The Vegetarian Mother-to-Be

Having borne four healthy babies, I can vouch for the adequacy of a vegetarian diet for pregnant women. Some vegetarians revert to eating meat during pregnancy for fear of not getting enough of the nutrients they need. But the American Dietary Association has already determined that a vegetarian diet is helpful in reducing the risk of certain conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, obesity and many others. These conditions can become a problem during pregnancy so to give up the vegetarian diet is not the best option.

Anyone can be healthy on a vegetarian diet and I see no reason why that should change just because you’re pregnant. Like anyone else, vegetarians need a little careful planning to get adequate nutrition. If you are pregnant, your body will have to adjust to the needs of the growing baby inside. This increases your nutrient requirements especially for folic acid, Vitamin B complex, iron, Vitamin C, calcium, protein, zinc, and other micronutrients.

To get enough folic acid or folate, think foliage. Folate is found in dark green, leafy vegetables. It is also available in brewer’s yeast and wheat products.

Vitamin B complex, especially B12, is a requirement which people think are not available in a vegetarian diet. Actually, you can get them in nutritional yeast, carob, whole grains, milk products, and vitamin B fortified foods like breakfast cereals, meat substitute products, soymilk.

Iron-rich foods include whole grains, legumes, and green leafy vegetables, nutritional yeast, tofu, soymilk, carob. Take your iron foods with vitamin C sources to increase the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is in fruit juices and vegetables.

Calcium rich foods include tofu, dark leafy vegetables, beans, figs, broccoli, sunflower seeds, tahini, carob, and almond butter. There are also calcium fortified soymilk, juices, and cereals available.

Zinc can be found in nuts, dried beans, hard cheeses, wheat germ, sea vegetables, tofu, and miso. Some whole grain cereals and pasta are fortified with the mineral.

Protein requirements are easily met with vegetables especially the green leafy ones, milk products, whole grains, legumes, dried beans, nuts, and seeds.

Iron sources are blackstrap molasses, dried beans, brewer’s yeast, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, apricots. Also take nuts and seeds, iron enriched breads and cereals.

Vitamin D can be manufactured by the body with exposure to the sun for about five to a quarter of an hour a day. Certain foods like kale, collard greens and other dark leafy vegetables have this vitamin. Some vitamin D fortified foods are cow’s milk, soy or rice milk, and cereals.

So you see, the nutrient requirements of the mother-to-be are all there in a vegetarian diet. Just take time to plan a little and you’re off to having a healthy and vegetarian pregnancy.

During the first trimester, some women feel a little nauseated as their body adjusts to the new and exciting changes in their body. It is best to eat bland foods that don’t have strong smells so as not to aggravate the stomach. Refrain from hot or spicy food. Letting yourself go hungry can make you feel more nauseated. Eat a biscuit or two in the morning even before getting out of bed. Keep a jar of taro or sweet potato chips. Not only are they full of vitamin A, they have a good balance of all the other nutrients and fiber any body needs. These chips are easy to make and even when fried, they don’t soak up as much oil as potatoes. Just wash, peel, and slice thinly then bake till crisp. Have them plain, sweetened, or salted.

It is during the second and third trimester when increased nutrient intake is imperative. It’s perfectly normal and desirable to gain weight during pregnancy so don’t worry. Vegetarians, due to their comparatively leaner diets, usually have to make an effort to gain the desired pounds. But hold off the urge to fill up on useless junk food. You need high nutrient density foods like nuts, beans and whole grains. Add to that list plenty of vegetables and fruit. They’re full of fiber and fluids that can prevent constipation experienced during pregnancy, usually by non-vegetarians.

Salads are the best. Vary the ingredients and dressings each time. Go for the greener or more colorful leaves like watercress, spinach, beet greens, turnip greens, and arugula. They have the most vitamins. Toss in a variety of herbs, nuts or beans, crumbled tofu, sunflower seeds, almonds. Fruits, fresh or dried, are welcome additions. Use tofu and nutritional yeast in the dressings.

Reach for rich roots for a crunchy good salad. Cut into strips equal amounts of jicama, carrot, radish, and beets. Toss the whole lot into a pretty glass bowl to show off their colors and sprinkle with a mixture of olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. Garnish with a handful of basil leaves or a few sprigs of fresh spinach and serve.

Leftover salads can make interesting sandwich fillings. Remember to use whole grain breads or bagels for the protein. Take a slice of whole wheat bread and line it with romaine lettuce. Cover with avocado slices, tomato rounds, a thin slice of baked or fried tofu. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast. Mustard, cheese, pickles, and olives, onions are optional. Top with another slice of bread and enjoy with a tall glass of carrot and beet juice or carob soy milk. Nut butters and bean spreads also make nutritious fillings. They keep well so you just have to make a jar and it will last a week or two in the refrigerator.

Turmeric is a flavoring that is medicinal. Among other things, it protects the stomach lining, helps prevent ulcers and helps lower cholesterol. It’s perfect for the pregnant mom who’s suffering from nausea and also worrying about high blood pressure. Mix turmeric into your dressings, sauces, or vegetable dishes. You can also sprinkle a teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of salt into the water before you cook the rice. This nice yellow rice is fragrant and delicious.

Prepare different bean dishes to get all your protein requirements. They are deliciously satisfying as soups, spreads, main meals, snacks or addition to salads. Lentils don’t need soaking and cook in about thirty minutes. Make a thick savory soup with cubed potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and onions. Season with a bit of cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Pasta lovers can live it up. Primavera is preferable. After cooking the pasta, mix in coarsely chopped basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, black pepper, and a touch of balsamic vinegar. For a more dressed up version, add any of the following: cherry tomatoes, chopped pine nuts, cucumber slices, lettuce, olives, bell peppers, grilled eggplants. If you prefer the saucy pastas, try blending beans or pulses into the sauce.

It is during the second and third trimester when increased nutrient intake is imperative. It’s perfectly normal and desirable to gain weight during pregnancy so don’t worry.

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