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Basic Dietary Needs During Pregnancy For the Plant-Based Mom-To-Be


Congratulations, you’re now “eating for two!” Pregnancy is the perfect time to consume wholesome foods and allow yourself to feel as great as you possibly can. Your body now requires a  few extra calories, and you’ll want to begin upping your intake of some nutrients that are critical to the health and development of your baby. Here are some guidelines:


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 1,000 milligrams 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.

Vitamin D

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 percent, an expectant mother should increase her iron intake, in the form of legumes, dark, leafy greens, and many other delicious vegetable sources, by about 9 milligrams a day (from 18 milligrams to 27 milligrams). 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.


Iodine is critical for thyroid health. Most people get enough iodine from iodized salt, but if you don’t tend to use salt, a supplement may be helpful. Sea vegetables are also good sources of iodine.

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.

If you’re simply on the hunt for delicious plant-based recipes to eat either before, during, or after your pregnancy, make sure to download our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Image source: JerryLai0208/Flickr

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3 comments on “Basic Dietary Needs During Pregnancy For the Plant-Based Mom-To-Be”

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3 Years Ago

Any recommendations for staying plant-based with gestational diabetes (GD) restrictions on keeping blood glucose low [<20 g carbohydrates per meal]? Or, should the plant-based GD mom-to-be just ignore the conventional wisdom that low-carb is how one should eat with GD and stay the usual plant-based course?

3 Years Ago

No mention of B12???? Very important in pregnancy!!

Judy Sangillo
3 Years Ago

DHA is also available through vegan, algae-derived supplements. (Fish get their DHA from algae.)


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