains every day. Not only do these foods provide you with fiber and important vitamins and minerals, but they’re an important energy source. Choose whole wheat bread, oats, brown rice, wheat berries and even corn. Soaked or sprouted grains will ensure that you can more easily digest the nutrients these products provide.

The one area of your diet where you may need to make some changes is your intake of protein. Adequate protein is crucial when you’re pregnant and you have many options for getting the protein your body needs. There’s protein in milk and eggs, nuts, beans and legumes. Small quantities of soy products are fine but avoid consuming large amounts of soy, as there are no reliable studies on the effects of consuming large amount of soy on a developing baby. Those that do exist suggest that large quantities may be harmful. During your pregnancy, avoid meat substitutes like “veggie burgers” which are often made from soy.

You’ll need about six ounces of protein every day, or about 70 to 80 grams of protein. You can count the protein in all foods you consume toward this requirement, including the protein in dairy products. If you’re familiar with a vegetarian diet, you’re already aware that plant proteins need to be combined to form complete proteins. You probably already do this as a part of your diet – if not, just eating a wide variety of foods will help you to accomplish this.

For example, consider adding the nutritional powerhouse grain quinoa to your diet. Not only is it an excellent whole grain, it’s a complete protein in and of itself.

For another source of protein, look to eggs. Not only do eggs provide protein that’s easy for your body to absorb, they also provide a number of additional vitamins and minerals – including iron – that are easy for your body to absorb. If you don’t usually eat eggs, consider adding them to your diet during pregnancy. For maximum nutrition, consume whole eggs and not just egg whites.

You’ll also need to take in four servings of dairy each day. You can choose from milk, yogurt, cheese or even goat milk products. Cottage cheese is not only a good dairy choice, but packs additional protein as well. Again, avoid soy dairy products in large quantities because of their unknown effects on developing babies.

Try to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day, and include vitamin C rich foods, like oranges and tomatoes. Interestingly enough, eating a fruit that contains vitamin C with your eggs will help you absorb the iron more effectively. Include a deep yellow or orange fruit or vegetable each day, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe or pumpkin, as these are all good sources of beta carotene.

Finally, you always need healthy fats in your diet, but they become especially important during pregnancy. Choose healthy sources of fat like olive oil, nuts and nut oils and avocados. Coconut oil is also a good choice. Whatever source you prefer, avoid trans fats and fats that have to be chemically derived, like corn oil and most vegetable oils and shortenings.

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