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Menu helpers for vegetarian moms-to-be

Menu helpers for vegetarian moms-to-be

June 20, 2000
Web posted at: 2:53 PM EDT (1853 GMT)

(WebMD) -- Whether you are a vegetarian (don't eat meat) or strict vegan (no dairy products or eggs either), a well-balanced diet during pregnancy can provide all the nutrients necessary for both you and your baby -- along with the extra 300 calories per day that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends for all pregnant women.

The following tips can help you plan your meals. They are provided by Michael Klaper, M.D., director of the Institute of Nutrition Education and Research in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and author of the book "Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet," and Virginia Messina, a registered dietician (R.D.) and co-author with Kenneth Burke, R.D., of the 1997 American Dietetics Association position paper on vegetarian diets.

  • Even if you don't eat protein-rich dairy products, you can still get that extra 10 grams of protein per day that are so important for building fetal bones and tissue by eating three-quarters of a cup of beans, peas, or lentils; a half-cup of spinach; 2-1/4 tablespoons of peanut butter or 2 cups of brown rice.
  • Getting enough calcium used to be a problem for vegans, but now you can take advantage of a variety of calcium-fortified foods including juices, cereals and even caramel- or chocolate-flavored calcium "candies."
  • Avoid soft cheese or raw seafood, which can be possible sources of the Listeria bacteria. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Listeria can be passed on to the fetus, causing illness or even death.
  • Wash all produce, even that labeled as "organic," with a vegetable rinse to remove pesticides, dirt and bugs.
  • Eat plenty of beans and legumes to increase your iron level, and root vegetables to boost trace minerals including iodine, magnesium and copper. Green, leafy vegetables are also good sources of iron.
  • Eat fortified cereal that contains added vitamins and minerals including vitamins B-12 and D, both of which may be lacking in a meatless diet.
  • Folic acid (or folate) is one of the few nutrients known to prevent spina bifida, a neural tube birth defect, which affects one in every 1,000 babies born in the United States. A pregnant woman needs 600 to 800 micrograms of folic acid per day (compared with the normal 400 microgram requirement).
  • This vitamin can be found in green leafy vegetables, grains, orange juice and fruits, and in fortified breads, cereals and pastas. (Folic acid is most helpful in the first three months of pregnancy, and doctors recommend that you begin increasing your intake several months BEFORE conception to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects.)

    © 2000 Healtheon/WebMD. All rights reserved.

    Commonly asked questions about diet and pregnancy
    Vegetarian diets and pregnancy

    American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian diets
    Vegetarian Resource Group
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