Going through a vegan pregnancy is just like one on any other time in your life; you’re excited, anxious, and somewhat scared about your new future.
You feel this way whether this is your first or seventh baby.
The one big difference is you probably have more people asking you about getting the proper nutrition during pregnancy, ranging from the popular, “How do you get your protein?” and "Don't you crave meat and cheese?" to “Will you feed your children a vegetarian diet too?!”
Sometimes all these questions can lead you to start second-guessing your diet and moral beliefs, but you don’t need to worry.
You can absolutely have a healthy vegan pregnancy, and it’s likely that you’ll even end up being healthier than about 95% of other women. All you need to do is focus on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans, and take a few simple precautions along the way.
I found that while I experienced all-day sickness in the first trimester, I never actually got sick, and throughout the rest of my pregnancy, my symptoms seemed relatively mild compared to what people warned they could be. I have to think a big reason for this is because I love to eat healthy food, drink lots of water, and do yoga.
I can't advocate that someone could simply “go vegan” and assume their pregnancy will be healthier. There is so much good vegan junk food on the market today that some people decide to stop eating animal products and still don’t end up any healthier.
I did notice that on the days when I decided to eat things like vegan ice cream, fake cheese chips, or anything else junky, I felt worse. Sugar made me intensely tired and almost all junk had to be followed up with an orange or another piece of fruit to clear out the bad taste and upset stomach.
While you might have hoped that being pregnant would mean you could eat for two and indulge on as much vegan ice cream and dairy-free cake as you could get your hands on, it’s not healthy for your baby.
A great resource for your strict vegetarian pregnancy is Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven. The ladies from the Skinny Bitch series will again remind you in their colorful, no-nonsense language that eating junk during pregnancy is not wise. That’s not to say you can’t occasionally enjoy those vegan junk foods, but they shouldn’t be the mainstays of your diet.
Learning about healthy eating is like peeling open the layers of an onion; the more you learn, the deeper into it you become. Often people stop eating animal products because they learn about how it can benefit their health, but then they learn something else that keeps them going. Perhaps they find out about how animals are treated on factory farms and that sustains them as a vegan. Or maybe they learn about the environmental disaster that animal farming is creating, and that sustains them.
As your vegan pregnancy progresses, there are different nutrients that will become important at different stages, most of which you can get completely from plant sources. It can’t hurt to add a vegan prenatal vitamin into your daily diet either.
1. Folic acid is important during early pregnancy and even before you even know you’re pregnant, so if you’re planning to conceive, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting about 800mcg daily. This is where a prenatal vitamin comes in very handy just to make sure you’re getting all the folic acid you need.
2. Vitamin B12 is harder to consume through strictly plant sources than most of the other vitamins, although you can find it in a few plant sources and added into some foods like tofu and soymilk.
3. Calcium is abundant in plant sources and it’s in a form that’s extremely easy for the body to digest and absorb. So, while animal sources technically have more calcium in them, the protein in cow’s milk (casein) is difficult for the body to assimilate into actual calcium. Strict vegetarians score big with calcium during vegan pregnancy.
4. The other B vitamins, E, and D are all also crucial to a healthy growing belly full of baby, and each comes easily from plants.
5. Check out Your Vegetarian Pregnancy for complete guidelines on the nutrients you need during pregnancy and how to get them from plant sources. Just ignore the milk and cheese suggestions... bleck!
6. A well-balanced diet full of whole grains, beans, vegetables (especially leafy greens and sea vegetables) and whole fruits, with snacks of nuts and seeds is extremely healthy for your growing baby.
7. When you're ready for losing weight after pregnancy, stick to a healthy diet full of whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, and nuts/seeds, as well as plenty of water.
Check out these famous vegan celebrities who also had vegan pregnancies:
It sometimes amazes me how it’s socially acceptable to question a vegan woman about her diet, but unacceptable to badger a woman who eats fast food during her pregnancy. What we need to remember is that most people simply haven’t been educated about food and don’t realize what they should actually be eating.
The baby growing inside you is just as susceptible to emotional energy as to the food energy you provide him/her with, so it’s important to stay positive and happy during your vegan pregnancy, even in the face of constant questions. And who knows, maybe someone who asks if you’re getting enough calcium without drinking milk will really feel your answer and will stop drinking it themselves!
More and more celebrities are joining a Hollywood baby boom as vegans, and I love to read about their cravings and their recommendations on diapers, bottles, clothes, recipes, and more.
Let's hear your story... what did you eat when you were vegan and pregnant? What struggles did you have? Did you have any weird cravings? What are your best recommendations for new vegan moms reading your story?
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