If you do a web search on preparing your body for pregnancy, you’ll likely read advice on the importance of overhauling your diet, immediately followed by suggestions to get protein and other nutrients from eggs and lean meats, which is not particularly helpful or comforting for someone looking for support to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet. Most people tend to panic at the thought of loved ones not getting enough protein (through meat) during pregnancy. However, considering a well-rounded, clean, plant-based diet may be one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. Here are some tips for clean, plant-based eating if you plan to get pregnant.

1. Form Good Eating Habits Now – Don’t Wait for That Positive Pregnancy Test!

Some of the most important nutrients are needed before you even know you’re pregnant. Folate is one such nutrient. This B-vitamin is essential before pregnancy and in early pregnancy to prevent problems with the baby’s spine and brain, which are the first body parts to form. Waiting to increase folate intake until after a pregnancy is confirmed could mean that baby is missing out on the vitamin at the most critical time in its development. You should also note that the names ¨folate¨ and ¨folic acid¨ are used interchangeably, but they are very different things. Folic acid is synthetic, and is therefore metabolized by the body differently than its natural counterpart, folate. The good news is that you can get folate from a variety of vegan food sources, such as beans, spinach, and broccoli.

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2. Kick the Bad Habits

If you’re already vegetarian or vegan, there’s a good chance you’re pretty conscious of what you put into your body. If you’re considering getting pregnant, now is the time to quit drinking alcohol. Get some good quality sleep instead which will benefit you greatly. Studies have shown that women who don’t get enough sleep suffer from more pregnancy-related health issues.

3. Keep a Food Journal to Determine if Supplements are Necessary

There are opposing points of view on the need for vitamins, particularly in pregnancy. If you do decide that supplements are right for you, trying to choose one can be mind boggling. Keeping a food journal for the months leading up to pregnancy will help you see if there are deficiencies in your diet, and from then you can choose a vitamin that suits your needs. If you want to keep it simple and still have the security of a vitamin, you can choose a vegetarian prenatal multivitamin, preferably made from raw, plant-based nutrients. Also, remember to consult your doctor before taking supplements.

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4. Make a List of Your Favorite Snacks, and get in the Habit of Carrying Food at all Times

One of the keys to not succumbing to what’s available in the supermarket or vending machine is to be prepared with vegan snacks, especially if you work outside the home, are on vacation, or are spending the day out and about. This preparation takes practice, so it’s a good idea to form these habits even before you’re expecting.

Know what types of wholesome foods are available to you, and figure out your favorites while you’re feeling well. When pregnant, it’s difficult to predict when a craving will strike and what that craving will be, so preparing yourself with your ¨go to¨ meals and snacks will decrease the likelihood of you reaching for ready-to-eat foods that contain eggs, dairy, or any number of preservatives and artificial ingredients.

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Just about everyone has an opinion and would love for you to take their pregnancy advice, but only you can ultimately decide what feels right for you and your growing family. Also, please consult a health practitioner and nutritionist before planning your meals and nutrients for pregnancy, whether you plan to eat plant-based or not.

Image source: Esparta/Flickr