You don't need animal protein to have a healthy pregnancy. But you do need to plan your meals carefully to make sure you get all the nutrients you and your baby need.
Iron, calcium and vitamin B12 are all essential during pregnancy. To make sure you're getting enough, talk with your doctor, midwife or a registered dietitian and follow these general guidelines:
Choose foods rich in iron every day to meet your body’s extra needs. Non-meat sources include fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, whole grain bread, beans and lentils. The iron from these foods is best absorbed when eaten with foods rich in vitamin C such as berries, citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli and tomatoes.
A daily prenatal supplement with iron is usually recommended as well.
Milk products are a good source of calcium. If you don't eat or drink dairy products, increase these calcium-rich foods in your diet:
- enriched soy or rice beverages
- enriched orange juice
Calcium in non-dairy sources is less easily absorbed than the calcium in milk.
Vitamin B12, found in milk and eggs, is essential to your baby’s brain and nervous system development. If you don’t drink milk or eat eggs, have your vitamin B12 level checked by your healthcare provider and make sure you take a supplement including B12; you need about three micrograms per day. Some nutritional yeast contains Vitamin B12, but during pregnancy and breastfeeding it’s best to take a supplement.
Lots of vegetarians rely on soy for protein, and it’s generally safe during pregnancy as part of a balanced diet. However, large amounts of soy foods and soy supplements, such as soy protein or isoflavone supplements, are not recommended during pregnancy. High intakes of isoflavones from supplements can be harmful to fetal development.
Resources and Links:
HealthLink BC: Pregnancy - Vegetarian Diet
HealthLink BC: Iron and Your Health
HealthLink BC: Food Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D
HealthLink BC: Quick Nutrition Check for Vitamin B12
HealthLink BC: Food Safety During Pregnancy