Pregnant and vegetarian?

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Being pregnant can strike up new worries you didn’t have before. While it is important to have a healthy diet, being vegan or vegetarian will not have a huge impact on your pregnancy or the health of your baby.

Dr. Christopher Danielson an OB-GYN at the Banner Health Center in Queen Creek, says adequate nutrition is important.

“During pregnancy, babies take from you and your body,” Dr. Danielson said. “If your nutrition is not sufficient, it could lead to more health issues.”

The American diet has many nutrients in excess. At the end of the day, most pregnant women will not need to take any supplement vitamins unless their diet isn’t balanced, according to Dr. Danielson.

Vegetarian and vegan diets, for the most part, are well balanced and can even be healthier than omnivore diets. Before getting pregnant, women should make sure their iron and B12 levels are healthy. An iron deficiency could lead to the development of pica syndrome. This can cause pregnant women to crave substances like chalk and dirt, which have no nutritional value. Pica syndrome is self-limiting and can go away on its own.

Should I talk to my OB-GYN about my diet?

This is mainly a personal choice. When an OB-GYN conducts annual exams on a non-pregnant woman who is considering have a child soon, the provider will talk about a well-balanced diet. This includes having enough folic acid and taking prenatal vitamins, Dr. Danielson said.

Not having enough folic acid can lead to neurological issues, like spina bifida.

“Usually, women shouldn’t worry about taking extra folic acid,” Dr. Danielson said. “Most cereals and other foods in the U.S. are fortified with it.”

Women who are vegetarian, vegan or on another type of diet don’t need to be concerned about not getting nutrition from meat or animal products because there are many alternatives.

  • Beans offer protein, iron and calcium
  • Tofu, nuts and nut butters are good sources of protein
  • Alternative milks, such as almond, soy or coconut, have a lot of calcium and can be a good non-dairy substitute
  • Broccoli and kale also offer calcium

Cravings and what not to eat

Pregnant women should be aware of their cravings.

“If your body needs salt it might crave that,” Dr. Danielson said.

However certain food should be avoided. He recommends pregnant women should stay away from:

  • Energy drinks – They can make you and your baby sick.
  • Ice chips – These can cause you to crack your teeth.
  • Large amounts of coffee – Only have 200 mg or less of caffeine. This is equal to 1 – 2 cups of coffee or a couple cups of tea.
  • Avoid large fish – Fish like shark or swordfish could have higher levels of mercury. It is okay to have 8 to 12 ounces of fish a week if it is cooked and lower on the food chain.

In the end, women do not need to worry about their diets as much as they think. There is currently a big push to overdo it. The key aspect to a healthy pregnancy is to lead a healthy lifestyle.

“You don’t need to cut out everything,” Dr. Danielson said. “Be reasonable with yourself.”

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