What nutrients could you be missing as a vegan?
If you are a vegan and pregnant you will need to find alternative sources for nutrients essential to your developing baby’s wellbeing, which may not normally be found in your diet. “Calcium and vitamin B12 are the main lost nutrients to concentrate on,” says author of What to Eat when you’re Pregnant and Vegetarian, Dr Rana Conway.
Check your labels carefully
Conway suggests finding an alternative to cow’s milk – soya or coconut milk perhaps – but ensure that what you buy does contain the above nutrients.
“Remember that you can get some calcium through green vegetables, as well as from almonds and sesame seeds. But you will never get the amount recommended during pregnancy from these sources alone.”
Take calcium and vitamin B12 supplements
While you can find some foods fortified with calcium or vitamin B12 – Marmite, for example – the answer to getting enough of these nutrients is to take a supplement. Vegan-friendly multivitamins are readily available, but you will generally need to purchase these online rather than from a high street chemist.
A sample vegan pregnancy meal plan
Like vegetarians, vegans need to eat a varied diet that incorporates foods from all five different food groups. Conway offers suggested meal plans for pregnant vegans in her book. For example:
- Breakfast – wholemeal toast with almond butter and a glass of orange juice
- Lunch – lentil soup, granary roll with margarine and an apple
- Supper – stir fried tofu with broccoli, red pepper, kombu and white rice
- Snacks – banana and oat milkshake, toast with margarine and marmite
What about breastfeeding when you’re a vegan?
“There have been some cases where breastfed babies of vegan mothers have been vitamin B12 deficient,” says Conway. “The level of vitamin B12 and omega-3s in breastmilk does reflect the mother’s diet in particular. The level of other nutrients, iron and protein doesn’t seem to vary as much.”
Continue to take a multivitamin supplement after birth
In order to ensure that your baby receives all the nutrients they need through your breastmilk, Conway advises continuing to take supplements after giving birth.