Vegetarian Diets for Pregnancy
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regnancy means eating for two. But it helps to
remember that one of you is very small. So while you
will need more nutrition, your overall diet will not be
dramatically dierent from your normal eating pattern.
Calorie needs increase only modestly during pregnancy.
In the rst trimester, no additional calories are needed at
all. However, an extra 340 calories are needed per day in the
second trimester, and an additional 452 calories are needed
per day in the third trimester.
All pregnant women need to
choose their meals wisely. It is important to eat foods that are
rich in nutrients, but not high in fat or sugar, or excessive in
A vegetarian diet, based on nutritious whole foods, is a
healthful choice for any pregnant woman. Use the chart below
to plan your meals.
Whole Grains, Breads, Cereals
9 or more servings
Serving = 1 slice of bread, 1/2 bun or bagel,
1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta,
3/4–1 cup ready-to-eat cereal
4 or more servings
Serving = 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables
Choose at least one dark green vegetable daily
4 or more servings
Serving = 1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw,
1 piece of fruit, 3/4 cup fruit juice, 1/4 cup dried fruit
Legumes, Soy Products, Nondairy Milks
Serving = 1/2 cup cooked beans, tofu, or tempeh;
8 ounces fortied soymilk or other nondairy milk;
3 ounces meat analogue
Nuts, Seeds, Wheat Germ
Serving = 2 tablespoons nuts or seeds,
2 tablespoons nut butter, 2 tablespoons wheat germ
*Be sure to include a reliable source of vitamin B12, such as many prenatal
vitamins or fortied nondairy milk or cereal.
o make certain that you are getting adequate nutrition,
pay particular attention to the following nutrients.
Calcium: e Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for calcium
during pregnancy is the same as before pregnancy, 1000 mg/
day for women ages 19-50,
due in part to increased maternal
Just as it was before pregnancy, getting enough calcium
on a vegetarian diet is easy. In fact, calcium absorption from
plant foods is oen superior to that of dairy products.
sources of calcium include tofu and soy beans, dark green leafy
vegetables, bok choy, broccoli, beans, gs, sunower seeds,
tahini, almond butter, calcium-fortied nondairy milk, and
calcium-fortied cereals and juices. If these foods are included
in the diet every day, calcium needs are easily met.
Essential fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an
essential fatty acid and an important component of the diet.
ALA converts in the body into omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and
e Institute of Medicine has set the adequate intake (AI) for
ALA at 1.1 g/day for women ages 19-50 and 1.4 g/day during
ALA can be found in a number of vegetarian
foods. Flaxseeds and axseed oil are the most concentrated
sources; however, ALA is also found in canola and walnut oils,
walnuts, and soybeans.
An important factor in essential fatty acid status for
vegetarians is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
e World Health Organization recommends a ratio of 5:1 to
10:1 for proper conversion of ALA into DHA and EPA.
lower the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, the better
the conversion. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in seeds, nuts,
grains, legumes, and green leafy vegetables, as well as in
high concentrations in certain vegetable oils (corn, soybean,
saower, cottonseed, sesame, and sunower).
e fatty acid that is oen discussed regarding vegetarian
pregnancy is DHA. DHA has been shown to be lower in
the plasma and umbilical cord of babies born to vegetarian
Since vegetarians don’t consume any preformed
DHA in the diet, they must convert it from ALA. It certainly is
possible to meet omega-3 fatty acid needs on the vegetarian diet
by consuming enough sources of ALA, balanced by not having
too many omega-6 fatty acids. However, if a vegetarian woman
is concerned about DHA, microalgae-based supplements are
available, marketed under the name Neuromins.
Folate: Folate, or folic acid, is necessary to help prevent