Eating for two
Recommendations for many vitamins and minerals are higher during pregnancy, but as a physiological response to pregnancy the absorption of many nutrients is increased. The majority of pregnant women (including vegans) can meet these increased needs by consuming a varied diet: just follow your appetite and avoid excesses of under- or overeating.
Recommended Weight Gain
Whilst recommendations for many vitamins and minerals are higher during pregnancy, the increase in energy (calorie) requirements is relatively small.General guidelines include a little weight gain of approximately 1-2kg (2-4lb) during the first trimester, and in the second and third trimesters a weight gain of 0.5kg (1 lb) per week is common. There is little, if any, increase in calorific needsduring the first and second trimesters. However, in order to support the recommended weight gain during the third trimester an extra 200 calories perday will be required. 200 calories is a fairly small increase, but it is important to consume these extra calories wisely. You should, for example, increase theintake of fresh fruit and vegetables and/or wholemeal bread and houmous, instead of drinking a can of coke and eating bar of chocolate! The coke and chocolate will provide the calories, but not the vital nutrients required for the health of the woman and her growing baby. Three meals a day should be eaten, starting with breakfast. Although breakfast may not be terribly appealing if you are suffering from morning sickness, it is an important meal as it comes after a long period without food. It is important to provide a regular supply of nutrients to the growing foetus. Babies do not do well if they fast for hours on end.
Problems with Weight Gain
If weight gain is slow or non-existent, more food is required. Food should be eaten more often. The types of food eaten should be higher in calories and lower in fibre. If weight gain is high, then sweet or fatty foods should be replaced withfresh fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains (wholemeal bread and pasta). If the diet is already fairly healthy, then more exercise should be taken on a daily basis, e.g. walking, swimming, etc. If you are suffering from nausea during the early stages of pregnancy you may find that your appetite is reduced, in which case weight gain can initially be quite slow. However this should not be of concern and an increase in appetite later on in pregnancy will more than make up for any lapses. See also Weight loss and gain.
Key Nutrients for Pregnancy
Note: For general guidelines on a well balanced vegan diet refer to our 16 page booklet Plant Based Nutrition and Health.
Ensure adequate folic acid, folate or folacin consumption to protect against neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Studies suggest this is plentiful in thediets of vegan adults. The Department of Health advises women considering having a baby and those who are pregnant to take a folate supplement as wellas consuming foods rich in the vitamins. All women wishing to conceive should take 400 micrograms per day.
Pregnant women should take 400 micrograms per day.
You need to take a bigger dose of folic acid if:
- you have had a baby with spina bifida
- you have diabetes
- you are taking medicine for epilepsy
- you have coeliac disease
Pregnant women do not require more than the average 3 micrograms per day from fortified foods (or 10 micrograms per day if relying on supplements). During pregnancy your own laid downbody stores of B12 are not readily available to the foetus, which builds up its own supply from your daily intake of the vitamins. If B12 intake is low during pregnancy, the foetus will not have adequate stores of the vitamin and this may lead to a deficiency sometime after birth, even though you may have no clinicalsymptoms. A supplement should be taken if fortified foods are not consumed on a regular basis.
Your body will need more calcium during pregnancy. Vegan diets being rich in fruit and vegetables and free of animal protein help conserve calcium. If you struggle to get enough calcium from green leafy vegetable and fortified foods (e.g. fortified milks, yogurts, etc.), take a supplement to ensure calcium requirements are met. Additionally, it is possible to purchase calcium carbonate powder which can be mixed into food or added to home-made bread.
There is an extra demand for iron for the developing baby and to form haemoglobin. Women who had heavy periods or were slimming before pregnancy may start their pregnancy with low iron stores, and can end up tired and anaemic. An adequate intake of iron rich foods should be consumed, and foods which contain a lot of vitamin C should be eaten with the meal, such as aglass of fruit juice or a piece of fruit, as this aids the absorption of iron. Tea can reduce the absorption of iron, so either intake should be reduced, tea drunk only between meals. It is not wise to take iron tablets unless prescribed, because too much iron can interfere with the absorption of other minerals and can cause constipation.
There is evidence from the general population that malformations occurring in some infants may be linked to zinc insufficiency in their mothers. Human milk is not a rich source of this mineral, and during breastfeeding infants draw on their body reserves laid down during the last three months of pregnancy. Thus premature babies may be at risk of zinc deficiency. Intakes of zinc by adult vegans are similar to those of omnivores, and there is no recommended increase during pregnancy. Ensure a mixture of zinc-rich food such as nuts, seeds, beans and cereals, or sprouting zinc-rich beans and seeds.
Drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy. The state of pregnancy is a "watery" one and you will require extra water for making additional blood for yourself, your baby, and the 6 to 12 pints of amniotic fluid in your uterus. At least six to eight(200ml) glasses per day should be consumed, preferably in the form of water,fruit juice or vegetable juice. The balance of water needed can be obtained fromthe watery fruits, vegetables, soups and salads which are abundant in the vegan diet.
Suggested meals during pregnancy
· Wholemeal toast spread with vegan margarine and Marmite (or other yeast extract) or peanut butter - or both!
· Porridge and dried fruit with nut topping
· Muesli and fresh fruit with fortified soya milk
· Scrambled tofu with chopped onion and peppers on toast
· Ryvita crispbreads spread with margarine and nut butter
· Baked beans and lightly-fried mushrooms on wholemeal toast
· Fresh and dried fruit
· Fruit smoothies (made with liquidised soft fruit and fortified soya milk)
· Wholemeal crackers and vegetable pate
· Yoghurt (fortified vegan versions)
· Vegan spread or hard 'cheese', pickle and salad sandwich
· Veggie Burger, wholemeal bun, lettuce, tomatoes, bean sprouts. Fresh green salad with French dressing.
· Vegetable bean soup and baked potato
· Houmous, salad and pitta bread
· Samosas or onion bhajis with salad
· Fruit cake
· Starter: vegetable soup and/or green salad
· Main courses: vegan versions of lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, shepherd's pie, stew, curry, vegetable biriani, quiche, etc.
· Fresh fruit salad and 'ice-cream'
· Fruit crumble and custard made with fortified soya milk
· Apple pie and soya crème
· Cake (fruit, vanilla sponge, chocolate, fudge, carob)
· Tofu cheesecake
Pure water, fruit juices, fortified soya milk shakes, coffee/tea type beverages,herbal teas
Large amounts of caffeine have in some cases been associated with various problems in pregnancy. Caffeine is a stimulant and crosses the placenta. It appears in the foetus's blood in the same concentration as in the mother's blood. The Food Standards Agency advises that pregnant women should moderate their caffeine intake to no more than 300md/day, which is equivalent to approximately four cups of coffee per day.
Coping with common food-related pregnancy problems
· Many women find eating little and often is the best remedy. Eat five or six small meals per day, and try to eat something every few hours because you may feel sick when you are really hungry.
· Avoid greasy or fried foods, as these take longer to digest. If the smell ofcooking makes you queasy, ask someone else to cook while you are out of the house, or try eating cold foods like sandwiches, cereal, soya yogurt, nut/seed butters and crackers, or fruit.
· Don't lie down directly after eating; sit for at least 15 minutes after eating.
· Keep a snack such as crackers or dry cereal by the bed, and eat a little on waking up in the night or before getting up in the morning.
· Try making mixtures like mashed potatoes and chopped vegetables, or vegetables and rice, because starchy foods are often more appealing than vegetables.
· Foods containing ginger have been found to relieve nausea for some women.
· Try peppermint tea.
Heartburn & indigestion
· Try small frequent meals.
· Eat slowly.
· Drink liquids between meals rather than with them.
· Stay upright after eating.
· Do not go to bed on a full stomach.
· If it's worse at night, a slightly tilted bed or propped pillows can help.
· Avoid spicy and acid foods, and fizzy drinks.
· Ensure an adequate intake of fibre rich foods.
· Drink plenty of fluids
· Take gentle exercise.