vegetarian diet generally refers to a diet that omits meat, fish
A well planned vegetarian diet is usually nutritionally adequate
and healthy, but during pregnancy and for breastfeeding specific
concerns can arise. A poorly designed or implemented vegetarian
diet can be low in several key nutrients required for optimal fetal
growth or maternal milk production, including protein. In this section,
we will answer some common questions about these diets and what
"it takes" to develop a vegetarian diet that supports
a healthy pregnancy and lactation.
let's review the specific types of vegetarian diets. The more restrictive
the diet, the greater the risk of problems. Vegan diets, for example,
require the most careful planning because all animal sources of
protein and nutrients are omitted.
fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
dairy products and eggs.
only plant foods. Omits animal products.
are the potential health benefits of following a vegetarian diet
diets tend to have more fiber than meat based diets, which can help
pregnant women in two ways. First, fiber along with water helps
to minimize constipation. As most experienced women can attest,
this can be real challenge as the time of delivery approaches. Also,
for several weeks after delivery, softer stools are desirable to
avoid excessive strain in the tender vaginal area. The
second benefit of a high fiber, well planned vegetarian diet is
better weight control. Vegetarian diets tend to be less calorie
dense when high fat dairy (whole milk, full fat cheeses, butter)
and oils are not over-consumed.
vegetarian diets provide enough protein?
well planned vegetarian diet that includes adequate variety easily
provides enough protein. The recommended dietary allowances (RDA's)
call for 10 % of total calories to come from protein. Milk, yogurt,
cheese and eggs are all excellent sources of protein. An adequate
supply of protein is possible in a strict vegetarian diet, but it
requires proper selection. Remember, protein requirements of pregnancy
are higher than for non-pregnant women, and higher still for women
who are breastfeeding. If more than one baby is involved, protein
needs are even greater.
needs may be significantly increased and the challenge to eat enough
will be greatest for vegans. Vegans need to eat an adequate amount
of high quality protein foods (soy) or complement beans with grains.
If necessary, boost protein by adding soy based protein powder.
Discuss your needs with your physician. A consultation with a registered
dietitian is recommended if you need to plan a vegan diet to meet
increased protein needs during pregnancy or lactation.
vegetarian protein foods need to be eaten at the same meal to make
a complete protein?
most important aspect of vegetarian diets for pregnancy and lactation
is total, usable protein. All proteins are made of small building
blocks called amino acids. There are 20 kinds of amino acids. Foods
containing protein have varying amounts and different combinations
of amino acids.
proteins are called "complete proteins" because they contain ALL
of the amino acids human's requires. Soy protein (soybeans, tofu,
soy milk) is also a "complete protein". Most plant foods
contain "incomplete proteins", however, because they are low in
one or more essential human amino acids.
example, legumes (dried beans and peas) have low levels of an amino
acid called methionine. Cereals and grains have low levels of a
different amino acid, lysine. Combining different vegetarian protein
sources results in complete proteins with all the essential amino
acids. Grains eaten with legumes results in a complete protein.
Beans and rice are complementary proteins and combining these two
foods provides a high quality protein.
proteins can be eaten over the course of a day. They do not need
to be eaten at the same meal. That is because the amino acids are
available in the blood for some hours after a meal. When the next
meal is eaten and provides the complimentary amino acids, then the
body has all of the building blocks necessary to make important
proteins like muscles, tissues, hormones and antibodies.
vegetarian diets provide enough iron?
are two types of iron. Non-heme iron is the type of iron found in
plant foods. It is not absorbed as well as heme iron, which is the
type of iron found in meats. Absorption of non-heme iron in plant
foods can be enhanced by eating a vitamin C rich food at the same
meal. Vegetarian diets can provide a good supply of iron if the
proper foods are eaten, but most pregnant women also require additional
iron provided in a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement beginning
in the second trimester of pregnancy.
there other vitamins or minerals that are difficult to obtain on
a vegetarian diet?
vegetarian diet can provide all of the vitamins and minerals, as
well as calories and protein that are needed by the body. The key
to a healthy vegetarian diet requires careful planning to assure
balance and nutritional adequacy. The following chart lists nutrients
that are more likely to be at risk, why the nutrient is needed,
and vegetarian food sources to choose.
in red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout body and to
the developing fetus. Fetus stores iron for its own reserves
in late pregnancy.
and poultry are great sources of iron. Vegetarian sources include:
dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seaweed,
soy products and fortified cereals.
for cellular growth.
and poultry are excellent sources of zinc. Strict vegetarians
must plan carefully, or supplement this mineral. Vegetarian
sources include nuts and seeds, legumes, hard cheeses, whole
grains, soy products, wheat germ, and yeast.
for the developing bones and teeth of the fetus. Utilized for
maternal milk production.
yogurt and cheese are by far the riches sources of calcium.
Nondairy sources include: dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli,
almonds, corn tortillas, legumes, calcium-fortified soy products/tofu,
and fortified orange juice.
for healthy bone development. This vitamin aids in mother's
is fortified with vitamin D. The body can produce its own vitamin
D in the skin when there is adequate exposure to the sun's rays.
for cellular growth and nervous system development.
in all animal products including milk products and eggs. Plants
do not contain this vitamin. If milk products and/or eggs are
not included in the diet, then this vitamin must be taken as
a vitamin supplement.