Since announcing my pregnancy back in January I have been asked a lot by clients, friends & others about being plant-based while pregnant. These questions come out of curiosity sometimes (“what do you eat?!”) & concern (“make sure you’re getting enough nutrients for the baby!”). I have done a fair bit of reading & research on the subject; & while I am not a doctor, I figured I’d share what I’ve learned & how I’ve felt through my plant-based pregnancy.
All pregnant women are required to intake more calories during their pregnancy. The common saying of “eating for two” is definitely not an accurate statement. You are not eating for two people your size! It is recommended to intake about 300 more calories/day. On a typical 2,000 calorie/day diet this means you are now allotted 2,300 calories/day during pregnancy. And while pregnancy is definitely not a time to restrict your diet or try & lose weight, you also should be mindful to make those 2,300 calories count. The recommended weight gain range for women of normal weight is just 25-35 pounds. This means watching how many indulgences or treats you intake (aka empty calories). You are growing a baby inside of you & this is the time to pump up your nutrients & make those calories count!
Some people aren’t sure what I mean when I say I am plant-based. I chose that terminology in part because of its ambiguity. I don’t like to be confined by strict labels. To some plant-based means they eat primarily a vegetarian diet & eat eggs, cheese & maybe even occasionally meat or seafood, to others it’s the same as saying they are vegan (consuming no animal bi-products). To me, it means that I get the majority of my nutrients from plants (fruits, vegetables, beans), as well as eggs & greek yogurt & occasionally seafood. I do not drink dairy milk or eat cheese. I listen to my body & give it what it needs.
With pregnancy it is recommended that you take in more protein, calcium & iron. The most common question I get asked about being plant-based it where do I get protein? As you can see from the chart below the answer is veggies!!! I also supplement with protein shakes & juicing. Especially during the first trimester I was adverse to eating my greens so this was a way to make sure I was still getting them in my diet.
The same applies to calcium. We are told from an early age in our culture that you need to eat meat for protein & drink milk for calcium. When you look into it though that’s really not the case! A few staples in my prenatal plant-based diet include sweet potatoes, chick peas, spinach, kale, tomatoes, avocados, greek yogurt & eggs. I have always said that if my body feels lacking in any way I would be open to eating more seafood & re-evaluating my diet. I have had to find balance with these new nutritional requirements. I’ve had a couple of episodes of being very light-headed due to low blood sugar. I’ve learned to carry snacks & to eat something every two hours. My focus is being healthy for the baby & to give them all the goodness & nutrients they need to thrive. With that goal in mind, I do take a plant-based prenatal vitamin as well. I have been checked for iron deficiency & am fine (it is often recommended that vegetarians take a B12 supplement & anemia is common during pregnancy).
As with all things pregnancy, the key is to listen to your body. I believe there is no one size fits all diet. And there is definitely no one way to go through pregnancy. Everyone carries & experiences this time differently. Now is not the time to try something drastic with your diet or exercise routine. It’s about being as healthy as you can be & balanced to be able to welcome this new life into the world!