Pregnant and Vegetarian: Is It Safe?

Being pregnant is one of the most special times in a person’s life. Every pregnant couple looks forward to the safe delivery of their precious bundle of joy and they will do all they can to ensure that they have a healthy baby. It is well known that adequate nutrition is vital during pregnancy to ensure the well-being of both the baby and the mother but what if you are pregnant and vegetarian? Is it safe, or do you have to give up your vegetarian lifestyle during this period?


Increased nutrient needs.

Can a vegetarian diet meet the increased nutrient needs during pregnancy?

Once that baby is conceived, he/she is in quite a rush to meet the world so those little organs and body parts start to form very soon. Therefore, those increased nutrients needs have to be addressed right away.

  • Increased Energy Needs – Mother needs energy for two as well as to manage those changes in her body. Yes. She is carrying around a lot more weight and needs strength to do that.
  • Increased Protein and Carbohydrate Needs – Proteins are the building blocks of your body cells and your baby’s as well. All the tissues, cartilage, muscles and skin that you baby is making depends on protein. Carbohydrates of course are the main source of energy.
  • Increased Vitamin Needs – Necessary for the health of both mother and baby. Folate is particularly important and deserves a lot of attention as deficiency at conception has been associated with birth defects.
  • Increased Mineral Needs – Mineral needs generally increase during pregnancy especially for iron as well as calcium and zinc.
  • Iron – needed to make hemoglobin which is needed in greater amounts during pregnancy as well as to provide an iron store for the fetus.
  • Calcium – needed to promote mineralization of the skeleton and teeth of the fetus. You want your baby to have strong bones and teeth. Okay, so they are not born with a big, toothy grin, but the teeth are in there somewhere waiting to pop out.
  • Zinc – This mineral is important for supporting growth and development. After all, you don’t want to give birth to a sick, low-weight baby, do you?


So do you have to ditch the vegetarian diet?

The good news is that you don’t have to. You can have a perfectly safe and healthy pregnancy while you continue to practice the vegetarian lifestyle.

You only need to be careful and ensure that you eat a balanced diet so that you will get all the protein, iron, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are needed for a healthy pregnancy.

I know you are not worried about the carbohydrates because you are used to eating your breads, cereals, rice, pasta etc. but what about the others?


How will I get enough protein?

That is absolutely no worry at all.

Look at this extensive though not exhaustive list of foods that can provide you with all the protein you need.

  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Spinach
  • Chia seed
  • Quinoa
  • Eggs
  • Guava
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Black beans
  • Raw Oats
  • Brown Rice
  • Black eye peas
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans/String beans
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Chickpeas
  • Whole wheat bread

Check here to find out the amount of protein in each of the foods listed.


What about iron sources?

Good sources of iron include

  • lentils
  • chickpeas
  • beans
  • tofu
  • cashew nuts
  • almonds
  • chia seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • kale
  • raisins
  • quinoa
  • fortified breakfast cereal
  • amaranth
  • cornmeal
  • blackstrap molasses
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • pak choi
  • prune juice
  • wheat germ
  • brown rice
  • whole grain bread

For iron to be absorbed effectively and efficiently by the body, it is important that it is taken along with foods rich in vitamin C.

If you want to have an idea of the amount of iron contained in the foods above, check here.


You don’t even need a list here. Fruits and vegetables are your main source. Just aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and you will be just fine.

Eat lots of oranges. They are a rich source of folate for the prenatal diet.

Vitamin B12 is usually a challenge for vegetarians. If you eat eggs and dairy, there is no problem. You will get the B12 you need from these foods. If you don’t eat eggs or dairy, guess what? You don’t have to worry because the good news is that you have options.

There are sources that can provide your recommended daily intake of B12 even if you are a strict vegetarian.

See B12 Sources for Vegetarians.



Will the vegetarian diet provide enough calcium?

You bet it will.

Again, if you are lacto-ovo vegetarian you have no problem. The egg and dairy will provide lots of calcium.

However, if you don’t use eggs or dairy you still have many options that will provide all the calcium you need such as:

  • kale
  • pak choi
  • okra
  • spring greens
  • dried figs
  • chia seeds
  • almonds
  • black eye peas
  • sesame seeds
  • turnip greens
  • white beans
  • blackstrap molasses
  • tofu
  • silk almond milk
  • silk soy milk
  • brocolli
  • calcium fortified orange juice

Are you wondering about zinc?

You are, aren’t you? You are probably thinking that zinc is not one of the more popular minerals and maybe you don’t know what foods to eat to provide this mineral.

Well guess what? The same foods that you eat to provide protein and iron will also provide zinc.

Isn’t that great.

So when you are eating your whole grains, wheat germ, beans, nuts and seeds, you are packing up on zinc as well.


So is it safe to be a vegetarian and pregnant?


As mentioned before, women who practice lacto-ovo vegetarianism or even just lacto vegetarianism do not face any special difficulties more than their meat eating friends.

For those of you who are strict plant-based vegetarian, the news is just as good. You too can have perfectly safe, healthy pregnancies. You just need to pay attention to your meals and ensure that you are having a balanced and nutritious diet.

How can you not? There are so many foods to choose from.

Go ahead. Enjoy you vegetarian lifestyle and a happy, healthy pregnancy to you.


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