Congratulations, you’re now “eating for two!” It’s the perfect time to make yourself the healthiest person you can possibly be by making sure you’re consuming wholesome foods. You will feel great, and your baby will be strong and healthy as a result of the care and attention you put into your meals.
First, you’ll need extra calories, but not too many. There’s no need to double the size of every meal. After all, you’re not feeding another full-sized human! A slightly larger portion of each healthy meal is perfect. You’ll want to pay particular attention to a few nutrients that are critical to the health and development of your baby. Here are some of these nutrients.
Increase your protein intake by about 25 grams per day for a total of around 70 grams per day. Vegans can get this extra protein from beans, tofu, and grains. Here are 10 Vegan Foods Packed With Protein.
We all know the importance of calcium for healthy teeth and bones, but did you know that calcium from plant sources is more easily digested than that of animal products? It may seem daunting to consume the recommended 1,000mg of calcium (for pregnant women ages 19-50) from vegan sources, but if you eat an orange or a kiwi with breakfast, a salad with kale for lunch, rice and/or quinoa with dinner, and almonds for a snack, you’ll be able to consume the calcium you need. Many foods, such as cereal and juice, are fortified with calcium, too. Watch the source of the calcium, though! Calcium citrate is made from citrus juices and is more easily absorbed by the body than calcium carbonate, which is sourced mainly from oyster shells.
Calcium will not absorb without Vitamin D in our bodies. Spending enough time outside in the brighter months will allow your body to produce what it needs, but you may need a supplement, especially if you live in a less sunny climate. Unfortunately, the sources of Vitamin D are mainly animal-based, and if they’re not animal-based, they’re likely synthetic. Sun exposure or tanning beds are said to be the best options for making sure you are getting enough Vitamin D, but tanning beds remain a controversial issue, especially in pregnancy.
Iron is essential for hemoglobin production, and since blood volume increases by about 50%, an expectant mother should increase her iron intake, in the form of legumes, dark, leafy greens, and many other delicious vegetable sources, by about 9mg a day (from 18mg to 27mg). Check out Meeting Iron Needs from Plant Foods: The Vitamin C Connection.
Often believed to be one of the most important nutrients in the very early stages of pregnancy, folate has been found to decrease rates of serious neural tube defects. Thankfully, it is relatively simple to consume enough folate on a vegan diet because there are so many readily available food sources, such as spinach, broccoli, romaine, and lentils. Beware of folic acid, though! Many fortified foods actually contain a synthetic form of folate, and because it is metabolized differently than naturally occurring folate, it can have long-term negative health effects on both mother and baby.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is important for your baby’s neurological development. While the DHA you get from non-animal sources is not the same as what you get from fish sources, you can still get it into your diet with flax, chia, and hemp seeds.
Nutrition guidelines change regularly, especially, it seems, for mothers-to-be. It is enough to make a person very stressed out and worried at a time when she should be decreasing stress. Eating a variety of foods with high nutritive value will help give your baby the healthiest start possible.
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