Experts agree that a well-planned vegan diet is appropriate during pregnancy. Several nutrients require special attention and can be obtained through a varied diet along with added support from a prenatal supplement.
It is not uncommon for well-intentioned family members and friends to be concerned about your vegan diet during your pregnancy. Maybe you are questioning this decision as well, wondering if you are making the best decision for yourself and your baby. Rest assured that with a few nutritional considerations, you will get all the nourishment needed for a healthful and thriving pregnancy.
Can I have a healthy vegan pregnancy?
The short answer is – yes, absolutely!
The official statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that an adequately planned plant-based diet (vegan and vegetarian) is “appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes” . They also mention that this diet is “healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases“ . I want to emphasize that this is the official position from the largest organization of food and nutrition experts in America.
Of course, the key message is that your diet must be well-planned. While plant-based diets tend to be healthful in comparison to the standard American diet, there are some special considerations that vegans need to be aware of. Being vegan only defines what someone is not consuming, but it’s important to look at what you are eating and supplementing, especially as an expecting mama.
What are the key nutrients to be aware of during pregnancy?
All pregnant women, regardless of dietary choice, need to be aware of the importance of following nutrients and their intake amounts:
- Vitamin B12
needsincrease by 8%
- Folate needs increase by 50%
- Vitamin D
needsstay the same
- Calcium needs stay the same
- Iodine needs increase by 46%
- Iron needs increase by 50%
- Omega-3 fatty acid needs increase by 27% (for ALA)
- Zinc needs increase by 38%
- Protein needs increase by 37%
Ensuring that your diet contains sufficient amounts of these nutrients and supplementing with the 5 most important ones is associated with healthful pregnancy and birth outcomes.
Should I take a prenatal supplement?
Many of the increased nutritional needs are met as food consumption increases into the second and third trimesters. However, supplementation of certain key nutrients (such as folate and vitamin B12) is still recommended.
Being vegan does not mean having nutritional deficiencies. It just means we have to be aware of what our diets tend to be low in and supplement where appropriate – it’s that simple!
The choices in prenatal supplements, even vegan ones, can be overwhelming. During my pregnancy, I started out by picking some top brands and charting the contents of each nutrient against the recommended intakes, then evaluating those values against my typical food intake. Let me just say – it wasn’t easy.
Today, my choice is simple and clear. There is one prenatal supplement that I recommend above all overs: Ritual’s Essential Prenatal. I love that the company focuses on sustainable sourcing and traceability of ingredients while creating a vegan supplement with science-backed doses of what we need and nothing that we don’t. Check out my full review of Ritual vitamins here.
- A well-planned diet is appropriate for a healthy vegan pregnancy.
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods.
- Select a prenatal vitamin that supports your increased nutritional needs.
For more information, check out the list of 7 Tips for a Healthy Vegan Pregnancy.