Alixandra Chandler has been a vegetarian for the past 10 years and two pregnancies. For her first pregnancy, Alix found herself exhausted and unable to sit up in bed some mornings. Blood work revealed she was anemic and her doctor recommended iron supplements; within a week she was back on her feet.
After taking additional steps to ensure she was getting the nutrients she and her little ones needed, Alixandra describes the whole experience as being wonderful.
“Being a vegetarian while pregnant made me feel confident that I was giving both of my children a healthy start in life.”
According to the Cochrine Collaboration, low birth rates have been reported in low protein and energy diets. However, registered dietitian Andrea Falcone says a healthy pregnancy can be attainable for vegetarians and vegans. The first thing expecting mothers should do is speak to a doctor and a registered dietitian to ensure they have a well-rounded diet.
“No two pregnancies are alike,” says Andrea. “Nutrient and calorie needs change during pregnancy, depending on your individual pregnancy.”
The four general nutrients of concern are iron, calcium, omega-3 and vitamin B-12. These are all found in animal products and by-products but can be trickier to include in a lean and green diet.
Before choosing a multivitamin or food supplement, speak to your doctor and/or a registered dietitian about what’s right for you.
Here are a few tips from Andrea and Alixandra:
- Be proactive! On the recommendation of a doctor, take nutrient supplements even before you are pregnant.
- Invest in a cast-iron skillet to enhance iron found in your food.
- Add leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and iron-rich pastas to your diet.
- Remember that natural, whole foods are always better than pre-packaged foods (even if they have a ‘vegetarian’ claim on the package).
- Add blackstrap molasses (Andrea suggests about 1 tbsp) to your morning oatmeal.
- Eat foods with vitamin C; they will help your body absorb iron, while coffee, teas and foods with calcium inhibit absorption.
- Don’t get turned off by the comments people may make about your vegetarian diet. Everyone just wants to ensure you’re having a healthy pregnancy.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2015.