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.
If you are pregnant, To get protein in a vegetarian diet, add the following items to your daily food routine:
It is recommended for pregnant women to include at least two servings of legumes per week as part of a varied and balanced diet.
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.
Pregnant women should aim to include at least one serving of nuts and seeds per day as part of a varied and balanced diet.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Majid Zohrabi started treating his patients in Dubai in 2022 and continues his activities in private medical centers in the UAE.