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When vegetarians become pregnant, they usually want to maintain their meat-free diet. In principle, this is not a problem if a few things are observed. A professional nutrition counseling helps pregnant women with the menu. First steps to an animal-free diet during pregnancy, delicious vegetarian recipe ideas and the answer to whether the vegan option can also be considered can be found here!
Increased Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy
Pregnancy not only means an exceptional situation for your body, but also presents it with a challenge. A balanced nutrient level is very important here for mother and baby. In the first months, the growth of the fetus is still very low. In most cases, there is no need for an increased supply of nutrients here.
From the 4th month, a slight increase in nutrient intake should then begin. This includes the most important substances such as proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals such as iron, zinc, iodine and folic acid.
The increased need for food energy is often overestimated. The classic “I’m eating for 2 now” excuse should therefore be avoided. Although the fetus in the belly gets its nutrients exclusively from its mother, it still needs nowhere near as much as she does. Expectant mothers should therefore always keep in mind that they will only lose around 6 to 10 kg at birth. However, if a weight gain of 25kg occurs during pregnancy, there will still be 15kg left to lose later. On average, a weight gain of between 9 and 18kg during pregnancy is normal. How to get your body back into shape after pregnancy, you can find out here!
Over the entire period of pregnancy, an increased requirement of only 250 kcal daily is recommended. Foods with a high nutrient density such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes offer valuable ingredients.
From the 4th month of pregnancy, protein requirements increase by around 20%. New tissue must be formed to ensure the growth of the fetus and placenta.
For a 60kg woman, this equates to a daily intake of around 60g. Protein-rich plant foods include legumes, whole grains, nuts and oilseeds. Vegetarian foods can easily be preferred here, as they usually contain more energy, saturated fat and cholesterol than animal products.
Protein intake in the general population is higher than actually needed. The requirement can be completely met by plant foods.
Essential Fatty Acids
Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are necessary for fetal brain & eye development. DHA is found primarily in fish oils. The acid can also be built up to a small extent by the body itself (through α-linolenic acid, which is found in vegetable oils). Vegetarians and vegans must therefore ensure a sufficient α-linolenic acid intake. This can be done by taking a teaspoon of linseed oil daily. In addition, depending on the blood values, DHA-rich microalgae oils can be added. Be sure to ask your doctor first here or talk to the nutritionist.
Vitamin A, D and B6
Vitamin A is especially found in yellow, green and orange vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and apricots. They are rich in ß-carotene, which is cleaved in the body to form vitamin A. It is additionally needed during pregnancy, but an oversupply through dietary supplements should be avoided. The fetus could be unnecessarily damaged in the process.
There is no increased intake recommendation for vitamin D during pregnancy. However, the majority of the population is insufficiently supplied with the vitamin. Therefore, pregnant women in particular should pay attention to the value. Vitamin D is found in only a few foods. It is mostly formed in the skin through exposure to sunlight. So if you are pregnant in the months between October and March, fortified foods or supplements can be beneficial.
The need for protein also increases the need for B6 from 1.2 to 1.9mg daily. Vitamin B6 performs important functions in amino acid metabolism. Consumption through bananas, legumes, whole grains, walnuts, avocados, oilseeds and cabbage helps.
Folic Acid (folate)
Folic acid influences the division and new formation of cells. Its influence on the growth of the placenta and fetus is particularly important. It also affects the production of red blood cells. The German Society for Nutrition advises women who wish to have children to increase their folate intake from 400 to 600 µg per day even before pregnancy.
Vegetarian or vegan women are often better supplied with folic acid than meat eaters. Sources of folate are especially vegetables (green leafy vegetables and cabbage), whole grains and legumes.
Since folic acid is degraded by heating, it is advisable to consume a healthy amount as a raw food. As a supplement, omega-3 fatty acids can be taken as DHA supplements.
The intake of B12 increases from 3.0 to 4-5 µg daily during pregnancy. A deficiency of B12 can be dangerous. The requirement is usually met by dairy products and eggs, but is not sufficiently present in plant foods. B12 is involved in the breakdown of fatty acids, protection of nerves and blood formation, among other things.
Vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, but by bacteria. The greatest concentration is found in the offal of animals and decreases steadily through muscle meat to dairy products. Offal contains up to 60 µg/100g. Cheese only 3.1µg and milk only about 0.4µg/100g.
To support the vital B12 supply, fortified foods, special B12 toothpaste and dietary supplements can be useful. Both vegetarian, vegan and meat-heavy diets recommend regular blood testing for the vitamin.
The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1000mg daily. While an undersupply would not have negative consequences on the fetus, it does contribute to bone health. Pregnant women can get calcium quite easily from vegetarian and vegan foods such as sesame seeds, nuts or amaranth, as well as calcium fortified products such as soy oat milk.
Iron intake is doubled to 30mg per day during pregnancy. A deficiency can lead to miscarriage or impaired fetal development in the worst case scenario.
Non-pregnant vegetarians are usually not more affected by iron deficiency than meat eaters. It is therefore important to prevent iron deficiency by an adapted diet. Avoiding meat and fish can lead to iron deficiencies. Particularly in the last third of pregnancy, deficiency symptoms occur more frequently. You can avoid this by eating plant-based sources of iron such as legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Iron absorption is supported by foods rich in vitamin C (fruits, vegetables).
The iodine requirement increases from 200 to 230 µg. The best source is sea fish. However, if one consistently enriches one’s dishes with iodized table salt or sea salt, no deficiency is usually to be expected.
In addition, seaweed can be used occasionally.
Zinc intake increases from 7 to 10mg during pregnancy. Vegetarians are less likely to be deficient in zinc than meat eaters. Plant sources of zinc include whole grains, legumes, oilseeds, and nuts.
A complete vegan diet during pregnancy is currently very controversial among experts. How the completely animal-free variant can work nevertheless, which additives one must supply to the body and leckerer prescription ideas find you in this section.
Many experts advise against a purely vegan diet during pregnancy. Milk and eggs can certainly support the body and the growth of the fetus with protein and calcium. Nevertheless, it is not impossible to eat a vegan diet. It requires a lot of planning with several regular checkups. The biggest challenge is covering vitamin B12. This is urgently needed for the child’s nervous system. In order to be able to cover the need, B12 preparations must be supplied. Even those who do not otherwise resort to vitamin supplements, in pregnancy it should be urgently considered – for the sake of the baby!
Vegan Nutrition With Children
For children, vegan nutrition is not recommended. Here, the younger the riskier. The VeChi Diet study showed the problematic nature of the diets through a study of 364 children between the ages of one and three. Approximately 10% of the vegan and 6% of the vegetarian nourished children were too small for their age. However, the majority of these children were normal in weight and size.
It is remarkable that there were no deficits with the Mischköstlern. However, 3% suffered from overweight.
The conclusion of the study was that vegan and vegetarian children can be nourished need-covering, if on a sufficient supply of food energy and critical nutrients such as B12 one pays attention. However, this must then be added through supplements and cannot be taken naturally. A deficiency of vitamin B and amino acids can lead to severe developmental delays.
Recommended Foods During SS
- Eggs, if you eat them (3/week)
- Legumes like lentils, beans, peas
- Cheese (low fat)
- Milk (low fat & organic, one glass per day) and yogurt
- Green vegetables and herbs
- Whole grains and cereals (millet and oatmeal)
- Sesame seeds
- Dried apricots and figs
- Single capsules from the pharmacy
Vitamins and minerals
- Fresh fruit
- Raw vegetables
- Fish (pollack or cod)
- Herbal and fruit teas
- Diluted juices
- Milkshakes or smoothies
Foods without high nutrient content
- White bread
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Saturated fats and oils
The vegetarian diet can be continued during pregnancy without any problems. Nevertheless, the values should be checked closely by regular blood checks. A sufficient nutrient supply should always be ensured, although this is also the case with meat-eating pregnant women.
In the case of a vegan diet, accompanying nutritional counseling is recommended. This is always available to answer any questions you may have. With thorough planning and without diagnosed malnutrition, nothing stands in the way of vegan nutrition during pregnancy. However, you should resort to the required nutrient preparations.
Don’t let friends and relatives make you feel insecure. If your doctor supports you in your lifestyle and you feel comfortable, nothing stands in the way of a healthy pregnancy. After all, you know very well what you can expect from your body and your unborn baby. If the doctor advises you to change your lifestyle because of deficiencies or health risks for the child, do it! After all, your baby’s health comes first.
Recipe Ideas For A Vegan/vegetarian Diet During Pregnancy
- Chia seeds in oat milk with fresh fruit, ground flaxseeds, whole grain oatmeal and nuts
- Served with: a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice or a glass of milk
- With potatoes, olive oil, a small red onion, red bell bell pepper, 4 large eggs and 50 grams of grated cheddar cheese
Spaghetti with butternut squash and pine nuts
- With squash, arugula, whole wheat spaghetti, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil
To accompany whole wheat bread with raw vegetables a delicious eggplant dip
- Made with baked eggplant, olive oil, garlic, white wine vinegar, and Greek yogurt (or vegan substitute)