Eating Vegan Diet during Pregnancy: Nutrients & Tips

Vegan Pregnancy: Nutrients & Tips for a Healthy Diet

Medically Reviewed By
Archana Shah (Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian)
View more Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian Our Panel of Experts

When a person is vegan, it means she does not eat animal products such as meat, poultry, egg, dairy and fish. Today, more and more people are switching to this kind of lifestyle or shifting towards the vegan diet due to various reasons. However, in pregnancy, you need to keep yourself updated on whether you can safely adopt this lifestyle during pregnancy or if you should rethink your decision. Read below for everything you may need to know regarding following a vegan diet during pregnancy.

Is a Vegan Diet Safe During Pregnancy?

Your body requires a wide variety of nutrients from food to sustain a healthy pregnancy. If your body is able to meet all the nutritional requirements from the vegan diet, you can safely follow it during pregnancy. You need to create a diet plan in such a way that it should contain all the nutrients that are required for your good health and also for the baby’s development.

Risks of Excluding Animal Products During Pregnancy

A vegan diet, if followed with complete discretion during pregnancy, can meet all the nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman. However, be prepared with alternatives to fulfil your Vitamin B12 and iron requirements as you may need that extra boost.  Vitamin B12 is usually available in higher amounts in animal products, which is a very important nutrient required for a healthy pregnancy. There have been instances where the failure to meet the Vitamin B12 requirements during pregnancy lead to neural birth defects and impaired cognitive development in babies. Also, pregnant women who do not consume animal products are at an increased risk of developing iron deficiencies or anaemia. Anaemia may lead to developmental or cognitive delays, low birth weight babies, pre-term babies or other such pregnancy complications. Therefore, your vegan diet should constitute required amounts of Vitamin B12 and iron.

Nutrients That Need Special Attention in a Vegan Diet

There have been no studies suggesting that a vegan or vegetarian diet may lead to pregnancy-related complications or unhealthy pregnancy. However, here are some nutrients that need your special attention if you are following a vegan diet:

1. Calcium

It is mostly obtained from milk, cheese, and other animal products. Here we have some vegan options that you may like to consider.

Why You Need It: Calcium is important for the development of foetal bones, heart, muscles and nerves.

How Much You Need: Approximately 1000 mg per day

Dietary Sources:

A pregnant woman drinking fortified orange juice

2. Protein

Eggs and dairy are some of the best sources of protein. Some vegan protein pregnancy options and why you need protein are mentioned below.

Why You Need It: Protein is essential for the hormone and cell development of your baby.

How Much You Need: Approximately 75 grams on a daily basis

Dietary Sources:

3. Iron

Iron is essential for a woman in order to have a healthy pregnancy.

Why You Need It: The need for red blood cells increases during pregnancy to support the growing baby and your pregnant body. Any kind of deficiency may lead to anaemia, which can further complicate your pregnancy or your unborn baby’s health.

How Much You Need: Approximately 26 mg on a daily basis.

Dietary Sources:

Vegan sources of iron

4. Vitamin D

This vitamin plays a vital role in preventing preterm labour or birth infections.

Why You Need It: It helps in the formation or building of foetal bones and teeth.

How Much You Need: Approximately 4000 IU daily

Dietary Sources:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified soy milk
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Vitamin D is something that you can get through sun exposure, too.

5. Vitamin B12

This vitamin is needed in very small amounts but plays an important role in foetal development.

Why You Need It: It aids in foetal brain development, building of the genetic material and the formation of foetal RBC or red blood cells.

How Much You Need: On average, you need 2.5 mcg per day.

Dietary Sources:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified soy milk (which contains Vitamin B12)
  • Nutritional yeast

Vitamin B-12

6. Zinc

You should include several servings of this mineral to pep up your vegan pregnancy nutrition.

Why You Need It: It helps in the formation of your baby’s cells and DNA. It also aids in tissue growth and cell division.

How Much You Need: Your daily diet should include approximately 7 mg.

Dietary Sources:

  • Wheat germ
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

7. Iodine

Iodine is essential for you and your baby.

Why You Need It: It helps in the development of your baby’s nervous system and brain. It also helps in the regulation of your baby’s metabolism.

How Much You Need: Approximately 150 mcg daily.

Dietary Sources:

  • Iodised salt
  • Dried seaweed

Iodised salt

8. DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid

The main sources of this acid or omega-3 fatty acid are fish and fish oil.

Why You Need It: It is beneficial in the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system.

How Much You Need: On an average 300 mg per day.

Dietary Sources:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplement that is derived from vegan algae.

Here we acquainted you with some important vegan pregnancy vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that you should include in your daily pregnancy diet.

Guidelines for a Healthy Vegan Diet in Pregnancy

Follow these guidelines for a healthy vegan diet pregnancy:

  • Ensure that you take your prenatal vitamins regularly.
  • You should consume a diet that contains all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in adequate amounts.
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol and smoking.
  • Do not consume caffeinated beverages or limit their intake.
  • Visit your healthcare practitioner on a regular basis to ensure that there is no kind of nutritional deficiency.

Can Vegan Moms-to-Be Take Supplements?

If you feel that you may not be able to fulfil your body’s nutritional needs with your vegan diet, you can take supplements. However, you should check with your practitioner before you take these supplements. Sometimes animal products may be used as binding agents in these supplements, so check for the same on the label. Do not take more than required amounts of multivitamins or any other supplements, as overdosage may prove harmful for your unborn baby.

It is important to let your OB-GYN know if you are following a vegan diet, as she can advise you to eat certain foods or take certain supplements accordingly. Take care of your nutritional requirements and enjoy your vegan pregnancy diet!

Also Read: Vegetarian Diet during Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

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