10 Best Protein-Rich Foods for Pregnant Vegetarians

10 Best Protein-Rich Foods for Pregnant Vegetarians

Table of Contents

Should I change my vegetarian diet to get pregnant? Is it safe to have a vegetarian diet during pregnancy? A balanced vegetarian diet may provide all the nutrients and protein needed for a healthy pregnancy. However, never suddenly change your diet to a vegan or vegetarian diet during or very close to pregnancy.

The amino acid that makes protein forms the building blocks of your baby’s body, so you must get enough protein during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters when your baby grows faster. Your breasts and other body parts are getting bigger.

Protein, in addition to being essential for the development of your child’s brain and nervous system, is also very important for muscle growth and proper nutrition of the placenta. Some premature births may be due to a placenta that has aged too early. So plan your diet so that your daily protein foods intake is not lower than the normal level of pregnancy.

If you are also on a vegan or vegetarian diet, pay special attention to the intake of protein, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and iron during pregnancy and after giving birth while breastfeeding because these nutrients are important for your body, cell growth, the development of the fetus’s brain and other organs, and the baby’s weight gain are vital, and as long as you eat a wide range of healthy plant foods and plan your diet to include important key nutrients for a vegetarian expectant mother, you can get all the nutrients you need. Get what you and your baby need.

Protein is made of structures called amino acids, which are essential for cell growth and embryo development. So eat several meals of protein-rich food every day. Good protein sources include eggs, dairy, legumes, soy, nuts, seeds, and nut butter.

best rich protein foods for Vegetarian pregnant

If you are pregnant, To get protein in a vegetarian diet, add the following items to your daily food routine:

  • Legumes: This group is rich in protein and includes green peas, soybeans, chickpeas, black beans, cowpeas, red beans, pinto beans, peanuts and peanut butter. They are a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals for the developing fetus and the mother’s health. Legumes are also low in fat, making them a healthy and nutritious choice for pregnant women who are trying to have a balanced diet.

It is recommended for pregnant women to include at least two servings of legumes per week as part of a varied and balanced diet.

  • Whole grains: You can also rely on this group for protein.

Use the following foods to boost your intake of protein and B-group vitamins such as folate:

Whole wheat, brown rice, protein-rich pasta, whole grains, brown wild rice, oats, buckwheat, millet, quinoa (rich in protein), whole grain bread, and whole grain cornbread.

You can enrich foods (in cookies, pan bread, pancakes, etc.) with plant or barley bran during cooking.

Pregnant women should aim to include at least three servings of whole grains per day as part of a varied and balanced diet.

  • Nuts and seeds: Besides protein, this group is a rich source of useful fats such as omega-3. You can use this group as snacks or in salads. They are also a good source of vitamins E and B6, which are important for reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should aim to include at least one serving of nuts and seeds per day as part of a varied and balanced diet.

  • Almond oil: If you are allergic to peanuts, use almond oil. Also, oil is full of vitamin E, an essential antioxidant that protects cells from damage.

It can help to support healthy skin and hair during pregnancy when hormone changes can cause dryness and itching.

Other protein sources include walnuts, pistachios, almonds, jujubes, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

  • Quinoa and amaranth contain 8 to 9 grams of protein per cup, which is more protein than other grains. Also, amaranth and quinoa are perfect sources of complex carbohydrates, fibre, iron, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.

Quinoa is a rich source of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, and folate, which are important for the developing fetus and the mother’s health.

It is also gluten-free and can be a good alternative for pregnant women who avoid gluten.

  • Hemp: The protein in hemp is 50% more than in chia and flax seeds. Each 28 grams of hemp contains 10 grams of protein and is easily digestible.

While hemp may contain some beneficial nutrients for pregnant women, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, it is essential to note that some research has suggested that consuming high amounts of hemp products may be harmful during pregnancy.

  • Lentils are one of the sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Cooked lentils are a rich source of protein, with 18 grams of protein per cup (240 ml).

Lentils are a simple and affordable nutritious addition to a pregnant woman’s diet that can be prepared in various ways, like soups, salads, or as a main dish.

  • Milk produced from soy and enriched with vitamins and minerals is a good alternative to cow’s milk. Soy milk possesses 7 grams of protein per cup (240 ml).


All fruits and vegetables possess protein, but the amounts are usually small. However, some fruits have more protein than others.

Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Each of them has 4 to 5 grams of protein per cup.

  • Sweet corn is a popular food that contains almost as much protein as high-protein vegetables.

Fresh fruits are usually lower in protein than vegetables. Those with the highest amount of protein include guava, cherimoya, mulberry, blackberry and banana. These fruits have about 2 to 4 grams of protein per cup.

And let’s add further:

  • Add red, black or white beans, peas, lentils or tofu to your salad.
  • Make and eat bean burritos or bean dishes with different recipes.
  • Eat a handful of almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, or roasted chickpeas as a snack.
  • Spread on whole grain bread, apple slices, peanut butter, or almond butter.
  • Eat yoghurt or cottage cheese as a snack.
  • Eat the hard-boiled egg slices with a salad or greens.
  • A healthy vegetarian diet with eggs and dairy products can provide high-quality protein. However, an exclusively plant-based vegan diet requires more careful planning, and various plant-based protein sources should be included in your daily diet.

If you are dealing with nausea in the early days of pregnancy, a protein supplement may help you.

  Just as you should increase your calorie intake during pregnancy, your protein foods intake should also increase by about 30% (about 4 to 5 cups). 

Each cup can mean a glass of low-fat milk (unless you need fat), 30 grams of hard cheese, 150 grams of yoghurt, or 200 grams of beans or lentils (lentils without skin).

Since you do not eat meat, protein-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes, peas, seeds, nuts, tofu, soy, hummus, etc., are vital. This diet can meet your body’s needs. 

Moreover, provide the fetus inside your womb.

According to experts, proteins from animal sources are complete proteins.

Some plant foods, such as soybeans or quinoa (a grain cooked like rice), are also complete proteins but check with your doctor before changing your diet. 

Most plant foods have one or more limiting amino acids that make it difficult to access all amino acids. These foods are called “incomplete protein”. For example, beans have a small amount of the amino acid “lysine”, while rice is rich in lysine.

Combining two or more foods makes more diverse amino acids available to make a complete protein. This food combination is called “supplementary sizes”.

People who follow a vegetarian diet should include a combination of different foods in their diet so that the lost amino acids can be compensated in another way. 

At one time, experts believed that following a diet of “supplementary amounts” should be consumed at every meal, but now we know that combining foods at every meal is unnecessary. 

Your protein needs will be easily met as long as you eat various plant-based foods, such as brown rice, corn, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Note that weight loss, muscle fatigue, infections, and severe water retention can show you are not getting enough protein in your diet.

How much protein does a pregnant woman need, and why?

The recommended healthy dietary allowance (RDA) for protein during the first trimester of pregnancy of women is assessed at 46 g/day (0.8 g/kg bw/day) and 71 g/day (1.1 g/kg bw/day) pending the second and third trimesters. 

Expansion of blood volume and progress of the maternal tissues need substantial amounts of protein; the progress of the fetus and placenta as well as places protein necessities on the pregnant woman. 

Thus, additional protein is necessary for the maintenance of a successful pregnancy.

Is it bad to eat many protein foods when pregnant?

Of note, high maternal dietary protein foods intake can also result in intra-uterine progress restriction and embryonic death due to amino acid excesses, in addition to the toxicity of ammonia, homocysteine, and H2S that are generated from amino acid catabolism.


The idea that not eating meat will reduce the body’s protein is wrong. Protein deficiency among vegetarians and vegans is not very acute and dangerous, and most of them maintain a balanced protein level by following a proper diet. 

However, some people may want to increase their protein intake for various reasons. In this case, by studying and examining plant protein sources, they can increase their daily protein foods intake.

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Author and specialist

Dr. Majid Zahrabi,


  • Board Certified Neurosurgeon
  • DHA certificate holder
  • Plantation certificate holder, France
  • Certified holder of Discogol, France
  • A pioneer in the non-surgical treatment of disc herniation in the Middle East and CIS countries.
  • Under the training and coaching of Professor Jacques Theron (founder of Discogel Therapy) since 2008
  • More than 400 successful cervical and 1300 lumbar discogel injections
  • Trained and certified several neurosurgeons and spine surgeons in the Middle East and CIS countries for the treatment of Discogel
  • Strong belief in patient-centered care planning and participation
  • Neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Imam Khomeini and Amir Mazandarani Hospital, Sari, Iran, with more than 430 surgeries annually, 2000-2011
  • Neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Farmaniyeh, Nikan and Yas Sepid Hospital, Tehran, Iran, with more than 400 surgeries annually, 2011-2012
  • Neurosurgeon at Iranian Hospital, Dubai, 2022-2023
  • Since 2015, he has been working as a reference doctor for the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation with Discogel and has trained many doctors of spine-related specialties in various countries of the Middle East and CIS in person/practically and online.



  • Individual training sessions under the direct supervision of Professor Jacques Theron in Discogel treatment, 2008-2020
  • Training sessions under the supervision of Professor Thierry Boye on spinal implants, 2007
  • Participation and presentation in several national and international medical and neuro-spinal conferences
  • Board certificate by Iran Neurosurgery Board, 2001
  • Neurosurgery assistant training course, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran, 1996-2001 (In 2001, he graduated from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences with the first rank in the country.
  • His thesis the titled:The Application of human amniotic membrane in repair of dura matter in dogs.” ( It was happening for the first time in the world. )
  • General medical education, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran, 1984-1993


Published books:

  • CT scan of the brain for doctors
  • Etiology and treatment of painful spine disorders
  • Atlas of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of spine disorders
  • The most common mistakes in the treatment of spinal disorders
  • Reading brain CT scan in simple language (3rd place in the book of the year)
  • Treatment of head and spine injuries

Publications and articles:

  • Bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects of DISCOGEL® (https://www.researchgate.net/)
  • Muscle recovery, reduction of pain, and improvement of movement strategies in patients with lumbar discopathy after injection of Discogel.
  • The article on the initial results of the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation with discogel injection, which won the second-best poster rank at the Pan Arab International Congress of Interventional Radiology (March 14-16, 2015) and was accepted for presentation at the Chicago Pain Congress.
  • The use of human amniotic membrane in dura mater repair in dogs, a study for the first time in the world.



  • Annual Congress of Physiotherapists of Iran, 2019
  • Chicago International Pain Congress, 2019
  • Iran International Pain Management Congress, 2018
  • Annual Congress of Physiotherapists of Iran, 2018
  • Presentation of Discogel as an innovative solution for the treatment of spinal disc herniation in Armenia for orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, 2017
  • First Live Workshop and Seminar on Minimally Invasive Disc Therapy (DISCON), 2017
  • Presentation of Discogel as an innovative solution for the treatment of spinal disc herniation in Azerbaijan for orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, 2016
  • Seminar of Iranian official managers, 2016
  • Presentation of Discogel as an innovative solution for the treatment of spinal disc herniation in Tajikistan for orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, 2016
  • International Neurological Intervention Congress in Iran, 2014
  • Educational seminar for nurses on treatment approaches for head and spine trauma, 2014
  • Educational seminar for general practitioners on treatment approaches for head and spine trauma, 2014
  • Speech at the Retraining Seminar for General Practitioners and Specialists in Dubai (Discon) in 2017
  • Speech in the internal retraining courses of Irani Hospital, Dubai
  • Holding lecture sessions and practical workshops on the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation with discogel injection in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Oman, and Armenia during the years 2015 to 2021.
  • Giving a lecture and holding a practical workshop for neurosurgeons in Vietnam at Ho Chi Minh City University in 2023

Dr. Majid Zohrabi started treating his patients in Dubai in 2022 and continues his activities in private medical centers in the UAE.